By Dr Olga Filippa Nel
Supporting a Cancer inflicted relative and Self Care
Taking care of a loved one with cancer can be stressful. Many caregivers put their own needs and feelings aside to focus on the patient and forget that self-care is equally as important. For you to care for others, you need to take care of yourself. It is therefore important for you to pay attention to your physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Taking time to recharge your mind, body, and spirit can make you a better caregiver. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself:
- REST- Try to take at least fifteen to thirty minutes to relax and do something for yourself every day. Have a rest, read, watch some TV or just go outside and breathe. Giving yourself an outlet for your thoughts and feelings is important too.
- CONNECT- Do not neglect your personal life entirely, find ways to still connect with friends, even if it is on the phone.
- TALK-Talk to others about what you are going through. Research shows that, especially when you feel overwhelmed, sharing what you are dealing with and saying things that you feel you cannot share with your loved one with cancer, is immeasurably helpful.
- SUPPORT-Find support systems. Whether it is friends and family, support groups, or professional assistance, you are likely to need these outlets. Feelings of fear, anger, and frustration are likely to surface. Support systems will make it easier for you to work through these “big” emotions. Remember that you do have the option to do so remotely.
- HELP- Do not be afraid to ask for help. This will give you larger chunks of “off-duty” time by asking. Delegate by finding things others can do or arrange for you, such as appointments or errands.
- LEARN-Empower yourself by learning more about cancer. Understanding your loved one’s medical situation can make you feel more confident and in control. For example, you may want to know more about the type and stage of cancer and what to expect during treatment, such as the tests and procedures that will be done, as well as the side effects that will result.
- DIARISE- Journaling can relieve negative thoughts and feelings, and improve your health. You can write about your daily experiences or journal about things that make you feel good. Include small (and big) gratitudes daily too.
- MINDFULNESS-It can be hard to find positive moments when you are caring for a loved one with cancer but looking for the good things in life and cultivating an appreciative state of mind can help you feel better. Remain mindful and savor each moment for what it is, a gift of time.
- LAUGH-It is okay, even healthy, to laugh. Laughter releases tension and makes you feel better. Keeping your sense of humor in trying times is a good coping skill to have for both you and all your loved ones, including the patient.
- HEALTHY EATING- I cannot stress enough how crucial healthy eating is to wellbeing, both yours and that of your patient, during the cancer journey. Extensive research is being carried out as to how diet can contribute to maximizing the results of treatment and reducing some side effects. Take time to read up on the many ways in which the foods you choose can assist and keep up your strength.
- SPIRITUAL NEEDS- Address your spiritual needs. Feeling close to a higher being, even in times like these, is a source of comfort and support.
- Finally, connect with your loved one with cancer and grow closer as you face this journey together. Take time to share special moments and memories. Gain strength from what you are going through and keep alive the flame of hope through a positive outlook.
These are just a few suggestions. We are all individuals, therefore, ask yourself what would work best for you. Self-care is not selfish!
Live mindfully and blossom