The Negative Emotions of Caregiving that Will Kill You
Caregiving can be a stressful journey that brings out negative emotions such as guilt, resentment, and anger. Learn how to identify and overcome these emotions to improve your mental and physical well-being.
There are many negative emotions of caregiving that cause undue stress. Long term or chronic stress does kill. So let's discuss what these emotions are and what you may want to do to overcome them.
Guilt is a negative emotion that is responsible for making poor decisions. It negates all the good you do. Let me explain. Taking care of an aging parent is very stressful. This is a time that many damaging emotions are triggered.
Guilt results from doing or saying what you think another person wants to hear, but feels they are compromising their own values or standards. Caregivers burden themselves with lists of "I should", "I ought to", "I Must".
For examples: "I must keep dad out the nursing home, because he does not want to go". "I ought to consider getting him help, but, he refuses.' "I shouldn't lose my temper, but, I have not had sleep for days."
Caregiver Guilt is an especially negative and dangerous emotion because you are beating yourself up over imagined or perceived faults. These imagined faults are you, just being human. This is counterproductive at a time when you need to be your own best advocate.
How to overcome caregiver guilt
The first step is to realize you are human. Then realize that guilt is an unavoidable emotion for most caregivers. You start out caregiving with good intentions, but, you will be challenged for many things that you are not prepared for doing. Your resources, time and skills are limited. You are not alone. When you feel guilty, take time to stop and think about what is reality and what you perceive as perfection. Then get comfortable with that gap instead of beating yourself up.
This is such a common emotion that occurs with so many caregivers, but many hate to admit it. Caregivers start their journey, making promises and commitments, with no clue as to what they are agreeing to do. A caregiving journey may be as short as a few months or as long as 20 years. The average caregiving journey is 6 years.
Over time, the typical primary caregiver finds themselves unsupported by siblings or other family members. It is not unusual to have caregiver resentment towards the family member you are caring for, because you feel as if your life is out of control. Many feel overwhelmed with responsibility and socially isolated. Many give up careers, retirement, and outside friendships and close relationships to provide care for an aging family member.
In spite of the conflict and anger, the caregiving sibling must learn to protect themselves from their siblings. Many are sued and accused of unsavory activity, all while the caregiving sibling is trying to provide meaningful care to their aging parents.
Caregiver resentment occurs because there is no way that a person can be responsible for someone 24/7 without a break. Getting outside help is important , but many are unable to afford care, and feel abandoned. Many even experience criticism of uninvolved siblings. These feelings grow into depression and anger over time, if not addressed.
Identifying that you feel resentment is a big step. Sharing it with a trusted friend or venting on a closed caregiver forum can be freeing for many. I also encourage family caregivers to keep a journal.
It is really important to understand that feeling resentful is natural feelings when you are trying to provide care for another human being 24/7. Trying to balance work, outside relationships, a marriage, taking care of children or enjoying outside activities, many things take a back seat as the caregiving journey continues.
Feelings of resentment are complicated, but, those feelings do not or should not get in the way of realizing you are a good person and a committed caregiver.
Some caregivers express their anger easily , others, try to hold in their anger.The fact of the matter is, it is rare that a family caregiver never experiences some anger.
There are so many reasons for caregivers to get angry: dealing with a difficult family member, feelings of being unappreciated, criticism from family members, constant disappointment of others are just a few feelings that come to mind.
Chronic anger, resentment and hostility, like chronic stress have been linked to chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, frequent headaches and digestive tract disorders. Managing anger is important- if you express anger and resentment to others, can be harmful to others and jeopardize relationships.
You are not going to be able to avoid the feelings of anger, so it is important that you learn to express your anger in a healthy way. Practicing stress management techniques, such as deep breathing can put you in a calmer state.
It is important that when you become aware of your anger, to take a look back and consider what is making you angry and what are some steps you may be able to take to manage this feeling. You must be able to look at the situation and consider, can you meet someone that is making you anger half way? Do you need to set boundaries to limits with others? This may give you more of a sense of control over the situation.
Caregiver Worry and Fretting
Worry, for many, is a constant companion
There are many reasons for worrying. Everyone wants the best for the family member they are caring for everyday. Thinking "what -ifs" keeps the brain busy, but, it wastes necessary energy and does not accomplish anything.
Being concerned about your family member is basically harmless. Constant worry or even obsessing, to the point that it can disrupt sleep, cause frequent headaches and stomach problems, and can lead to mindless over or under eating.
Look at solutions to your concerns, as this may be a way to go from a negative to a more positive change in brain structures. practice mindful meditation. Seek outside support or professional help if you cannot stop obsessive worrying.
Social Isolation and Loneliness
Caregivers do not realize that outside relationships with friends and families requires attention and nurturing. Many find they lose contact with friends. Many friends back away because they feel as if they are uncertain and they may be a distraction. Many caregivers drop out of participating in outside activities.
There are some very negative risks of loneliness. Researchers show that people that have social networks live longer and happier lives. Studies show that the brain develops new connections that promote better will power, the ability to be persistent. Social isolation and loneliness increase your stress hormone cortical. Social isolation increase your risk for dementia.
One of the most important things you can do is to continue to initiate reaching out to your friends. Ask them to come visit you, if you cannot get out and meet them. As hard as it is, you should learn to make yourself a priority and get outside help to allow you time for things that are important to you.
Join an online support group. To have support from others that understand what you are going through.
Everyone connects grief with death, but that is not the only reason for grieving. As we watch our family members decline, we feel a sense of loss. This is a similar emotion felt when we actually lose a friend or family member to death. Those taking care of someone with chronic illness, dementia or a terminal illness, such as cancer experience anticipatory grief.
To determine if you are depressed or grieving download this checklist
It is important to express your sadness to those around you that will support you. If you feel comfortable, your family member may benefit from opening up and discussing your feelings of loss. With a family member with dementia, even if they do not understand, it may help you to have talks just to release those feelings.
It is so important to work at a life outside of caregiving . There is life after your caregiving journey is over. You want a life to go back to.
It is healthy to protect yourself - but , many caregivers may take defensiveness to a new level.
Let me explain. A caregiving journey can be overwhelming. Many are experience chronic stress, time pressure and overwhelm. Many have uninvolved siblings or family members. There are times when a family caregiver feels criticized and unappreciated.
Being tired and overwhelmed, many feel insecure and respond with to things with a response to protect themselves.
The problem with defensiveness is, it makes the family caregiver closed minded. It is not unusual for the family caregiver to miss out on opportunities for help. Some family caregivers feel everything must be done "their" way. They may become critical of others that want to help. as they did not do it the way they should. This causes many well intentioned people to lose outside help or assistance because they feel as if they are the only one that can provide the care properly.
When you find yourself feeling criticized, take some deep breathes, try to look at things from what is in the best interest of your family member. Take a moment to determine if there is any merit to the suggestions?
If you realize that you truly are being criticized, then, agree with the family member, and ask them to take over the responsibilities, since they find you inadequate.
OR if you feel that this is not a response you want to use, agree with them. This will disarm them. Ask them what you need to do to change it. If they are not helping in any way, ask them to pay for outside support to provide better care.
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