When Good Caregivers Snap

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Snapped lately? All family caregivers lose their cool sometimes. Living with an elder is that stressful. Sometimes the target winds up being the hapless coffee shop clerk, and sometimes it's the person you love best in the world. If outbursts are happening increasingly often, consider them a warning sign to find better ways to channel caregiver anger.

That's right, channel. Letting it out is actually healthier than keeping it bottled inside, which ups your risk of high blood pressure, depression, and heart disease. Exactly how you choose to release the frustration and tension doesn't matter (so long as you don't hurt anybody!). What matters is that you find an outlet -- or two or three -- to release those unpleasant feelings.

Next time you feel your steam rising, try "taking five" to:

  • Attack a home chore that requires mindless energy, like scouring a sink or chopping veggies.

  • Go off and punch a pillow.

  • Do jumping jacks or pump some hand weights.

  • Scream in the privacy of your car, with the windows rolled up.

  • Engage in deep breathing until you feel calmer.

  • Call a trusted friend who's agreed to listen without comment in a crisis, and vent.

  • Write out your deep, dark feelings online (in a Word document, not on Facebook!) -- and then delete them.

  • Express yourself in an online caregiver chat group, where you'll have ready and empathetic ears.

  • Talk to yourself in the bathroom mirror, with the door closed so you can't be heard.


about 1 year ago, said...

Good advice! Did you know you can channel anger by writing about it? www.writeradvice.com Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers


about 1 year ago, said...

Im doing everything for my 86 yr old dad Im tired no time for me will never put him in a home I have to learn to taketime for myself help!!! im so worn out I wait on him hand and foot I cant say no!!! gina


over 3 years ago, said...

Yes, these were all good ideas, but I feel the one that helps me the most is getting up before my loved one and having an hour of devotions with the Lord. He often comforts me and instructs me through His word, which tells me He loves me and will care for me as well as for my husband. "Without Him, I would be drifting like a ship without a sail." (from a song)


over 3 years ago, said...

Very good advice... love it so much


over 3 years ago, said...

Caring4 - 173/112 is WAY TOO HIGH. When did you last go to the Dr. for yourself? You are at risk for a heart attack or stroke, please take care of you, for who will take care of your spouse if you are ill? Give the facility a list of what is missing and list the replacement costs, and ask for reimbursement. If you have two signs in plain view, there is no excuse. Every penny counts, if your budget has been affected like mine, it's important that you get the money, and they learn their lesson.


over 3 years ago, said...

How timely is this???!!! Having one of those "ready to snap" days today. Went to visit my spouse in the nursing home and discovered once again that they sent his clothes to the laundry and lost them. There's two signs on his closet that says "family will do laundry". I labeled some of his clothes but the dark ones I can't write on because the ink is black and I can't find the white labels. Anyway, the attitude at the facility is...."we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused" which is the worst cliche on planet earth. I kept my cool pretty much but inside I was seething. Bottom line to their attitude is, if it isn't their stuff, they don't care. Ok, now that I got this off my chest, I'm going to try doing everything on this list except calling a friend. Tried that and all she kept saying is "that's too bad". Last four blood pressure checks were all 173/112. Isn't that kind of high?


over 3 years ago, said...

'What would have made it more helpful' you ask? I don't know.


over 3 years ago, said...

Good tips and I've done most of them! Be careful though if you vent at a support group. Though you will often receive support and good advice, there are always, ALWAYS those that are ready to pounce and scold, lecture and criticize you for your views. So, just be ready for that.


over 3 years ago, said...

I'm thinking of having a special trash can that I can throw bottles that need to be recycled into. I want to throw them hard enough to hear the glass break. I've only been that mad once, and I threw my purse so hard agains a wall 10 feet away that I broke the pocket watch that was in it. While I was upset that I had to repair the watch (again - was in my purse because I had picked it up from repair), it really felt good to throw something and hear it thud.


over 4 years ago, said...

As yourself what is the real reason I'm angry right now? Asking that question brings you to the present and in the present, everything is more rational.


over 4 years ago, said...

Yes it was very helpful, and those new to caregiving, please don't hesitate to use them, I worked myself into no despair before I started to scream and I love my Mother more than life itself and I screamed at her only to have the scream meant for my husband who was requiring more of me than he realized I could give , I was a total burnout after 5 years and I hope my Mother can forgive me for my stresses, I ended up having to have my most loving Mother put in a nursing Home upon the order's of my Dr, but I know it was the right thing to do, I just couldn't do it alone anymore, although I had 7 siblings with none of them obligating help !!!!!! It's hard , very very hard, so please take all this help, you will need it and God Bless you for caring !!!!!! ♥


over 4 years ago, said...

I need reminders that there are ways I can help myself. Thanks for all the times you give me relief.


over 4 years ago, said...

you keep say to physically remove myself from the situation......but he is sitting there alone, unable to do anything and feeling sorry. How do you remove your own guilt?


over 4 years ago, said...

YOU CHOOSE TO BE STRONG. YOU KEEP TRYING AND GET TO EVERY SUPPORT GROUP AND CHURCH GROUPS YOU CAN. PLANNING, PATIENCE AND PERSERVENCE (SP) ISTHE ANSWER. tHKNK THIS TOO SHALL PASS....BE POSITIVE AND PRAY, PRAY, PRAY. iT WORKS AND YOU MUST KEEP TRYING!


over 4 years ago, said...

Most of these ideas I already use or know to use. But this was a good refresher to have these ideas written down and to read them to reinforce the ideas in my head.


over 4 years ago, said...

GET OUT! Physically remove yourself from the situation, if it's about to blow or even if it did. Try not to say anything else negative & go to another place where you can sit, deep breathe & gather your thoughts. Do not discuss the situation for as long as it takes you, or the other person, to calm down. Discuss things when you are both ready & try & come to a solution. If this doesn't work, Get Help from someone who can help you figure out alternative solutions.


over 4 years ago, said...

What happens if you finish the sentence Today I want... Go ahead. Write another sentence. Keep going if you want. What happens? If you want you can send the results to Lgood67334 AT comcast DOT net (you know the drill, right?) and I'll tell you what's already strong in your writing.


over 4 years ago, said...

It affirmed that caregivers do lose it and physically releasing your emotions was healthy. I was afraid that my blood pressure got too high by acting on my emotions.


over 4 years ago, said...

The suggestions. I feel like a stuck record. Very aggravating. I amm caring for my husband who is 65 yo. He had strokes a few years ago. While he recovered well physicaly mental


over 4 years ago, said...

The suggestion above,and most suggestions for releasing anger, are throwing things, choppy movements. There is a therapeutic way to totally release anger from the body, Gabrielle Roth's "5 Rhythms," which you can learn about by viewing teh many videos on YouTube. Do not be intimidated by the limber hunks who dance all out. These rhythms can be done all in your head (almost as an actor's tool), done by people in wheelchairs too. The following natural rhythm following the sharp 4/4 beat of the angry staccato..is Chaos, associated with the free forward fall of deep weeping. It looks like freeform hippie dance, arms going every which way, skipping around instead of angry stomping. Next after all that energy is moved through is Lyrical, almost floating, like flicking fairy dust after butterflies. Then resolve and stillness, peace. Zen like. The first one, before anger staccato is to catalyze fear, think snake feeling his way out of frozen fear...in dance form it resembles a belly dance in look and associated music. Knowing this flow is useful, for it can be used internally like an actor's direction in his head ("Ok, I start to get angry at this line, so more staccato.") to doing the movements therapeutically with others, like a hand dance with an out of control toddler. Catch the toddler's thrashing wrists, move them in hitting movement FOR them for awhile. When they release into your control, move their arms and perhaps dance with them in wild skipping of Chaos (now this is fun!), then maybe a little pretend waltz for lyrical, then slow motion dinosaur stomp to stillness slowing down. Do a little hand dance with an upset senior as you talk to them and comfort them holding both their hands. Or do as game hand dance across the surface of the table. Be aware of the 5-rhythm pattern when you give them a short shoulder massage... It's nice to have specific tools like this. Try and see if it works. Many videos are available to view on YouTube to get the gist. Don't be mislead by the all out gorgeous dancing...you can take it down to fingertip level.