Caregiving can be so demanding that we lose track of our feelings. When my husband was dismissed to my care after eight months of hospitalization, I felt a dizzying array of feelings. Of course I was elated to have him home, but I was scared too, and wondered if I had the skills to care properly for him.
Totally opposite feelings, such as despair and hope, sorrow and joy, can be exhausting. I’ve found it helpful to name a feeling as soon as I feel it. You may wish o do this too. Why should you bother to track your caregiving feelings?
You’re a caregiver because you care. If you didn’t care you would do something else. Feelings influence your approach to the day, your daily tasks, and the care you provide. Some feelings are pleasant, while others are unpleasant and worrisome. Feelings can divert you and push you off-course, and rob you of sleep. When you awaken in the morning you feel like you haven’t slept at all.
Good feelings lift you up. There are feelings that make you smile, laugh, and remember happy times. Although you can’t control what happens in life, you can control your responses to events. In fact, you can decide how you want to feel. With determination and practice, you can replace negative feelings with positive ones. Admittedly, this takes practice, but the skill is worth your time and effort.
Upsetting feelings pull you down. Caregiving is a rewarding, yet difficult role, and it’s a role that keeps expanding. Frustration, resentment, and other negative feelings make caregiving more difficult. You may find yourself obsessing on one feeling, and think about it all day. Why won’t this feeling leave you alone? You can help yourself by being aware of your feelings, identifying the sources, and naming them.
Your feelings affect your loved one. You may think you’re hiding your feelings, but your loved one can pick up on them. Your feelings may become her or his feelings, an outcome you didn’t anticipate or want. A development like this can make you feel helpless. Indeed, you may wish you had more time to process your feelings. One of your challenges as a family caregiver is to cope with feelings without affecting your loved one.
Processing feelings takes time. It’s common for family caregivers to feel isolated and alone. When you agreed to be a caregiver, you may have expected help from family members. Help may not arrive—something that can provoke anger. Dealing with anger takes time, honesty, and emotional spadework. Coping with anger now is better than stuffing it.
Feelings take physical and emotional energy. When you least expect it, feelings can drain your energy. In fact, some feelings may perseverate, or stick in your mind. Tracking your feelings, and learning to understand them, helps you conserve physical and emotional energy. You may also learn how to pace yourself. Keeping a Feelings Journal may be helpful. Instead of writing anything and everything, you may wish to use a template, and keep the pages in a three-ring binder. I created this template for you.
Today’s Main Goal _____________________________________________________________
Today’s Feelings __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Notes to Myself __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Under Today’s Main Goal you may write “Take Jim to the doctor.” Under Today’s Feelings you may write stressed, cheerful, and grateful. Under Notes to Myself you may write “Make follow-up doctor’s appointment.” Tracking feelings in a journal can help you and your loved one. Best of all, you discover someone special—yourself.
I certainly did when grienmving my loss.
YES! It helped save my sanity to spill it all out. I used our computer. I’m writing my book from it. “Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Forgiving and Forgetting.”
I journal once in awhile just to get the stuff in my head down on paper. I took care of my father. I also had some friends help me out. Sometimes I would wonder how I did it working full-time and caring for my father. I don’t feel guilty. I did everything I could for him.
I tried. I had papers galore. 2 yrs later I couldnt read them so I threw them away abd moved to Fla!!
No time for journaling but if I did I wouldn’t…who wants to re live it.
I started to but realized if I die n he reads it, it would break his heart…
Goodness, I never had time when caregiving full time.
I used to write things down because it helped me to record things for when it was time to go to the doctors. I should start back up. Thanks for posting this, it’s serves as a great reminder.
I tried to find a good journaling app when I started as a caregiver and found nothing that really worked well for me. I need to look again and see if something feels more useful than in the past.
I like 750words.com. It’s super simple.
Thanks Cori, I’ll check it out!
Yes. i find writing helps me put things in perspective and clears my mind of clutter.
Anytime I write things down it helps.
At night when I get in bed and it’s quiet I write it on my notes on phone
Yes, Journaling is a great way to combat stress and the extreme loneliness of being a caregiver.