BY GEMMA CROTTY
When looking after a loved one with cancer, carers shouldn’t have to neglect their own needs. In fact, it is just as important for caregivers to be attentive to their own wellbeing, as their duties may cause much stress and anxiety.
Caregiver burnout can occur when carers experience this stress for a prolonged period of time. It can make them vulnerable to all kinds of negative emotions, and further lead to an inability to focus on their duties. However, it may also eventually lead to a variety of problems for their health.
Here as some ways that cancer carers can look after themselves to ensure this does not occur:
Your physical wellbeing has a direct impact on how you feel, so looking after your body will lead to a better frame of mind while caregiving. You can do this, firstly, by exercising 15 to 30 minutes a day.
As well as being effective for maintaining weight, exercise releases chemicals in the brain that relieve anxiety, therefore allowing you to feel less overwhelmed. If able to, your daily exercise might include going walking or jogging, but if you’re unable to leave the house then your options might include using an exercise bike or taking up yoga.
Eating healthy is recommended to not only prevent disease, but to improve your overall mood. Medical News Today reports that diets with a high glycemic load, such as soft drinks, cakes, white bread, and biscuits, are linked to depression and fatigue.
This is why it is recommended to eat foods with a low glycemic load, such as vegetables, whole fruit, and whole grains, in order to improve your mood.
Get Enough Sleep
When caring, you may feel you need to constantly be awake and alert to care for your loved one. However, it’s important to get the right amount of sleep so that you are able to fulfill your duties as a caregiver. A lack of sleep can take its toll on both your mind and body, affecting your ability to focus on tasks and increasing your risk for health problems. More information about this can be found here.
The amount of time you spend caring may mean less time spent with other friends and loved ones. Because of this, you may tend to feel lonely during this time – but this doesn’t mean you have to.
A good support system should include people that you can call or consult whenever you feel overwhelmed, whether this be friends, family, or a community support group. There are a range of telephone support groups that can be accessed within Australia to enable you to connect with other carers to share advice and experiences.
Look after Your Mental and Emotional Health
Ensure that you are paying attention to your emotional and mental wellbeing, which could mean seeing a counsellor or psychologist if you need to. However, it may even be as simple as scheduling time off.
Everyone needs to set aside time for the activities they enjoy, and this doesn’t exclude carers. Even when on a tight schedule, you may dedicate a little bit of time each week to watching a movie, catching up with friends, reading a book or working on a hobby. If it’s difficult to find time off, you might like to contact a respite care centre, which will give you a break from caring and allow you to come back to it refreshed.
If you are new to caring or would like assistance, Solaris Cancer Care encourages you to register for its free Carer’s Course on November 28 from 9.45am-4pm in its Sir Charles Gairdner centre.
Gemma Crotty is a volunteer blog writer for Solaris Cancer Centre from her home in Melbourne. Currently studying a Graduate Diploma in Communication at La Trobe University, she is considering a career in communications or journalism. Gemma has a strong humanities research background from her Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Sydney. She has a keen passion for writing and likes to find new ways to hone her skills and connect to others through her words.