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!