Being a caregiver is one of the toughest jobs imaginable. It can be frustrating, exhausting and overwhelming. Sometimes it seems interminable.
However, as long as you take care of your own needs, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences you might ever have.
How we think about our feelings can make a big difference. Many of us believe that feelings such as love and tenderness are "good" and that anger, frustration, deprerssion or resentment are "bad" or somehow wrong.
Our personal perception of good and bad can complicate things because we might feel guilty about the emotions we think we shouldn't feel.
In reality these feelings are neither good or bad. They are just emotions. The brain is a powerful organ. It's how you cope with these thoughts that can impact life positively or negatively.
Some caregivers hide or bury the difficult emotions. Research has found that caregivers who hide or repress feelings are the ones most likely to experience deep negative emotions.
They also are the ones most likely to see their health suffer as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. In fact, caregivers who bury their emotions are more than two times more likely to have experienced depression than other caregivers.
Dr. Amy D'Aprix, a caregiving expert, recommends the following process to help you manage the rigors and emotions of caregiving.
- Acknowledge all of your feelings. A good idea is to look at your feelings as a pie. Perhaps 30 percent of the pie is anger and 20 percent is guilt, but the rest of the pie is love. Seeing it as a pie can help you realize that caregiving comes with a range of emotions.
- Release your feelings in a safe way. Journaling is one effective way that you can get your feelings out. Other options include joining a support group or talking to a therapist or non-judgmental friend. Watch a funny movie or take a walk with a friend. Both exercise and laughter as recognized as effective stress relievers.
- Manage the situation by getting some help. If there's a sibling who's not holding up his or her part, you need to talk about it. And, if you can't find that support with family, go to trusted friends, your faith community or consider hiring professional caregiving support.
- Find solutions. Start by making a list of the things you enjoy doing such as reading, watching a favorite television show, attending a faith service, exercising, visiting a museum, meeting friends, or listening to music. Then build in mini-breaks or bite-size getaways into your schedule. Even just 15 minutes can help.
In the end, the goal is not to repress your emotions but to express and cope with them in the most positive way possible.
Rachel Carson is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving the Lowcountry since 1997.