For most family caregivers, frustration and guilt are common, as is anxiety and resentment. These feelings are normal and reasonable under the circumstances. It’s not realistic to eliminate negative emotions. Caring for an ailing family member IS emotionally taxing, especially in the case of memory loss. But sometimes the negativity can feed on itself.
You can avoid amplifying a downer mood. According to stress and coping research, you can reduce your distress by concentrating on the ultra-present moment, the here and now.
To interrupt the cycle
- observe yourself. Practice noticing your thoughts and feelings. Get curious about your emotions. Explore them objectively, as though you were outside yourself. Your thoughts and feelings aren’t “you,” they are one part of your experience.
- identify your thoughts. We increase our own suffering when we allow ourselves to get stuck in “shoulda, woulda, coulda” thinking. Those “shoulds” and “if onlys” try to rewrite the past. They are a springboard to anger and depression. The “I wants” and “what ifs” focus on the future. They tend to prompt anxiety.
- acknowledge your negative feelings. None of them is wrong. Don’t judge them. They are temporary and will subside (as long as you don’t feed them!).
- accept what is. Life is a series of moments. This one may not be your favorite. But what’s happening right now is a done deal. If you simply allow it and don’t fight it in your mind, you’ll be that much less stressed.
- focus on the present. Stay out of the past and future in your thinking. Take a few deep breaths. Shift your attention to create room for something positive right now. Think of something that engages one of your senses: The taste of your coffee, the color of the sky, or the music on the radio, for example.
Repeat as needed to refresh your outlook!