Caregivers may be spouses, partners, children, relatives, or friends who help the person who has cancer with activities of daily living and health care needs.

For most of us there are no guidelines or classes in “caregiving”. It happens with no warning, no preparation and no experience propelled into the role. The following approaches are some essential ways to stay healthy and avoid “caregiver exhaustion”.

Look after your own health

Coping with illness and attending to their needs is no easy task. Concern coupled with strain can impede our own health and wellbeing, if we allow it to. Over time this stress can have a negative impact on caring for ourselves or someone else. Healthy eating, getting proper rest, making time to exercise and socializing are all important for our own care. We need to make time for ourselves and do things we like to do, making sure not to limit ourselves to the person needing the care. This does not make you a “bad” person; it makes you a balanced person. When we give care, we also need care. We are human beings with our own needs wants, wishes, desires as well as difficulties and challenges. Maintaining balance in your life is essential for long term stability.

Get support

It’s not uncommon to feel isolated and overwhelmed in the day to day care of an individual. Many of us have difficulty asking for help, thinking that others have enough “on their plate.” On the contrary, most people feel they want to help. They don’t know if you need help unless you ask. So don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach out to non-judgmental family, friends and caregivers. Places of worship, therapists, social workers, counselors and caregiver support groups are also wonderful ask areas for support. So ask, you will be glad you did.

Accept your ocean of emotions

It would be all but impossible to be in the role of care giving without experiencing occasional bouts of depression sadness, hurt, negativity, frustration, anger and fear of the unknown. The monotony of the day to day routine can make you feel isolated and burdened. As caregivers, we need to remember that we are working in the survivor’s best interest and for their wellbeing regardless of how we feel. We are doing the best we can even though we feel we could always be doing better. You are only one person and you can only do what you can do. Make time to find your way to relax daily; no one ever likes the feeling of being overwhelmed. Other ways of calming the myriad of emotions is writing. Jotting down your private thoughts and feelings allows you to both reflect and release feeling through the power of the written word. Reconnecting with your spirit by way of prayer, mediation, reflection and religious rituals strengthens your core and quiets the irrational emotional fever that can consume us at times. Lastly, know that sometimes two heads are better than one so asking and getting professional help through therapy and counseling can free the emotional chains and can bind us all.

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