Being a caregiver can be all encompassing: you want to be the best that you can be but sometimes you feel like you can do more and do better. Caregiver guilt is something that few people know until it happens to them. The best way to deal with guilt is to identify it and push through it. Here are five tips to help you deal with caregiver guilt!
Acknowledge your feelings
Most people want to feel positive all the time. That isn’t possible and you should acknowledge your feelings – even the ones that you consider to be “negative.” You may find yourself upset that the person you care for isn’t cooperating; you may feel resentful of the demands on your time; you may feel angry that the burden of caregiving has been left to only you. Acknowledging the emotions that are at the base of your feelings is the first step in managing them.
Listen to your inner voice
Take note of all of the times that you say to yourself “I should,” “I could have,” “I ought to.” Many times, we are full of self-criticism and judgement. These thoughts and “self-talk” can turn into a spiral of negativity. Guilt is often caused by self-judgement. Taking the time to listen to your inner dialogue can help you prevent and diminish the guilt.
Talk to others
Sharing your concerns with others, whether family members, friends or a counsellor, can help you sort out your feelings. Sometimes the simple act of sharing can clarify and normalize your feelings. When you talk to others who can listen and empathize, you may begin to relax.
Be a “good enough” caregiver
You want to do more but sometimes “good enough” really is good enough. Even the best parent isn’t perfect and caregiving is much the same. Not every day will be perfect and constantly striving for perfection can make caregiver guilt worse.
When you have time for yourself, take it and don’t feel guilty for not feeling guilty. Once you have reclaimed some of your life and eased the burden of your guilt, don’t allow yourself to feel bad because you no longer feel guilty.
Guilt is healthy if we have done something wrong. When we have done the best that we can, guilt can be a misplaced, negative emotion that sticks us in place. Left to build, guilt can make us physically ill.
Realize that caregiver guilt is common. You aren’t the first person to experience it – and you won’t be the last. Do the best you can for your loved one but remember that you are important too.
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