Caregiving Tips: Managing your feelings
chalk drawings of a scale that's weighing the word relax and stress

Caregiving generates a variety of feelings. When doctors told me my husband’s legs were paralyzed and I became his caregiver, I felt fear. What supplies did I need? Did I have the physical strength to care for him? Where would we live? My fear turned to worry as our healthcare expenses increased. I’ve felt many emotions since then.

Your experience may be similar to mine. Like me, you may welcome some feelings and wish others would go away. Although we can’t control what happens to us, we have some control over our responses to events. In short, we can manage our feelings. These steps will help you cope with your changing feelings.

Be on feelings alert.

As you go about your daily tasks, be aware of the feelings you’re experiencing. Feelings can change quickly, so your awareness “switch” needs to be on all the time. A packed schedule may make you feel anxious, for example. A shared laugh can keep you smiling. It might be interesting to track the different feelings you experience in a day through journaling or another technique, like “Morning Pages.”

Name your feelings.

I try to name my feelings as quickly as possible—eager, disappointed, satisfied, hopeful, etc. Whatever your feelings may be, naming them helps you cope with them. Don’t worry if you can’t name your feelings right away. In time, you may be able to name them and understand them.

Make a positive and negative list.

This simple task helps you see the “big picture” of your feelings. Which list is longer, the positive or negative? If your negative list is far longer than the positive list, you may wish to join a support group or consider counseling. Sharing your feelings with someone you trust is helpful too.

Keep a feelings log.

You can do this on the computer, in a three-ring binder, or small notebook. A log is much shorter than a journal or diary, and little writing is involved. Just jot down the date at the top of the page, list the feeling you are experiencing, and the time. Next to the time, you may write a few explanatory words, such as “doctor’s appointment.” This written record helps you track feelings and determine a course of action.

Identify the source of your feelings.

It took weeks for me to realize my negative feelings and bad mood were due to sleep deprivation. At 4 a.m. every morning the alarm clock goes off and I get up to help my husband. My tasks take a half hour or longer. Sometimes I go back to sleep and sometimes I don’t. One day I went to the grocery store after only four hours of sleep, and walked around in a fog. Getting more sleep boosted my feelings and general outlook on life.

Different feelings come with the caregiving territory. You are normal. Coping with feelings is easier if you pay attention to them, name them, track them, and take some proactive steps. You’re a caregiver because you care, and that’s a good feeling!

Written by Harriet Hodgson
Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for writing for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support. She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit www.harriethodgson.com

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4 Comments

  1. Who has time for a feelings log? I sure don’t. I don’t think this is very practical to implement. We don’t take time for ourselves daily so this would end up just being another task for us. Anyone else feel the same?

    Reply
  2. Thank you for your post and for the loving care you provided.

    Reply
  3. Thank you. I took care of my Mom for 6 yrs before she passed on,. The last 3 months she was at the hospital on Dialysis — I had done all I could and now the hospital took over., But I was WORN OUT not only physically from caring for her and working full time, but emotionally, as she was also the parent who had beaten and mentally and emotionally abused me and my sister (who fled the family) during our childhood (and old age had not mellowed her). I had a lot to deal with and I did the best I could. I had very little support from others. I am HAPPY to see that more people are aware of and sharing this. (PS– I went thru LOTS of counseling during and afterwards and truly it helped)

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