Recognizing and Coping with Negative Emotions

Called to care negative emotions

Caregivers experience a variety of emotions in relation to their caregiving responsibilities. Many of these are negative emotions. They make us feel bad, sap our energy and lower our self-esteem.

Examples of some of these negative emotions may include:

  • Anger
  • Emptiness
  • Frustration
  • Inadequacy
  • Helplessness
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Overwhelmed
  • Resentment
  • Failure
  • Sadness
  • Jealousy

Have you experienced any of these negative emotions? When or under what circumstances did experience this emotion? Who else is usually involved when you feel this way? When was the last time you felt this way? What could you do to change the circumstances or situations in which you tend to feel this way?

There are many reasons we experience negative emotions. Caregivers usually have them because of:

  • Unmet needs
  • Poor coping skills
  • Major difficulties associated with their caregiving circumstance
  • “Hooks” other people use to manipulate them

Use the following strategies to prevent or get rid of the negative emotions you may be feeling.

  • Recognize and acknowledge your negative emotions. Ask yourself, "How does caregiving make me feel?"
  • Recognize that these are common human reactions. It's okay to have these feelings. Forgive yourself!
  • Take responsibility for your own feelings. Words are powerful and we can harness that power to change our emotional state. When we're feeling down, we need to train ourselves to use our words to improve— and even transform— our situation, rather than merely describe it. For instance, even if you're feeling disappointed, you can choose to say, "I'm going to try again and I'm going to be successful this time around." This will make you feel much more empowered than if you used words as a tool to describe your situation: "I've failed. I'm just not cut out for this." It takes discipline and practice in order for us to cultivate this habit, but it's vital if we want to exert our will over our emotions.
  • Try to identify the source of your feelings. Avoid toxic people. They say that we're the average of the five people we spend most of our time with. If we're constantly hanging out with grumpy, discouraging, angry people, we will eventually become like them. It's difficult to be in control of our emotions when we spend a lot of time with people who push our buttons in the wrong way.
  • Express your emotions to others and let them know how difficult things are for you.
  • Watch out for “hooks"! Hooks are things that others do and/or say in an effort to manipulate us. They are what others use to get certain reactions from us, to get us off center, and to use us. We are usually vulnerable to these hooks because they strike us in areas where we are sensitive. Trust your judgement. Avoid self-blame. Stay away from toxic people.
  • Understand that overcoming negative feelings is not a once-and-for-all attainment. They can return!