Surviving Caregiving

5 Ways to Recover When You Lose Your Cool

Last updated:

December 23, 2013

We all snap at the ones we love sometimes. It happens for a million different reasons -- or for what can seem like no reason at all.

Actually, when a snap seems to come "out of the blue," it's usually been percolating for hours or days, the accumulation of many little stressors that erupt at any point, any target -- and anything can be the tipping point. It's important to know that every caregiver loses his or her cool now and then.

What's the best recourse when you goof?

1. Apologize by blaming yourself. "I'm so sorry. I don't know where that came from! No, I do -- it was my stress talking! My fault, not yours."

2. Recover with a joke. "Whoa! Did I just morph into my evil twin? I'm back now."

3. Reassure that it's OK. Your loved one is apt to be shaken after an outburst. It's important that your body language also says, "I'm better now, it's OK." First, calm yourself -- leave the room for a second or two, take a few deep breaths, whatever helps you bring it down a notch. Try to force a smile when you're back.

4. Forgive yourself and forget. We all let loose the occasional blooper. Sometimes the best thing to do is issue a quick apology and move on. Everybody deserves a "free pass" once a week or so.

5. Recognize when you're a repeat offender -- and promise yourself some loving kindness. We usually snap when we're physically, mentally, or emotionally depleted. (And sometimes being a caregiver means you're all three at once.) If you notice that you're losing your temper more and more often, consider it a red flag that you need to shift something. More help? More downtime for yourself? Sharing certain care tasks that get your goat? Give yourself the gift of time to figure out what's eating at you most, and what might help ease some of that stress.