Dealing with emotions is difficult under the best of circumstances. For home caregivers, the emotions of caregiving can become overwhelming, especially complex feelings involving guilt. It’s critical to keep in mind that all emotions are valid, both good and bad, and that what you feel is as important as what those around you feel.
That last point is especially important for caregivers. They often overlook their own feelings because they want to be strong both for their care recipient and other family members who count on them. Acknowledging and talking about your emotions – rather than suppressing them and “getting on with it” – actually makes you stronger.
Caregivers can take many different steps to help them better handle emotions, including finding time to simply relax, journaling or taking time to enjoy the tranquility of nature and the lessons it offers us.
Emotions of Caregiving That Come Up Often
As noted in a physician-approved article on WebMD, becoming a caregiver stirs up a complex set of emotions that can range from feeling deeply connected on some days to feeling guilty, grief -stricken and angry on others. “You might even have conflicting feelings, like love and resentment, at the same time,” the site notes. “It can be challenging, and if you don’t pay attention, it’ll wear you down.”
Let’s take a look at five frequent emotions of caregiving and what you can do about them.
This is a frequent emotion for caregivers, and it happens for many different reasons. Caregivers may feel guilty about not doing enough to prevent their loved one from getting sick in the first place. They may also feel guilty about wanting this work to end. And almost every caregiver feels guilty at some point about not doing a good enough job.
Guilt occurs when people feel they’ve done something wrong. Caregivers should make an effort to go easy on themselves. Rather than focusing on what they haven’t done or what they could have done, they should consider the difference they make every day.
Grief and Sadness
Feeling grief and sadness is understandable because caregivers face the consequences of illness and the prospect of loss every day. These feelings can get worse for those who provide care for a long time, often becoming more isolated.
Socializing and participating in caregiver support forums can make a world of difference for caregivers. Making a point to schedule time with a friend or simply taking a walk in nature can elevate a person’s mood and keep sadness from turning into depression.
Some caregivers may also go through times of feeling angry and unappreciated for everything they do – a feeling that is sometimes followed by a period of feeling guilty for getting angry in the first place! It can become a vicious cycle. However, anger and frustration are common for those who must provide care for someone who needs helping on an ongoing, daily basis.
It’s important to forgive yourself for these feelings. Caregivers also benefit from having the ability to walk away from a situation and give themselves time to calm down. This is another area where having a supportive person to talk with, including fellow caregivers, is helpful.
Fear and Anxiety
Caregivers often worry that something might happen if they leave their care recipient for even a short time. They may also fear doing something wrong and the possible consequences. Anxiety and fear often take hold when people feel out of control of a situation.
Caregivers should note when feelings of anxiety become frequent. They can serve as a warning that a caregiver should spend more time focusing on their own needs. It also helps not to focus as much on what might happen, but just deal with the current situation. Knowing about the emotions of caregiving can help caregivers take steps to manage them. A good first step is to take advantage of the support offered through organizations such as Hope Grows, where the focus is on connecting caregivers with the help they need.