Caring for a relative or friend can generate many feelings and emotional reactions. You should not feel guilty or ashamed about any of these. You have the right to feel all these emotions. The following section may help you recognize and manage some of these shared emotions.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, which can both be caused and lead to stress. If you are experiencing anxiety, you may experience symptoms like shortness of breath, tense muscles, and insomnia. Thankfully there are a lot of things you can do to help manage these feelings:

  • Feel more prepared by reading books or articles about caregiving.
  • Make a list of your worries and try to solve each concern.
  • Learn about your relative’s illness by talking to the doctor or reviewing patient materials about the disease.
  • Connect with other caregivers by joining a support group, a forum, or a chat room. Your doctor social worker may be able to connect you to such groups.
  • Do something that helps you relax, such as watching a favorite movie or tv show.
  • Distract yourself from anxious thoughts using imagery.
  • Try exercise or physical activity to relieve tension and clear your mind.
  • Take some slow, deep breaths or practice a relaxation exercise.
  • Feeling overwhelmed: try to share responsibilities with other family members if possible.
  • Consider whether it would be helpful to seek help from a counselor.

Sadness/Depression

Sadness/Depression may take on the form of crying or sad thoughts. Changes in your eating habits, such as poor appetite, weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain, may also be signs of depression. Other symptoms include loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, motivation or energy, and inability to concentrate. People may think about suicide. If you are experiencing these thoughts- please reach out to a health care professional or suicide hotline.

Below are some tips for coping with sadness and depression:

  • Try to divert your attention away from your current situation.
  • Talk about your feelings with a close friend, family member, or member of your faith community.
  • Try to make some positive changes in your life.
  • Try to exercise. The natural chemicals that get released when you exercise can give you an emotional boost.
  • Consider seeking help from a counselor or social worker, especially if you have thoughts about death or suicide.

Anger/Frustration

As a caregiver, you may notice feel easily annoyed or irritable. If you find yourself becoming angry, hostile, or aggressive towards others, you may be experiencing anger and frustration towards your situation. Try following some of these helpful tips:

  • Don’t bottle up your feelings. Express your emotions in a calm, constructive way.
  • Use “I feel…” statements when expressing your feelings to others rather than placing blame or accusing them. Example:” I feel upset because I do not think I am getting help with chores.” Rather than: “You never help with the chores.”
  • Distract yourself from angry thoughts by using imagery or visualization
  • Calm yourself with relaxed breathing and other relaxation techniques.
  • Let go of your anger and move on by forgiving the person or situation.
  • Talk to an objective uninvolved party to get another perspective.
  • Try to focus on the present situation and not let old anger or pain confuse the current situation.

Grief

Grief is the experience of emotional pain associated with the loss[HJ2]. Feelings of sadness or disappointment characterize it.

Here are some tips for coping with grief:

  • Allow yourself to grieve for the changes in your life.
  • Try to focus more on the positive things rather than the things you have lost.
  • Do not isolate yourself from family and friends who care about you.
  • Know that feelings of grief and loss are normal.
  • Express your feelings to people close to you.
  • Take control of the situation by adjusting your expectations for the future.
  • Make a new plan for the future based on the positive things in your life.
  • Talk to a mental health professional or join a support group.

Guilt

Guilt can come from feeling ashamed about thoughts or circumstances. Guilt can be caused by feeling:

  • you have done something wrong or are not doing enough
  • you should not enjoy yourself because your relative or friend is ill
  • you could have done something to prevent your relative’s illness
  • you wish you could take the place of the person who is ill
  • regret over problems with the sick person now or in the past

At MJHS, we value both personal and professional caregivers and recognize the critical work you do. That is why we have created these online caregiving resources to help you through this crucial time in your life.

If you need additional help and support caring for your loved one, please feel free to contact MJHS. We can recommend other care options available to you through one of our programs.

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