SELF-CARE GUIDE FOR A BREAST CANCER CAREGIVER
Your health is just as important as your loved one’s. Studies have shown that cancer caregivers who take care of themselves are better at handling stress and caring for their loved ones.1 These self-care tips can help you with taking care of your body and mind.
Eat right: Ensure sufficient intake of nutrients through vegetables and fruits. Avoid processed food if possible. Try preparing your meals in advance to ensure you can always enjoy a healthy meal. Drink plenty of water by keeping a water bottle by your side. Remind yourself to eat and drink by setting alarms.2
Move your body: An exercising routine can work wonders for your wellbeing. Start with a 30-minute exercise or walk. Join a class or work out with friends to help keep your motivation.2 If you are often too tired after a day of caregiving, try exercising in the morning. Or you can work out in the evening to destress.
Sleep plenty: Your body and mind need to recharge for the next day. Try to sleep and wake up early. If your schedule prevents you from sleeping through the night, try breaking down your sleeping hours into two or more portions and take them throughout the day.2
Take notes of your body: Pay attention to how you feel. Don’t ignore signals such as coughs and running noses. Instead, take a break and nurse yourself back to health.2
DESTRESS AND RELAX
Make time for yourself: Many caregivers feel unworthy of viewing their wellbeing as important as the ones they care for.1 Perhaps you also think that your needs come second. However, you are more than a caregiver, this is just one of your many other roles. Try to have at least one hour per day to rejuvenate. Use it for:2-5
- Hobbies that relax and cheer you up, it can be anything you enjoy doing.
- Small goals that make you feel confident and accomplished, such as finishing a puzzle or a painting.
- Socializing with friends and family members, for instance having lunch together or chatting over the phone.
Take a break: Some days are harder than the others. If you are feeling frustrated at the moment, put down everything and leave the situation for a while. For example, you can take a short walk or take a hot bath. This can help you to clear your mind and rechallenge the problem with a different approach. You can also try these relaxation techniques:2,5,6
- Deep breathing
- Mental visualisation: imagine yourself at peaceful places
- Progressive muscle relaxation: tightening and then relaxing your muscles
BE ORGANISED, REALISTIC, AND FORGIVING
Keep a day planner: Leave enough time for each task. Focus on the most urgent and important tasks. Break down huge tasks into smaller portions, such as cleaning one room per day instead of the entire house in one go.2,6
Learn to say no: Please don't feel guilty for refusing requests, especially from your loved one with cancer. Knowing your limit and not to overcommit is also a responsible act. You may try to explain to them you can't handle more tasks and suggest doing it another day or reach out to someone else for help.3,6
Don’t blame yourself for mistakes: Everyone makes mistakes, and you don't need to be perfect. Instead of criticising your performance, focus on enjoying quality time with your loved one.3,4
REACH OUT FOR HELP
Share your feelings: Talk to trusted friends and family members for comfort. Besides meeting in person, you can try calling, video-chatting and texting. You can also go to counselling or caregiver support groups and seek for mental health professionals’ guidance if necessary.2,4,5
Reach out for support: Share caregiving tasks with others to avoid burnout in the long run. To create a support network, make a list of people you can count on. Contact these people for their availability and let them know what you need help with – make sure all parties agree, including the loved one you’re caring for. You should also update the support network of the loved one’s condition and needs. Seek out respite care services if needed.3,4,6
- Respite care allows you to have a break, and can be provided at home or in a residential care facility.7 It can be for a few hours, overnight, or a few days.7 Hiring respite care gives you a much-needed break from caregiving, and you can take some time to run errands or even a small vacation.7,8 You shouldn’t feel anxious or guilty about leaving your loved one. Respite care exists because caring can be difficult and affect your wellbeing.7