4 tips to help manage your emotions when caring for someone with cancer

Cancer Council NSW
two women having tea

Being a caregiver for a person experiencing cancer can feel stressful and lonely. As we approach World Cancer Day, we want to recognise that cancer affects not only those diagnosed but also family and friends.

Anger and frustration are normal emotions to experience when providing support, you may also feel obligated to be there, and experience guilt when prioritising yourself – but taking care of your emotional well-being is just as important.

Here are 4 strategies to help manage your emotions:

1. Practice self-compassion

Self-judgment is a common feeling that can occur. Caregivers go through a lot whilst providing support and it can be easy to neglect self-appreciation during this time. No one is the perfect carer, so be kind to yourself. Avoid using the words “should” or “must” and remind yourself you’re doing the best you can.

What you can do NOW: To make sure you have all the information you need as a carer and feel more confident, we have created a one-stop shop for all our cancer information resources. Access the New Resource Hub here.

2. Talk to a professional

If you are feeling overwhelmed, seeking professional counselling support – even short-term – can be beneficial. Talking about how you feel with a professional can help reduce some mental burdens. Our 13 11 20 Information and Support line is a confidential telephone service open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, that connects you to a health professional with any questions you have. Alternatively, speak to your local GP who can refer you to a counsellor.

What you can do NOW: You can call our 13 11 20 Support Line during the hours of 9am-5pm, or Lifeline‘s support line at 13 11 14 at any time night or day, 24/7.

3. Schedule guilt-free time for yourself

You might feel like you need to dedicate all your time to the person experiencing cancer, however, it is important to remember to take time for yourself. This can be in the form of taking a nice, long bath or practising mindfulness. Moreover, respite care is available for carers on a short- or long-term basis in residential care facilities and in hospital or palliative care units. It can be a couple of hours or nights away and may give you the break you need.

It’s important to take some time out for yourself and your life so that you can better support your loved one.

What you can do NOW: Listen to Cancer Council’s relaxation and meditation recordings on the Podcast hub

4. Remind yourself you are not alone

It is easy to lose contact with your family and friends when providing support, unknowingly, you can isolate yourself whilst caring for someone experiencing cancer. Maintaining relationships can help you feel connected to others, reduce stress and provide an opportunity to talk about topics aside from your role as a carer.

Joining a support group to express and share your experience with other carers, can help you to understand what to expect when caring, and connect with others managing similar emotions.

What you can do NOW: The Cancer Council Online Community is a forum where you can easily start having those conversations with people in similar situations to you. If you want to join face-to-face groups, begin by calling Cancer Council at 13 11 20 or contact your local hospital’s social worker to see if they run any support groups.

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