Reframe your Thoughts

Updated:Feb 18,2015

Family of four sitting next to each other smilingStudies show that caregivers are physically and emotionally stressed out, which can lead to physical illness and depression. Frustrations arise as you deal with the physical demands of helping your loved one function and the psychological demands of handling the personality changes your loved one is going through. One effective way to reduce stress and frustration is to reframe your thoughts. Cognitive therapy helps you identify unhelpful thought patterns and substitute more adaptive thoughts. Here are some examples of unhelpful thought patterns and adaptive responses.

  • Over-generalization: You take one negative situation or characteristic and multiply it. For example, you're on your way to a doctor's appointment when you discover your car battery is dead. You conclude, "Something always goes wrong."
    Adaptive response: "This doesn't happen all the time. Usually the car works just fine. I'll just call the doctor's office and tell them we're going to be a little late. It's not the end of the world."
  • Discounting the positive: You overlook the good things about you and your circumstances. "I could do more" or "Anyone could do what I do."
    Adaptive response: "Caregiving isn't easy. It takes courage, strength and compassion to do what I do. I'm not always perfect, but I do a lot and try to be helpful."
  • Mindreading: You assume a friend who has not called is angry or trying to avoid you.
    Adaptive response: "I don't know what my friend is thinking. Maybe she did not get my message or she is busy. Maybe she thinks I don't have time to talk about anything but my situation. I should call her and see how she's doing."
  • Fortune-telling: You predict a negative outcome in the future. For example, you won't try adult day care because you assume your loved one won't like it.
    Adaptive response: "I can't predict the future. He may not like it, but we won't know for sure until we try."|
  • Feeling sorry for yourself: "This is no life. No matter what I do, he doesn't appreciate it. Everybody's so concerned about him, but nobody ever asks how I'm getting through this."
    Adaptive response: This is one of the most important things I will do in my life. I am right where I need to be at the moment. Even though it's hard, I'm doing a pretty good job. When he gets angry at me, I know that he's really angry at the situation. I should share my feelings more with others so they will understand how I feel. It's going to be okay. I'm proud of each of my efforts."
  • Neglecting yourself: "I don't have time to eat or get any exercise. There's no way I could take 15 minutes out of the day to talk to a friend or check my e-mail."
    Adaptive response: I can find 10 minutes in the morning to exercise. I'll feel better for the rest of the day and maybe I'll be more productive. I'll take a few minutes this evening to call a friend and find out what's going on in their life. Maybe I can even meet for coffee tomorrow while he's in rehab."

Thoughts to get you through the day

  • Stay Upbeat! 
  • Remember that you and your loved one are on two separate journeys. You may walk with your loved one and support them, but you cannot live their journey for them. 
  • Depression is not a character flaw or sign of weakness. It is an illness that requires proper treatment. 
  • Don't let depression "spread." To take time to care for yourself is not selfish — it is critical if you are to be whole and effective in your own life. 
  • Realize that depression isolates you from friends and family, and most often, from those you love the most. 
  • When possible, encourage your loved ones to remain physically active and retain an interest in hobbies. It will brighten their life, as well as yours. 
  • Nurture your spirit daily by doing even small things that fill your heart with hope and joy. 
  • Understand that it is normal and healthy to feel frustrated, angry and confused, even while having genuine compassion and love for the person you are caring for. 

This content was last reviewed on 12/18/2014.

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