Caregiver Stress – How to Manage Your Mind

Are you experiencing negative thoughts and emotions while caring for someone who has a chronic illness? Can you learn how to manage your mind better with caregiver stress?

photo of a sign and eyeglasses on table; article about how to manage your mind with caregiver stress.
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If you want to be clean, stop rolling around in the muck.

Positive mind management may sound too flip to some people. As if you are being told to just “think happy thoughts.” But positive mind management is more than that. It is developing the skills to recognize negative thoughts and their effects first. Then, how to create positive thought patterns and manage your mind with caregiver stress. And ultimately help you achieve the change you want.

So, what does, “If you want to be clean, stop rolling in the muck,” mean? If you want to be clean of the negative thoughts in your mind, you must stop rolling around in the muck of negative thoughts. For example, you may be angry that your loved one is suffering because of this disease. In addition, you may be angry at the sacrifices you have had to make as the primary caregiver. But if you dwell in angry thoughts all day, it’s difficult to feel anything but angry. If you want to feel clean from angry thoughts, you must change the thoughts in your mind.

Thoughts, Feeling, Actions, and Results

Did you know that our thoughts lead to our feelings? And our feelings lead to our actions, which create our results in life. So, as you think about the anger, you feel angry too. And if you feel angry, your actions will reflect that. For example, if you feel angry you will be impatient or short with someone. Or yell at someone or refuse to communicate at all. What will be the result of all this anger? An unhappy life that leads to a cycle of more anger. (To learn more about the connection between thoughts and results, listen to this podcast by Brooke Castillo, Founder of The Life Coach School.)

So how do you manage your mind better with caregiver stress?

The first step is to recognize negative thoughts and how they make you feel and act. What results are you getting in life from your negative thoughts?

Next, work on creating the thoughts that will help you feel the way you want to. What thoughts can you create that will help you make the change you are looking for?

As Brooke puts it:

“The next step is really to start deciding what you want to think on purpose. If you don’t tell your brain what to focus on or what to think about, it will go to the old patterns. The brain likes to do what it’s really good at. What it’s really good at is stuff that it’s done a lot of. Unfortunately, for many of us, that’s a lot of very negative anxiety-producing, frustration-producing thinking.”

Brooke Castillo, Founder of The Life Coach School; podcast 19

Negative Thought Patterns

Maybe your thoughts aren’t about anger. Instead, you are thinking worried thoughts, sad thoughts, or thinking you are overwhelmed. How can you decide what you want to think on purpose? How can you tweak or change a negative thought to help you feel and act the way you want? And ultimately achieve the results you want. Let me give an example.

Your husband suffered a debilitating stroke and now you are his primary caregiver. You may be thinking:

“I am overwhelmed and I don’t know what I am doing.”

How does that make you feel? Like you are drowning? You are incapable or inadequate?

What kind of action will those feelings inspire? Your actions will be timid. Or maybe you are too overwhelmed to take any action at all. The result will likely be that you continue to feel overwhelmed.

Can you create a different thought that serves you better?

What if you told yourself the following instead? “I am capable of doing this.”

Look at the two statements again.

I am overwhelmed and don’t know what I am doing.

I am capable of doing this.

How does each statement make you feel? What actions do you want to take with the first statement? What actions do you want to make with the second statement? How might the second statement change the results of your current situation?


The truth is caregiving can be overwhelming. It’s a new skill set and you weren’t given all the instructions. There wasn’t a class to prepare you and you were thrown into the fire from the start.

Like any new skill, it takes time to learn your way and mistakes will be made.

But the other truth is that it is possible you can do this. It is absolutely possible that you can rise to the challenge and be the caregiver you want to be for your loved one.

Your mind can be a friend or foe. Your mind may be full of negative thoughts and emotions now. But you can learn to manage your mind better with caregiver stress. So, decide what you want to think on purpose. Then, practice and repeat the new thought until it serves you and helps you get the results you want.

Interested in other strategies to improve mental well-being when dealing with caregiver stress? Download your free guide here.

Disclaimer: This blog is a resource through which you may obtain information regarding your health and wellness.  Information is intended for the general reader. This blog is not a substitute for medical advice.  The content in this blog is intended to be informational only and should not be interpreted as specific advice for you.  There may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog. You should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who is familiar with your health and past medical history before making any changes you may read about in this blog.

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