My mother liked to cook with a pressure cooker, a heavy steel pot with a lid that locked in place. What fascinated me was the tiny attachment that bobbed on top to let out the steam. Without the ability to release the pressure the pot would have exploded. (The disgusting part was that my mother loved to cook rutabagas in that pot. Nastiest smell there is). That’s what happens when you’re caregiving and you don’t give yourself an escape valve. Somebody’s going to get hurt.
Anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration…these are your signs. They’re the clues that let you know the pressure is building. That agitation is there for a reason, so honor it. Sure, it’s not pretty, but playing “nice” and living a lie can really get ugly–and dangerous.
If you’re experiencing any (or all) of these emotions, then congratulations, you’re alive–and fairly normal. Don’t be afraid of your emotions, observe them and ask them to guide you. Those who work in anger management remind us that anger, when understood, helps us.
Anger teaches, anger signals, and anger looks for solutions.
Now that you recognize that you have a pulse, it’s time to figure out how to destress.
3 Tips to Destress for Caregivers:
- Use your emotions. If you’re feeling rage, then rage, just do it in a safe way. Scream into your pillow. Throw an old coffee cup against the outside wall of your house (watch for fly-backs), jump up and down, find a punching bag and wale away. The point is, get the anger up and out.
- Vent. Stop stuffing and call a friend. Ask for a ten minute rant. Complain away. Say it all. Get it out. Trust they won’t take everything you say as gospel truth or think you’re a horrible person. Purge your worry, your guilt, your frustrations, and then when the timer is up–STOP! If you don’t, it’s like a faucet left running that spills onto everything and gets harder and harder to clean up. You can also vent on the page, or vent in the car–alone. Talking aloud and having imaginary arguments helps you work through many issues without destroying relationships.
- Get away. Five minutes or five days. Respite is crucial for caregivers, but it’s so so hard to convince a care provider to take a break. Why? We’re control freaks. I know you don’t want to hear that, but I did put myself in the mix as well. We think that no one can do what we do. We think our loved one will decline or not respond to anybody else. That’s ego talking. We don’t want to admit it, but it is. It’s time to realize that if we don’t step away, if we don’t mend our souls, get some sleep, and gain some perspective that we’ll ruin our health and be of little good to anybody. Step outside the front door for five minutes. Take longer in the shower, longer at the store. Steal moments. Make it game or a challenge. How can you get 30 minutes to yourself?
We don’t realize it, but we thrive off being needed, and sometimes we’re even addicted (mildly) to the drama that comes with care. Face it, it’s exciting (in a bizarre way) Wean yourself away.
My mother would tell me to stand back and she’d take that hot and heavy pot to the sink and the first thing she’d do is let it cool down. She didn’t rip off the lid. If she did, it would explode, give her a steam burn, or simply refuse to budge. It had to sit, calm down, and wait for the pressure to subside. Caregivers have to realize that they’re going to have to try a lot of different “tricks” to figure out what works best for them and their loved one. They can’t rip into stress and demand it go away. It took a long time to build up that much pressure and it takes time to create balance once again.
And for the record, I still don’t like rutabagas. Nasty. Nasty. Nasty.