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As a caregiver, you’re fulfilling a vital role in supporting the physical and emotional well-being of a loved one who is dealing with cancer. Actually, you likely have multiple roles, which may include health aide, companion, driver, housekeeper, cook, scheduler, financial manager, legal assistant and others.

As you rise to the challenges of being a caregiver, you may tap into a source of inner strength that you never knew you had, which can provide you with a greater sense of purpose in your own life. However, at times you may be overcome with strong feelings, such as fear, uncertainty, unpreparedness, guilt, frustration, anger and sadness over your loved one’s illness. And, as you focus on him or her, the ever-increasing demands on your schedule may leave you with little or no time to take care of your own needs. If you’re not careful, all of this can lead to the development of physical symptoms, such as fatigue, that take a toll on your health and well-being.

How to protect your health while serving as a caregiver

In order to be an effective caregiver, it is essential to manage your stress level. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Ask for help – You don’t have to face the challenges of caregiving alone. Reach out to others; family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and professionals can provide valuable assistance and reduce the burden on you.
  • Exercise – Try to take a short, brisk walk every day. In addition to helping you stay fit and healthy, regular physical activity can improve your mood, clear your head and allow you to blow off steam.
  • Search for something transcendent – Spirituality can mean different things to different people; for some, it involves religious activities, prayer, journaling, meditation, yoga or personal reflection. All of these pursuits can potentially enhance your well-being by providing you with a renewed sense of meaning, direction and self-worth.
  • Take short breaks from cancer – Occasionally, you should pause and do something simple that you enjoy without guilt, such as sharing a meal with a friend, reading a book or watching a sunset.

During your caregiving journey, you may understandably feel lonely at times. Through an in-person or online support group, you can reach out to others who are facing similar situations and truly understand what you’re going through. These forums can provide valuable opportunities to ask questions, share experiences and give and receive encouragement.

Moffitt Cancer Center sponsors caregiver support groups and offers other specialty services for those who are facing the challenges of caring for a loved one with cancer. To learn more, please call 1-888-663-3488.