Whether you are a caregiver caring for a loved one, or someone working in a home health or facility, the responsibilities of caregiving can bring about myriad emotions that feel like you are on a non-stop roller coaster ride of surging and plummeting feelings.
Experiencing an emotion at one time, such as anger, may not look like it’s a big deal, but oftentimes caregivers have mixed and contradicting feelings, which complicates matters for them and puts coping strategies to the test.
In the first few months of providing care, the strain may not be apparent yet, but as the saying goes, even a few pebbles in the pocket will feel like a ton of bricks if the journey is too long. After a while, the constant barrage of negative feelings will take its toll, manifesting into physical and psychological symptoms.
The negative emotional highs of caregiving include:
Anger. Sometimes, you just lose it. Resentment or even a lack of sleep can lead to angry outbursts. The thing about angry emotion is that it leads to the most hurt feelings on the part of the care recipient and puts a sour note on the relationship. If you got angered, do not hold on to the feeling and learn to let go by forgiving your loved one and yourself. It is ok to punch or shout at a pillow just to regain your cool quickly.
Irritability and impatience. When you become impatient, you are easily irritated, too. You may also be mirroring what the patient feels. Patients who need care are usually in pain or have dementia or other long-term illness. It is important to understand that an illness can change a person's coping and reaction to everyday events. Patients may be slowed or frustrated, and there is this need for you to take control. If you have adequate understanding and empathy, you will expand your patience. The other thing to do is to have someone relieve you of your duties temporarily.
Anxiety. Too much worrying can have both physical and psychological effects. Excessive worrying can drain you of energy and rob you of restful sleep. Difficult as it may sound, some positivity of thoughts could be your life saver. But before positive thoughts can rule, you have to consciously stop anxiety-producing thoughts. Do everything with your willpower to stop worrying. Ironically, have a good night’s rest to recharge your thoughts and your body. Sometimes, it’s all that you need to shoo away anxiety. Don’t forget to do deep breathing, meditation, and yoga if you can help it.
The negative emotional lows include:
Depression. Maybe as a caregiver, you found yourself crying behind closed doors. You feel sad because of compounding reasons. You may feel the patient’s pain and suffering, and you feel helpless as you see them not getting anywhere near being cured. Sadness is a powerful emotion, and soon enough you find yourself having depression. If you think you have clinical depression, you should see a qualified professional to help you. Depression may not be something that you can handle on your own.
Guilt. You feel guilty when you are remorseful over something you did or did not do. Sometimes, you feel responsible for your patient’s harm or deterioration. Guilty feelings may also sprout from seeing to your own health, like taking a much-needed break, or even to taking time off to do something for yourself. It can also be an after-effect of anger or impatience that was expressed earlier on your family member.
The guilt feelings can be dissipated by forgiving oneself. As we are human, we also have needs to be fulfilled and health to ensure. You need not beat yourself over your patient’s health condition. One good way to prevent guilty feelings is getting respite care or community support to help you get a break from caregiving tasks. If the guilt is because of previous angry or impatient outbursts, you can always say sorry and make it up to them in meaningful ways.
Feeling of having a low-quality life. Most caregivers who have been caring for their family member for years are the ones who have feelings that their life has been stolen from them by their caregiving responsibilities. They are bored with daily routines and the long queue in the clinic. They feel sad, and find their life monotonous and lacking meaningful activities that they enjoy. Achievers who are trapped in caring for a sick loved one are significantly affected. To address the emotions related to having a low quality of life, caregivers must find joy and greater meaning to caregiving.
Caring is the most basic human feat, and if caregivers would consider their task as an achievement, then they would find a more significant purpose in life. They may likewise find creative ways to be still doing things that they love. Again, respite care can give you that ‘me’ time.
The emotional roller coaster brought about by caregiving must not be a cause to abandon your responsibilities. Instead, acknowledge the feelings, seek help and support, and live one day at a time until you realize that indeed, life is a beautiful thing.
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