By Teresa Ann Thompson, AARP guest blogger
As we went around the room introducing ourselves to others in the caregiver support group that night, we were asked to express what we were angry about in our particular caregiver situation. Of the fifteen or so in attendance, I believe we had at least that many reasons. Everyone had felt the emotion of anger to some extent and was at a loss of what to do about it.
The reasons ranged from being frustrated over financial concerns, family members who didn’t help with care needs, lack of privacy and time for oneself, no appreciation from the care recipient, struggle with our own health concerns, issues of grief and still dealing with the original diagnosis, and frustration about undesirable behavioral problems of our loved one.
But fortunately, there are some tools for minimizing this unwanted emotion of anger. What do you do when anger is making your life so unattractive, you can’t even stand to be around yourself?
Anger Is Not Always Negative
Anger is a warning signal that points to caregiver stress. Other warning indicators include insomnia, irritability, denial, health problems, anxiety, inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, social withdrawal, fatigue, and depression.
So anger can help mark and measure our stress level, allowing us to address our stress and do something about it before we experience caregiver burnout.
Stay connected with others, journal, read a book, take regular walks, get a pet, pay attention to your own health through proper diet and exercise. All these suggestions and others could help alleviate stress and thus leave you with a lower level of anger.
A counselor once told me, “If you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep on getting what you’re getting.” So changing anything about your regular routine could illicit positive changes in your outlook and emotions.
Anger Is a Motivator and an Energizer
Another way anger is our friend is when it energizes us to accomplish the many daunting tasks before us as caregivers. A touch of anger can give us the spunk to speak assertively for ourselves or our loved one.
It’s important to advocate wisely with medical professionals, legal and government agencies, or just the nasty neighbor across the street who doesn’t understand what it’s like to deal with a disability.
Know Why You Are Angry
Let’s suppose the short fixes aren’t doing the trick. You’ve tried changing your routine and environment, but every day is looking more and more hopeless and your anger is rising and your mood is sinking into depression.
Knowing the specific reason why you are angry and depressed may be crucial for you to break the cycle.
So often our anger stems from another emotion that gets expressed as anger. Fear, frustration, guilt, and hurt are many times the original culprits. And these emotions are very typical in the life of a caregiver.
- What caregiver hasn’t felt fear for what the future holds for their loved one and family?
- What caregiver hasn’t been frustrated over the myriad medical and financial hoops there are to jump?
- What caregiver hasn’t felt guilt that maybe their care and advocacy isn’t as perfect as it should be?
- What caregiver hasn’t been hurt that their sacrificial service is not recognized or valued?
Addressing the primary emotion involved in our anger can be a means of eliminating it. Don’t hesitate to plug in to a healthy counseling relationship with someone you trust. Many professionals and even pastors are trained in family therapy. They can help sort out these negative emotions and suggest a path to eliminating them.
As you can see, your anger can be your friend or your foe. You hold the key to making it more manageable.
Teresa is a caregiver for her husband who has a brain injury from a tractor accident in 1999, with increased dementia the last few years. She is a retired teacher, librarian, and now loves to write, edit, and blog. She also blogs for Outlook Magazine and caregiving.com. Her personal blog is www.teresa-teresatalk.blogspot.com.