When it comes to caring for your aging parents, you may often find that you prioritize their needs over your own. From watching your parents age to dealing with being overwhelmed, it’s common to experience sadness and grief.
The National Institute of Health found that a caregiver’s risk for depression was 30 times greater than a non-caregiver, especially when caring for a person with dementia.
While these feelings are normal, they are not inevitable. It’s important to not accept these emotions as being a part of providing elder care. There are ways to protect your mental health while taking care of a parent.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
One type of psychotherapy, known as cognitive-behavioral therapy, states that our thoughts are the source of making us unhappy instead of external factors. The idea is that we can change how we feel even if we can’t change the situation. With practice, you can replace positive thinking with the negative patterns that contribute to sadness.
Challenging negative notions may help to restructure thought patterns. For example, training in CBT will help you to examine negative thoughts, determine whether they are accurate, and then develop a more precise statement instead.
It’s essential to take time away from any task, but especially caregiving. Remember that you can’t do a job well 24/7. Seek out support from family, friends, or an adult care program. Even an assisted living facility may help to provide some respite. During this time away from your parent, take time to focus on yourself and mentally get yourself in a better place. Participate in the things you enjoy doing, such as going to movies, shopping, or even catching up on housework or bills. Even low-key activities give you the chance to recharge, so make sure that you take this time.
Establish a sound support system
Caregivers report that they often feel separated from friends and family due to limited free energy and time. Prioritizing time with people who are going to care about you is crucial. Don’t try to hide your feelings. The people who care about you will be willing to listen.
If you don’t have much of a support system, then don’t despair. Online communities are also a great way to find support, advice, or even support others. Gherry is an accessible website and app where you can join thousands of caregivers going through the same journey. Available any time of the day or night, this handy site is a great tool to have. It’s also much easier to access than other support systems, so consider using this to round out your web of support. Even if you have good support handy, you may find that this site is a fantastic tool.
Look for Self-Help Resources
Several books provide methods for dealing with sadness and grief, especially for caregivers. Visit the self-help area of your local library to get started or look online for recommended resources. You may find that you have unique tools you didn’t even know about.
Write Down Your Feelings
Many people find that writing down what they feel helps release negative emotions and puts them in a better mind frame. You can write down anything you want, and this also provides you with the opportunity to consider how your feelings change over time. Maybe you’ll notice that spending time with certain people continuously improves your mood, or visiting a specific shop is still a stressor. Having a diary or journal is a great way to document your thoughts and help you have more positive emotions over time.
Finally, be patient with yourself. If you’ve been dealing with sadness for a while, you can’t expect to feel better right away. Sadness is natural, and it takes time to begin feeling more positive. Understanding that this process will take time may help you be more considerate and patient with yourself. Remember, you’re not alone in caregiving through all of this, and there are tools and resources available to help you through this journey. Use the methods here to start improving your mental wellbeing and enjoy the time you have with your parents as they age.