Caring for someone going through treatment with cancer immunotherapy can be a challenging and emotional time. It’s easy to succumb to stress from the physical demands of caring for another person with cancer and feelings of worry and uncertainty about their future.
As a caregiver, your focus will often be on the other person’s daily needs. But taking care of your emotional health is one of the most important things you can do to be there for your loved one. Below are some tips to help you relieve some of the stress you may experience during this time:
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Make sure that you are meeting your basic needs: eat a healthy, balanced diet, get plenty of sleep and stay active. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your day by taking a 15-minute walk outside each day. Stay hydrated but limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
Acknowledge your emotions
To help you deal with the ever-changing emotions you will face along the way, try the following:
- Keep a journal; writing down your feelings can help you work through them
- Speak often with family and friends about what you are going through and how you feel
- Don’t feel guilty about negative emotions; understand that what you’re feeling is normal
- Practice breathing exercises or meditation
- Join a support group for caregivers
Take time away
Caregiving can be a 24/7 job. It’s important that you take breaks and get away sometimes to allow yourself a chance to relax, recharge or do something that you love. Continue to participate in any hobbies or leisurely activities you enjoy as much as you can. Don’t feel guilty about your time away; caring for yourself allows you to be a better caregiver for your loved one.
Learn to say no
Respect your body and mind if they start to show signs of fatigue. Say no to outside demands or responsibilities that are not essential in the moment. If you need some time off, ask a family member, friend or person from your community to take over your caregiver role temporarily.
Ask for help
Learning to accept help from others might be difficult at first, but it will prove to be an invaluable tool over time. Sharing the load with others will make your job as a caregiver more manageable. Even little things like having someone else cook a meal, or make a trip to the pharmacy, can make a big difference. Know and accept your own limits, and don’t be shy to ask for help.
Recognize the symptoms of depression and burnout
It is normal for caregivers to feel sad, however, be on the lookout for any of these common symptoms of depression lasting 2 or more weeks:
- Feelings of sadness, despair or hopelessness
- Lack of pleasure from your normal activities
- Prolonged periods of crying
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss or increase of appetite
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Upset stomach
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or suicide
If you think you might be dealing with depression or caregiver burnout, speak with your healthcare professional right away.