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5. How you can look after yourself

  • Remember that it is okay to feel upset, angry, to cry and to tell people how you feel. You don’t need to remain positive all of the time. Feeling as though you must be cheerful all of the time is an extra and unnecessary burden.
  • Be aware of the stress the person with cancer is facing and try not to take criticism or aggression too personally.
  • Try to resist the temptation to do too much for the person with cancer. It’s important that they maintain as much independence and dignity as possible. Allowing them to continue doing some jobs and keep some responsibilities is likely to help you and ensure they keep some control over their life.
  • Eat regular, balanced meals – this will help to keep your energy levels up.
  • Remember that having ‘time out’ or ‘respite’ of your own is important. Often the best way to look after the patient is to look after yourself. Try not to feel guilty about it. Instead, view it as an investment into your ability to keep on caring.
  • Identify type of activities that give you pleasure and help you cope and make a time to do these activities. These might be:
    • Having a massage
    • Going to a movie
    • Seeking out opportunities to talk to other carers
  • Make time for exercise. It’s likely to help improve your health, mood and ability to sleep.
  • Seek out opportunities to help you maintain your own identity. It’s important not to become solely ‘the relative/carer/friend of the person with cancer’. You may like to set boundaries and schedule activities where caring for the person with cancer is not the focus e.g. “When I’m at tennis I don’t talk about cancer”.
  • Try not to feel guilty about considering cancer-related decisions in terms of what is good for ‘US’, rather than just what is good for the ‘PATIENT’.
  • Remember that you’re doing the best you can and there are some things that you won’t be able to change.
  • If your role is getting you down, speak to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe some medication, or refer you to someone to speak to about what you’re experiencing.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, write down all of the things that are worrying you. You may then find it useful to divide them up into ‘Things I CAN do something about in the next month’ and ‘Things I CAN’T do something about in the next month’. You will then be able to use the first list to help you work out what to do next. For more help with doing this, click here and refer to page 3.