9 Ways to Reduce Caregiver Resentment and Improve Health
Being a caregiver means putting aside large parts of your life in order to care for someone else. That can cause feelings of frustration and resentment, no matter how willing you are to do it.
Caregiver resentment is a natural human reaction. After all, when you’re stressed, exhausted, underappreciated, and there’s no end to the work, resentment is a common human response.
It certainly doesn’t make you a bad person to feel this way, but it does add to your stress and decreases your quality of life. Here are 9 tips that will help you decrease the stress and negative feelings and improve your overall well-being.
Notice and Acknowledge How You Feel
When you deny how you feel, the emotions often become even more intense. Recognizing and acknowledging that you’re feeling resentful can help reduce the negative effect.
It also helps when you share your inner turmoil with someone else. You could let out your feelings in a caregiver support group, talk to a trusted friend who won’t unfairly judge you, or write in a journal.
Remember: Feeling Resentment Is Normal
Feeling resentment is a very natural and common response to caregiving, especially if your health, relationships or activities are negatively affected.
Feeling resentful doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or that you don’t care enough. In fact, it often comes up because you’re working so hard at being a great caregiver at the expense of everything else.
Pay Attention to Your Own Basic Needs
The cliché of putting your own oxygen mask first is everywhere in advice for caregivers, but it’s for good reason.
If your own essential needs aren’t met, it’s incredibly difficult to help someone else because you won’t be feeling well. On the other hand, when you’re physically and mentally healthy, you’re even more able to care for others. So, do your best to notice needs like hunger, thirst, exhaustion or pain.
Grabbing a snack, having a few sips of water throughout the day, finding 15 minutes to close your eyes and figuring out how to relieve pain will make a huge difference in your health and well-being.
Take Regular Breaks
It’s nearly impossible to keep going 24/7 without starting to feel resentment. You’re simply exhausted and on the road to burnout.
Finding ways to take regular breaks and get time away from caregiving to rest and recharge reduces caregiver stress and, in turn, reduces resentment.
Hiring in-home help, asking family to help more or enrolling in an adult day program are all ways to get regular breaks. For more time away, consider a short-term respite care stay at an assisted living community.
Keeping a journal is an effective stress reduction technique that’s perfect for caregivers. Journaling is free, takes as much or as little time as you’ve got, and can be done anytime, anywhere.
When you write down your feelings, you can express yourself freely and nobody will judge you because you’re the only person who will see what you wrote.
Writing “I feel angry” or “I resent _____ because _____” gets your feelings out of your head and can reduce the negative impact of your emotions.
Find Sources of Support
Feeling alone in the caregiving experience can increase resentment. But caregiver support groups are filled with people who understand what you’re going through.
Focus on the Task at Hand
When resentful thoughts come up, acknowledge how you’re feeling, but try not to dwell on them. You’re not denying the thoughts or pushing them away. The goal is to change your focus so you don’t get sucked into a spiral where the negativity keeps building and intensifying.
For example, if you’re cleaning up after your older adult makes a mess, focus on the task itself rather than on how frustrating it is to be cleaning up for the 10th time in one day.
Instead of saying to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m cleaning again, I have so much other stuff to do, I’m so exhausted…” talk to yourself about what you’re doing.
You could think, “Ok, first let’s get out the cleaning towels and spray. Then, I need to wipe this up over here and vacuum that spot over there. Oh good, this is a lot cleaner already. Now I need to…”
This gives your brain a chance to relax and focus on something neutral rather than dwell on negative thoughts. It takes practice to change your thinking, but even the process of trying to focus on neutral or positive things can make a difference in how you feel.
Exercising is a great way to release stress, boost mood, improve sleep, and improve physical and mental health.
All of these things help to reduce the stress and negative feelings that cause resentment. Plus, it doesn’t take hours at the gym to get the benefits. Even a 4-minute workout helps a lot.
Consider Counseling or Therapy
Another way to reduce caregiver resentment is to talk with a counselor or therapist. They’re experts who can help you find new ways to deal with the stress and emotional conflict that come with being a caregiver.
They’re also trained listeners who won’t judge. Everything that’s discussed is kept confidential and you can feel free to talk about things you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with your spouse, family or friends.
How do you manage feelings of caregiver resentment? What helps stop the spiral of negative thoughts? Please share any tips that help you cope in a caregiver environment.
Connie Chow is a founder of DailyCaring.com, a website and email newsletter with free, practical caregiving tips for families caring for older adults. Her mission is to connect caregivers with trustworthy advice and resources. Connie’s insights are in The Huffington Post, BlogHer, About.com, and more. Sign up for helpful caregiving advice at DailyCaring.com.