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How to Cope with the Common Emotions of Caregiving

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Top Takeaways

  1. Guilt can arise when you feel like you aren’t doing enough or could do something differently. Address this emotion by setting realistic standards for yourself, reciting positive affirmations, and routinely practicing self-care. 
  2. Worry or Anxiety are common feelings experienced by caregivers. Combat these emotions with journaling and meditation or seek help from others with caregiving tasks. 
  3. Resentment and Anger are common feelings for caregivers taking on all the responsibilities alone.  Express these emotions through journaling, talking with a trusted friend, or joining a support group. 
  4. Loneliness is another common feeling for solo caregivers. Consider seeking help with caregiving tasks and/or joining a support group and be sure to spend time with family and friends. 
  5. Grief is common for caregivers dealing with the reality that life won’t return to the way it was before. Take time to recognize the stages of grief you experience, cherish fond memories, and work to be present with your loved one. 

Intro

 

Caregiving for a loved one can introduce a wide range of unfamiliar emotions. Some of these new emotions can be positive, like a new sense of purpose or meaning as a caregiver and a deeper connection with the loved one that you are caring for. However, the stress and responsibility of being a caregiver can introduce a range of negative emotions too. 

 

It is essential to identify the emotions that you may be feeling to address them adequately. Continue reading to learn more about several emotions commonly experienced by caregiving, as well as several tips to help you cope with these emotions when they arise. 

 

Guilt 

Guilt can arise when you feel that you are not doing enough for your loved one or doing something differently. It can also arise from specific situations that you think you should've handled differently. 

 

In addition to guilt related to caring for your loved one, guilt can also arise from making sacrifices in other areas of your life to be a caregiver, such as spending less time with your family and friends, changes in performance, and attendance at your job, and more. 

 

Guilt can easily become overwhelming. Once you’ve recognized that you are experiencing this emotion, here are some ways that you can cope: 

 

  • Set realistic standards and expectations for yourself. Giving up perfection and adopting a more realistic mindset around what you can and can’t do to care for your loved one will help prevent future guilt. 
  • Recite affirmations to encourage your mind to move on from the guilt. Here are some examples: 
    • “I lay down the weight of my guilt.” 
    • “I am capable of moving past my mistakes.”
    • “I acknowledge my faults and forgive myself entirely.”
  • Take time for self-care. This is important for your physical and mental health, which will, in turn, allow you to be a better caregiver for your loved one. Be sure to recognize any guilt around prioritizing your self-care and remind yourself of the benefits that self-care can have in many different areas of your life. 
  • Communicate with trusted family and friends. You do not have to sit in your guilt alone. Find trusted individuals, or a licensed counselor or therapist, so that you can voice your emotions and work through them together. 


Worry and Anxiety 

There are many sources of worry regarding caregiving, whether it is your loved one's health, your performance as a caregiver, your finances, or a lack of work/life balance. Constant worry can lead to physical signs of anxiety, including:

  • Increased heart rate 
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Panic attacks

 

Here are several practices that you can implement in your life to cope with worry and anxiety: 

 

  • Journaling. Putting your unspoken thoughts down on paper can be a very freeing exercise. For many, it helps to recognize and then release negative feelings. 
  • Practice breathing and meditation. Committing to 5 to 10 minutes of meditation and mindfulness practice per day can help you center yourself, even amid a chaotic schedule. Practicing breathing when you are experiencing increased heart rate and other feelings of panic can effectively calm your body. 
  • Exercise Daily. 
  • Practice regular self-care. Taking time to relax and taking care of your body regularly can help combat the negative physical impacts of anxiety and stress. 
  • Seek out others that can help with caregiving. If the level and amount of responsibility is your primary source of stress and anxiety, seek out others who may take on some caregiving responsibilities. This could include trusted family and friends, friends or neighbors of your loved one or even a professional caregiver. 


Resentment and Anger

When you are taking on most or all of the caregiving responsibilities alone, it can be common to develop resentment and anger. Some caregivers have reported feeling resentment towards their loved ones due to caregiving responsibilities taking up much of their time and even money. Resentment is also often felt towards other family members and friends who do not help with caregiving for your loved one.

 

Resentment is a dangerous emotion that can easily impact your ability to care for your loved one well. Here are some ways to cope with resentment once you’ve recognized this emotion: 

  • Express your feelings. Whether through journaling, prayer, or talking with a trusted friend, letting out the emotions you've felt can help you take the following steps to deal with the emotion and move forward. 
  • Join a support group. Joining a caregiving support group can surround you with individuals who can relate to and validate your feelings. This will help you move past your feeling of resentment without beginning to feel guilt. 
  • Remind yourself that this is a common feeling. Caregiving is a challenging role that can lead to many unfamiliar and unexpected emotions. Allow yourself to feel the emotions, and then remind yourself to feel empowered to move forward without experiencing guilt around past emotions. 


Loneliness

Being a solo caregiver with little help from others can quickly become a lonely role. If you don't know anyone in a similar situation to yours, it is common to feel that no one else relates or understands your situation. 

 

Here are some methods to cope with and combat feelings of loneliness: 

  • Seek help with caregiving tasks from family and friends.  If you can find family members or friends who can help you for an hour or two each week, this can allow you to socialize while caring for your loved one.
  • Spend time with family and friends outside of caregiving. Maintaining a work/life balance outside of caregiving is essential, as difficult as it may seem. Be sure to set aside time to spend with family and friends so that you can enjoy socialization and relaxation, both of which are important to your mental health, as well as combatting feelings of loneliness. 
  • Join a caregiving support group. If you do not know anyone who can relate to your caregiving role and responsibilities, consider joining a support group of like-minded individuals who can help you work through difficult emotions, including feelings of loneliness and isolation.


Grief

When caring for a loved one, feelings of grief are prevalent. If your loved one struggles with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, it is natural to experience the grieving process. At the same time, they are still alive because they are often no longer themselves.

 

It is crucial to allow yourself to experience and work through the grieving process for healing. However, grief can become consuming if not managed, and it can negatively impact your ability to care for your loved one. Here are some ways that you can cope with feelings of grief: 

 

  • Think of fond memories of the past. Remember and express gratitude for all of the positive and happy memories you cherish with your loved one. 
  • Be present. Although life may not look the same now that you are caring for your loved one, work to stay present and be in the moment to cherish the time that you get to spend together. 
  • Acknowledge the stages of grief as you experience them: 
    • Denial and Isolation 
    • Anger 
    • Bargaining 
    • Depression 
    • Acceptance 
  • Communicate with family, friends, or a therapist to allow them to support you through difficult emotions. 



Robert Fisher

Robert Fisher has a background in Nursing and Healthcare management, with specialities in health and wellness, fitness and nutrition.

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