“I was just in a funk today.”
I’ve heard it from many caregivers—myself included—in the last few weeks. And I’ll continue to hear it for years to come, even after these quarantine days are behind us.
As caregivers, we’re always grieving something. The loss of our freedom. The loss of our “before caregiving” normal. The loss of control. In many cases, we’re also carrying grief for the person in our care, feeling the weight of it, managing their and our emotions around it.
We’re also giving, giving, and giving of ourselves as caregivers. Eventually, there’s not much left—especially if we’re struggling to refuel through respite or self-care. And right now, I’m pretty sure all caregivers are struggling with that.
A daily grind of giving and grieving is exhausting. Throw in the anxiety and angst of our current new normal, and there’s probably nothing more natural or human than being “in a funk.”
But we can’t stay there. It’s not good for our own well-being, nor is it a great way to operate while actively caring for someone. So how do you shake off caregiver funk? Here are 5 things that have helped me.
#1: Draw your feelings.
This sketch was inspired by a tool we used in an intensive family trauma therapy program last fall. My daughter was asked to do a similar sketch under the guidance of her therapist, which was then presented to us parents. When I first saw her picture, I was shattered. For weeks. But as we worked through it with our therapist, I began to see it as a helpful reference. I even found some encouragement from it.
As you sketch your feelings, really think about what’s churning inside of you—and be honest. At times, you might only be able to come up with negative feelings—just like my picture shows—and THAT IS 100% OK. Trying to make yourself feel happy when you’re not is just adding more of that yucky guilt feeling to your picture. And if it helps, reframe it: maybe think of the feeling as yearning or longing, instead of just unhappy.
Maybe the visual will help show you where you don’t want to end up on account of ignoring self-care. Maybe you can share the drawing with a therapist as a basis for a helpful, healing conversation—or with someone you trust who wants to listen and help. Maybe the next day—or even the same day—you would draw an entirely different picture.
Remember, there are no wrong answers here. These are your feelings, and no one else’s. You don’t have to share this with anyone. You can adapt this drawing to make it work better for you. You decide.
#2: Eat your feelings.
There is nothing wrong with comfort food in moderation. Yes, nutrition is important. Yes, we need healthy food to maintain our health as caregivers. There are plenty of blog posts about that. But sometimes, being in a funk requires all the chocolate, cheese, or “fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-thing” you’re craving.
#3: Drive your feelings.
If you can safely get out for a drive, do it. Be alone with your thoughts. Roll down the windows, or keep them closed. Blast your favorite “bad mood” music or opt for silence. Go through an automatic car wash (one of my favorite forms of simple self-care), or go off the beaten path to see something new. You choose!
Need some musical inspiration? Check out our Spotify channel for a variety of caregiver-focused playlists!
#4: Watch your feelings.
Maybe a movie marathon isn’t possible right now. That’s OK. Just match up your feelings and your time frame. Only have a few minutes but feel depressed or anxious? Scroll through silly videos on social media. Laughter is therapeutic! Have two hours but feel like you need a good cry? Watch a movie that does it for you. Feel apathetic or blah? Find something that gives you an escape from your current reality, or something that will motivate/inspire you. Disclaimer: Watching the news is not allowed.
#5: Vent your feelings.
Sometimes you just need to tell someone how you’re feeling. Call your bestie, text your mom, type a rant in a private Facebook group (we have one for caregivers of all ages!), write in a journal, pray, scream, curse, hash it out with a spouse—a good “feelings dump” is both freeing and healing.
Still not sure what you’re feeling?
Everyone’s different, and those differences matter in caregiving. A big part of shaking off caregiver funk is figuring out your triggers, and understanding what makes you feel better. Watch this video to find out why, then read our post to discover your type.