Caring for a loved one with cancer can be both daunting and rewarding. One thing for sure, looking after your own physical and mental health is crucial as a caregiver. Read on to find out about five ways to look after yourself.
If it's your job to give support to someone with cancer, you're likely to invest all your emotional and physical energy into your responsibilities. While focusing on the needs of others is rewarding, neglecting your own well being can impair your health and limit your ability to provide care. That's why taking care of your own physical and mental health is one of your most important obligations as a caregiver. Here are five ways you can look out for yourself:
- Reach out for help. You're not in this battle alone. Family members, friends, and local volunteers may be available to relieve some of the burden. Even getting help with something as simple as picking up the groceries or dropping the kids off at school can feel like a huge weight off your shoulders. Don't hesitate to delegate specific tasks to those who are willing, including compassionate people you might have just met. You might be surprised how gracious people can be.
- Treat your body well. The temptation to drink, smoke, overuse medication, or eat unhealthy elevates with stress, but you'll feel much better overall by treating your body right. Drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, eat wholesome foods, and get plenty of sleep. Also make regular doctor and dentist visits a part of your routine. Catching health issues early can protect you from a wide range of preventable diseases. A robust body sustains a positive and healthy mind.
- Maintain outside relationships. As a social being, spending time with people you care about is key to your mental health. Caring for a cancer patient can potentially consume every waking moment in your life, so you need to set time aside with others to recharge your battery on a regular basis. Going out on a date, seeing a movie with friends, or spending time outdoors with family will make you a better caregiver.
- Take advantage of cancer caregiver support groups. No two caregivers face the same exact challenges, but the experience and support of others can guide you through this difficult part of your life. Get caregiving tips and relieve feelings of loneliness by participating in group or one-on-one discussions for cancer patients and their loved ones. If you can't go to a meeting in person, online cancer caregiver support groups like Cancer Survivors Network and Inspire can connect you with individuals and families who offer empathy. Being part of a community linked to a specific cancer may also be helpful. If you're looking after someone with bladder cancer, then it may be helpful to connect with groups such as Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network and bladdercancer.me.
- Recognize your own limitations. Symptoms of anxiety or depression, such as irritability, headaches, insomnia, and lack of focus, are not unusual for cancer caregivers according to extensive studies. Alleviate these problems by joining a cancer caregiver support group, practicing yoga or meditation, exercising, or doing activities that bring you relaxation and comfort. Visiting a doctor or counselor may be necessary if self therapy isn't adequate.
Caring for a cancer patient is a unique and challenging experience. You're fulfilling a role that's both satisfying and difficult because it's truly meaningful. The stronger you are physically and emotionally, the more your loved one will benefit. Your support will be crucial during every phase of their illness, so never forget to treat yourself with dignity and compassion.