It’s not unusual for caregivers to wrestle with anger toward those for whom they care. Feeling anger in such a relationship is perfectly natural; caregivers are only human and are therefore subject to all of the emotions that come with being part of the human race.
Anger is not necessarily a bad thing, though people tend to view it as something to avoid; when people feel angry, that anger can serve as a signal that a situation needs to be resolved. Here are some strategies to help caregivers handle such emotions.
- Get away from the anger. Although people are often told that they shouldn’t run away from their problems or that they should face their emotions head-on, sometimes it helps to take a breather and remove yourself from the situation that is causing anger and stress. For caregivers, this can be difficult. However, when possible, at least take a deep breath and count to ten. It’s even better if you can move to a different room and have a few moments of alone time just to gather yourself together. Don’t bury the anger; just put it aside for a moment and revisit it later when you’re in a better place.
- Try to chill. Practicing relaxation can help you to deal with anger more effectively. Try to set aside a time every day when you can engage in simple relaxation exercises. Find a chair and get comfortable. Close your eyes and take some nice, deep breaths. Concentrate on all the muscles, especially those that are feeling tense, and allow them to relax. Let your mind go as blank as possible; if disruptive thoughts enter, just gently shoo them away. Doing this routinely for 10-15 minutes a day can help keep you from experiencing anger as often or as vividly.
- Take another view. When a person is angry, it’s easy to get a distorted view of a situation. If Mom is irrationally stubborn about one thing, it may make you feel that she’s being stubborn about everything – even things that are important and about which her stubbornness may be justified. Try to recognize that this kind of distorted anger can add fuel to your own fire, making you angrier than you would normally be.
- Speak up. Learning how to productively talk about anger can be difficult, but those who can accomplish it find it makes them feel much better. For example, rather than speaking sharply to Dad because he refuses to leave the house before his program finishes, try saying, “I felt angry that you wanted to wait for the TV show to finish this morning and I’d like to talk about it with you so we can maybe find a better way to deal with things like this.” If this opens the door to a discussion about why you were feeling pressured and why Dad felt that what he wanted wasn’t taken into consideration, you can perhaps then work out a better plan for moving forward.
The struggles of a caregiver don’t start and end with anger management, but learning ways to handle anger that gets in your way can make a significant improvement.