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How to Cope with Caregiver Anger?

Understanding emotions

According to contemporary Psychologist Paul Ekman, an expert in the field of emotions, there are six basic universal emotions, experienced in all human cultures. Happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise AND ANGER. These are emotions EVERYONE experiences.

Anger is one of the core emotions human beings experience. Core emotions are related to our instincts and anger specifically, is associated with the core affect of stress and definitely one of many emotions you will have to deal with on your caregiver journey.

The emotional side of caregiving

In addition to the emotions mentioned above, there are further emotions you will feel whilst caring for a loved one, whether it be a family situation or you are a caregiver by profession – make no mistake, it can be a roller coaster of emotions.

Other feelings you may also recognize within yourself are:

Guilt, resentment, loneliness, worry, grief, defensiveness, ambivalence, anxiety, stress, boredom, irritability, depression, embarrassment, frustration, impatience, jealousy, hurt, offense, underappreciated, loss, exhaustion, helplessness, denial, overwhelmed, regret, isolation.

Every caregiver experiences a myriad of emotions and feelings. Know that you are not alone and you are not abnormal or a bad person, to find yourself toiling with ‘negative’ feelings whilst caring for someone.

Elaine K Sanchez of Caregiver Help calls caregiver anger the “3 Fs of Flipping Out: fear, frustration and fatigue”.

The emotion of anger can be intense and uncomfortable and can be provoked or triggered by many other feelings you experience, as they often interconnect. The trick is to not let anger take its toll. Deal with it and manage it, otherwise it (and any other emotion for that matter) will spill into other aspects of your life. And don’t be embarrassed to speak out.

 

Managing emotions

Begin by taking a few deep breaths and cut yourself some slack.

There’s a lot of advice and help on the topic out there, so fear not.

Caregiver Warrior offers three essentials tips to manage anger, which is a good place to start:

  • Take your emotional temperature daily
  • Reach out and let off steam
  • Forgive yourself

It is important also to ask yourself why you are feeling that way. Often it is a knock-on effect from something the person you are caring for did or said. So you could reflect on their behavior and the reasons behind their behavior.

 

Lighten the load

Address the feelings, so they don’t weigh you down.

Find a release – go ahead and punch or scream into a pillow if you have to – physically venting can be very helpful in preserving your sanity.

The demands of your job can be draining and can feel like it is just too much, emotionally, physically and mentally.

Do your best to not let the anger take its toll. If you are feeling fragile do something before you burnout.  There are many helpful steps you can take to harness and curb the stresses and restore yourself and find a renewed sense of purpose, balance and enjoyment. Be sure to work on yourself daily and don’t skip a day or skimp on self-care.

Find a balance  

Remind yourself that the person receiving the care may not be able to express their gratitude but, most likely would if they could. Commend your own efforts. Remember, you are a great help – remind yourself of how much you are helping the person you are caring for. Find a confidante and turn to this person – a supportive family member or friend, willing to listen without judging you – this alone might be your coping mechanism.

Caregivestress.com says: “Don’t expect yourself to maintain a perfectly patient attitude at all times. This is unrealistic. Try to give yourself credit for the thousands of times you have exhibited great patience—and for the hours and hours of loving care you provide”.

Work on the positive feelings you have or can experience as a caregiver. Work on replacing negative feelings with positive ones, such as feeling happy, appreciated, loved, balanced, fulfilled, content.

 

Effective ways to combat emotions like anger

  • Give yourself a break – literally and figuratively.
  • Don’t let any guilt feeling take root. Acknowledging negative emotions is a way of dissolving them and letting them go.
  • ‘Me time’ may seem like an impossible luxury but remember you can’t draw from an empty well. Prioritize activities that bring you enjoyment. You owe it to yourself as well as the person you are caring for.
  • Get out of the house. Take a walk, workout. Exercise is a mood booster and raises your energy levels. Take care of your health. Eat well, being ‘hangry’ will not help either. And do your best not to skimp on sleep.
  • Laugh – laughing can work wonders. It is an excellent cure for stress. Laughter is the best medicine, after all.
  • Make sure you maintain your personal relationships. This is important.
  • Join a support group.
  • If you haven’t tried it – it is a must. Daily Caring explains what meditation is and how it improves your health and mood and also shares 5 excellent (and free) apps that make it easy and convenient to start meditating – here.
  • Music is also a calming agent and has a significant effect on our moods and emotions and the regulation of brain dopamine – a ‘neurotransmitter’ strongly involved in emotional behavior and mood regulation and how we feel pleasure and how we think and plan. So turn up the radio and sing along.

On a final note, November is National Caregivers Month as recognized by Mental Health America (MHA) – a time to celebrate the contributions of caregivers.

 

References & further reading & information:

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