Part of being a caregiver is learning to take care of yourself. When you think about taking time out for yourself, perhaps you feel:
These are all normal feelings that caregivers may experience. But no matter what you may think or feel, it is important for you to take time and do something for yourself. You need time to relax from the stressful activities that make up your day. You will emerge from this “downtime” refreshed and recharged. Taking care of yourself makes you a better caregiver.
You need to process everything that is happening to you. Your emotions may change on a weekly, daily or hourly basis. Whether it is keeping a journal, talking to a friend or simply having some time alone to think, make sure to have some time in your day for reflection.
Other ways to process your emotions:
Join a support group. Many caregivers find comfort in being around others who are going through a similar experience. Support groups can help you cope, give you advice and are a safe place to express your feelings. Some people find just going and listening, even without sharing their own experiences, is helpful and encouraging.
Talk to a counselor. A counselor (or social worker, psychologist, or other mental health professional) can be a source of support. He or she can offer you a new perspective or fresh insights. For some caregivers, turning to a member of their faith is helpful. Learn more about spiritual support at Washington Cancer Institute.
Talk to your loved one. You were close before the cancer; now you are even closer. Do not think of your loved one only as “the person I must care for.” The two of you are going through this together, and should try to gain strength from each other.
Write in a journal. Writing can help you express your emotions. Your journal is completely confidential, and holds no judgment on anything you think or feel. Many people find it helpful to simply write down whatever comes to them. It helps them “unload” what is on their mind.
Connect with a friend (or friends). Find someone you can open up to, who knows when to offer advice and when to sit and listen.
Gain knowledge. The more you know about your loved one’s cancer, the more in control you feel. Research the situation, including stages of cancer, treatment options, procedures and side effects.
In addition to caring for your emotions, you also need to take care of yourself physically. As anyone who experiences stress can confirm, a stressful situation takes a toll on your body. You may experience fatigue, sleep problems, appetite problems, high blood pressure, headaches and mood swings. So remember to:
Contact us in Cancer Support Services at 202-877-CARE (2273).