TALK IT OUT, HAVE YOUR FEELINGS

Consider individual therapy to have a place where you can talk it out. There are some things you need to discuss away from the person for whom you are caring. I learned early on that if I used my husband to talk about all my fear and anxiety, it only resulted in him feeling more fear, anxiety and also guilt. So having a therapist or a consistent friend, support group, or clergy with whom you can share the feelings you may not be comfortable sharing with your loved one is incredibly valuable.

A LITTLE NATURAL HEALING

There is tremendous healing in connecting with nature. You can literally meet it at your front door. Go outside. Cultivate a small, low maintenance garden or even just tend to a potted plant. Being in nature can provide moments to slow down and ease anxiety. For me, the backyard vegetable garden my Sicilian father-in-law planted for us became my personal sanctuary.

TAKE A WALK, EXERCISE WHEN YOU CAN

I believe in the power of a good gentle walk. Walk in silence or walk in company. Either way taking as little as ten minutes to walk around the block can clear your head, lower your anxiety, and even counter fatigue. Doing a half-hour of gentle or rigorous exercise two or more times a week can enhance your mood and build outer and inner strength. Care for yourself too!

CHOOSE OPTIMAL NUTRITION

It’s easy to reach for the quickest, ready-made food when caregiving demands take up so much of our time. However, remember to get a balanced diet rich in fresh foods that nurture and nourish you.

LEARN TO BALANCE DAILY STRESS

Stress was my constant companion during years of navigating cancer care, housework, finances, parenting and career. I had to learn easy antidotes to that kind of constant stress. Take time for a tea break; create a five minute relaxation ritual; travel in your mind’s eye to a special place you cherish. All these things will lower your stress hormones and keep you balanced.

SAY “YES” TO HELP, LET SOMEONE ELSE TAKE THE WHEEL

A friend once stopped by my house during a grueling treatment cycle. She went to say to “hi” to my husband and in the process passed by our open guest bedroom. The bed was piled high with a week’s worth of laundry that I had neither the time or inclination to tackle. She calmly looked at it and offered to fold the clothes. My first instinct was to say “no.” She had brought food over, that seemed enough. However, she insisted and told me to go lie down for a while. After I got over the embarrassment of her seeing the chaos that was my life, I said “yes.” I let her fold not only towels and sheets, but also the underwear of every member of my house. I got a moment of rest. She got the benefit of knowing her presence had made a difference.