Caregivers are the unsung heroes of the healthcare team.
Often, they pour more time and energy into your well being than anyone, despite not being on the “payroll”. You probably care a lot about them, so although you’re balancing so many thoughts and feelings of your own, you’d like to try to consider theirs, too. You won’t get it right all of the time - hello, brain fog! - but we promise that they’ll appreciate the effort, nonetheless.
To maintain a healthy, positive relationship with your current caregiver(s), these five-and-free things will come in handy:
1) An Open Mind
Worried loved ones show their support in different ways. Everyone reacts to the news of a loved one’s cancer diagnosis differently. Just like there are multiple love languages, there are multiple ways people show they care in a health crisis. Some may retreat and become distant in an effort not to disturb you. Others may become overbearing in their efforts to nurse you back to health. Stay open minded, and try not to hold it against them if their reaction is different than the one you’d expected. You can help them by understanding how you want to be supported through your treatment and recovery. Communicate those needs with the people who care for you.
If you’d love to be more open minded, but feel mentally blocked, why not check out breathwork? According to Stephanie Rae from Breathe. Burn. Rise, after beginning to learn breathwork, “You will immediately begin to experience increased mobility and openness of mind and body, enhanced well-being, new life-force, and liberated creative and seual power.” Is there any better state to approach uncharted emotional territory in?
2) Quality Time
When you’re stuck waiting on your IV to finish anyway, you’ve got nothing but time. Why not spend it improving your bond. Do something together that has nothing to do with cancer. Ban the “C word” from the activity altogether. While you’re at it, ban technology too. Spending some time together outside of the “patient” and “caregiver” roles reduces stress for both of you and serves as a reminder that there’s more to your relationship than cancer.
Try something new together. Bonus points if it’s stress-relieving. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Downloading a meditation app and going through a guided meditation together is one simple and affordable option. Headspace and Calm are two of our favorites. You could also take a free virtual class together. WellSet has a staggering array of interesting options that go far beyond basic nutrition and exercise.
There’s a fine line between being appreciative of their help and feeling as if you need to “re-pay” loved ones who have helped you during your treatment. You shouldn’t have to feel indebted for their support. A simple “Thank you.” will go farther than you think.
Your body is going through something extremely traumatic, in addition to the emotional trauma cancer causes. Did you know that your caregiver(s) could be experiencing emotional - and in some cases, even physical - trauma, too? It’s not the same as what you’re experiencing, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Chances are, your caregiver(s) are doing their best to stay positive and shower you with love and support. Behind the scenes, though, they may be struggling with feelings of fear, guilt, stress, and exhaustion.
Most likely, your caregiver(s) won’t make the “dark side” of their role a big deal to you. Recognizing their efforts might mean the world to them. One way that you can show your appreciation is to surprise them. Check in with your caregiver(s) to see how they’re doing, just like they’re always doing for you. We also suggest reaching out to @sanitybysnailmail. Charming, artsy, and downright cute, these little slices of sanity are sure to make your caregiver(s) smile!
Many of us feel an intense need to fulfill an imagined - and very heavy - debt to our caregiver(s) for everything they do. However, neglecting your own needs to prioritize theirs isn’t the best idea. In the long run, it could actually do more harm than good to your health and to the relationship.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Remembering to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others is crucial. Doing something that makes you happy each day will help you be the best version of yourself for those around you, especially your caregiver(s)!
If you don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Two of our favorite self-care methods are reading and meditation. Combine the two by picking up a copy of Stress Less, Accomplish More, by meditation expert Emily Fletcher.
You must be honest with your caregiver(s) and honest with yourself. In and after treatment, each day, and oftentimes down to each hour of the day can bring on new feelings and emotions that you aren’t used to. This can lead to anxiety, which manifests as anger, grouchiness, and other surprising forms. If you’re feeling irritable and tempted to blame your caregiver(s) for everything wrong in the world, opt instead for a round of meditation, breathwork, or journaling. These can help you get more in tune with your emotions. When you can be honest with yourself about why you’re feeling certain ways, you’re less likely to unfairly offload your negative emotions on your loved ones.
Writing in a meditation journal can lead you to new insights about yourself, your relationships, and your health. If you’re comfortable, share what you learn in your practice with loved ones. By holding space for open discussions and offering transparency to your caregiver(s), you can learn to understand each other better. You may actually find yourself growing closer than ever before.
Whether you’re currently in treatment or recovery, that it’s never too late to have an open and honest dialogue with your loved ones! Don’t let minor frustrations or miscommunications drive a wedge between you.
And remember, we’re here for you, bud! We want to know: How has your relationship with your caregiver(s) evolved over time? What do you find most and least helpful in coping with those relationships? We’d love to hear from you!