"I can't believe you did it AGAIN! How many times do I have to tell you: Stop turning your heating pad back on! You always forget to turn it off, and you're going to burn yourself one of these nights. I'm trying to help you, but you're being so STUPID!"
Cruel, harsh words.
From a grown-up son who loves his elderly mother very much.
A man who never learned how to manage his emotions and release pent-up stress in a safe, appropriate way.
A man who has unintentionally become verbally abusive, subjecting his mom to the very thing he always swore he'd protect her from: poor care in her final years on this Earth -- instead of the love, respect and dignity that she deserves.
It's a tragic situation -- and tragically common.
But it's also extremely preventable.
If you're one of the 65 million Americans who have taken on a caregiver role -- either by choice or by necessity -- you don't have to stew in your stress, or bottle up feelings of bitterness and resentment.
You can get back to a place of peace and take pride in your work.
You just have to learn how to manage your emotions with extra special care.
Here are three ways to begin:
Release your feelings.
As a caregiver, you are under a great deal of emotional pressure. Emotions are not "good" or "bad" -- they're just bottled-up energy. Keep the bottle corked, and all that energy will eventually become too intense to hold inside. That's what leads to negative behavior -- like lashing out at the one you love, or numbing yourself with food or booze.
You've got to uncork that bottle. Thwack a pillow. Punch a punching bag. Scream into your duvet covers. Get it out -- but not just by "journaling" or "talking." Go for physical release -- the kind that creates an energetic shift in your body. You'll feel lighter and freer immediately. And you'll be better able to care and serve.
Find someone who "gets" it.
You're not the first person in the world who is taking care of an aging parent, sick partner, or a child with special needs. And you won't be the last. There's help, out there.
Find a support group, or even just one friend who "gets" it. The community at Caregiving.com is a beautiful place to start. Their motto? "As you care for family members and friends, we care for you."
SecondFirsts.com is another powerful online community, providing resources for those in the midst of grief. (And yes -- you can be "grieving," even if the person you're grieving over is still very much alive. Any form of "loss" or stressful life event can trigger the cycle of grief.)
Need personalized help? Find a counselor, therapist or coach. Additionally -- if it's within your means -- consider getting some help with your caregiving duties, to give you more time for rest and self-care. Taskrabbit.com is an incredible site that pairs you with background-checked and verified "helpers" with all kinds of skills -- from house cleaning to running errands to organization and car repairs.
Remember: You don't have to do this, alone.
Let go. But never give up.
In the field of emotional health, there's a technique known as "positive submission."
Positive submission isn't the same as "surrendering" or "giving up."
It's about recognizing that there are certain things you can control, and certain things you cannot.
It means saying to yourself:
I will strive to make things better... when it is possible to do so.
I will vent my feelings safely and accept life's limitations... when it is not.
That's "positive submission." As a caregiver, and human being, sometimes that is all you can do. And that is enough.
Caring for another human being is a privilege.
And even if you're not feeling "terrific" about your role as a caregiver right this moment, you can learn to manage the emotions that have been building inside you.
Do that, and very soon, you'll find more satisfaction and joy in your work.
And the person under your care will receive something priceless:
Given freely. From the best possible version of you.
As a psychologist + life coach, Dr. Suzanne Gelb's insights have been featured on more than 200 radio shows, 100 TV interviews and too many articles to keep score.
Step into her virtual office and discover how to change your life by changing the way you handle your own emotions.
And while you're visiting, pick up one of her Life Guides on life's trickiest challenges, from preparing for your first child to caring for an elderly parent, and everything in between: DrSuzanneGelb.com/The-Life-Guides