If you are a family caregiver, then you've probably had a moment or two where you felt so frustrated that it caused you to say or do something to your loved one that you later regretted. Such regret can usually cause us to feel like the "worse partner, sibling or child in the world." It may also result in you questioning, "How could I have said that?" If any of this sounds familiar, then you should know it can be typical among many individuals who are caring for a loved one, especially if they live together. Aside from knowing you are not alone, you should also know there are steps you can take to reduce your level of frustration and prevent future outbursts.
Understand Where Your Loved One is Coming From
The reality that we need to rely on others for things we were once been able to do for ourselves, is something that many people struggle with. There is a grief associated with that particular loss and everyone handles it differently. Whether our strength and/or our senses are diminishing, at some point needing assistance seems inevitable. For many individuals, this need for assistance is synonymous with losing other freedoms like living alone, running errands, etc. Understanding how your loved one is processing this change and how it can affect his/her well-being may give you a better sense of the reasons for their "frustrating" behavior.
Remind Yourself of What Their Day Looks Like
For the most part, individuals who need assistance may not be as active as they used to be, which could mean their level of socialization or even the way they are socializing has changed. As a result, it is not uncommon to be bombarded with all of their thoughts, complaints or critiques upon interacting with them and for you to become frustrated as a result. One way you can try to minimize being bombarded is to find ways your loved one can be more engaged with others. Nowadays, due to the pandemic, many more individuals have been "forced" to venture into the online world. Virtual gatherings are increasingly being offered. Look into organizations related to your loved one´s hobbies and be sure to check out your local libraries.
Recognize Your Limitations
Understanding what your buttons are and what sets you off is key to understanding when you need a break. Yes, I know - a break is almost impossible to take when you are a caregiver. A break, however, can include anything from going to the restroom for a few minutes, calling someone to vent, to going out for a walk around the block a few times. Whenever we become "heated", being able to take a "time out" is essential to maintaining our composure. Other activities that can probably assist with reducing your frustration can be singing, dancing, coloring, doodling, writing and even squeezing a stress ball. Cold water can also help to regulate the body as well. Overall, the goal should be to mentally or emotionally get to a place where you will not do or say something you will later regret.
Seek Professional Help
While the above tips can work for some, they don't work for all. Factors like personality issues, past family conflict or resentment towards your loved one can serve as barriers to keeping your cool. Seeking the assistance of a mental health professional can help you dig deeper into an understanding of what sets you off and with developing a plan of action to prevent future outbursts.
If any of the above tips have worked for you, I would love to hear your input. Do you have other tips or recommendations you would like to share about "keeping your cool", please share them below.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.