Caregiving is a rollercoaster ride, and it’s full of love, purpose, and more than its fair share of overwhelming moments. Your emotions are the ride operator: sometimes helpful, sometimes wild, and sometimes they make you want to scream. But acknowledging and managing those emotions is crucial to both your wellbeing and the quality of care you can provide. This playbook is your guide to doing just that.

Step 1: Name your feelings

Emotions can be messy. “Stressed” covers a lot but getting more specific helps.

Are you:

Angry? Frustrated by limitations, things outside your control?
Guilty? For needing breaks, not being “perfect,” or for negative thoughts?
Resentful? Of the situation, others not helping enough?
Sad? Grieving the changing relationship, loss of your former life?
Lonely? Caregiving can be isolating, even if you have support.

Don’t judge the feeling, just name it as honestly as you can.

Step 2: Spot the triggers

Notice the pattern. Does your anxiety spike when it’s time for medication? Does sadness hit during bath time because it highlights what’s been lost? Linking emotions to specific tasks or situations reveals two things:

What to anticipate: If you know tough moments are coming, you can mentally prepare.
What might be changeable: Can a less stressful routine be found? Can outside help be brought in for the hardest tasks?

Step 3: Your toolkit (It’s NOT one-size-fits-all)

There’s no magic trick to making tough feelings vanish. It’s about finding what works for YOU, in that moment:

Work it out: Exercise can work wonders for anger/stress. Short walks, even just vigorous pacing, help. Deep breathing calms the body when anxiety strikes.
Expressing outward: Journaling, venting to a trusted friend, or a support group lets it OUT, so it doesn’t fester.
Mental shifts: Saying “I can’t do this anymore,” is common but unhelpful. Try “This is hard today” – it acknowledges reality but keeps a path forward open.
Asking for help: Respite care isn’t failure, it’s getting your “oxygen mask” on first. Even small breaks make a difference.

Thriving, not just surviving

Caregiving can be deeply fulfilling, but only if you’re not running on empty. This playbook isn’t a quick fix – it’s about building awareness over time. Try to remember that:

Emotions aren’t the enemy: They’re signals! They tell you where you need support or change.
You deserve compassion: You wouldn’t judge someone else for struggling, extend that same kindness inward.
Small wins matter: Noticing that you managed anger better today IS progress.

Remember, caregiving is a journey. Your emotional landscape WILL change, but if you try to keep these ideas in mind, you can navigate your situation with greater strength and self-awareness.