caregiver stress

Caregiver Stress: Why You Need A Break

When you’re caring for a child with cancer, stress and fatigue can take their toll on your body and mind—quickly.

I have seen more than one parent burn out from the day-to-day demands. It’s natural to want to stay by your sick child’s side and meet the needs of siblings and family members—all at once.

Unfortunately, your body won’t cooperate if you don’t give it a break every now and then. Aside from the fact that you can’t be in two places at the same time, every human being needs rest and vacation time. Let yourself burn out, and the National Cancer Institute states that you can develop symptoms like:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping

With these problems, I’ve seen parents end up being more impatient with their child. Or they may struggle with him about his care. It can make an already stressful situation even more stressful. You don’t need that. Your child doesn’t need that.

Opt For Easy Solutions.

You don’t have to travel to Bora Bora to get the rest you need. Here are some creative, simple escapes:

  • Go on a date with your spouse: a ball game, a movie, a concert.
  • Get a massage or a mani-pedi.
  • Go to a botanical garden or park, and take pictures with your smartphone.
  • Take a hot new fitness class: Ropes Gone Wild, Groove, WaveShape, and BalletBeautiful are some fun ones. Find them at a gym, see them on YouTube, or order the DVDs.
  • Find a new paperback mystery and curl up on the couch.
  • Browse an antique store or flea market.
  • Buy a thick, glossy magazine: fashion, cars, boats, jewelry, gadgets, homes. Or skip the magazine and just do some mindless online surfing.
  • Try a new restaurant with friends. It will feel good to be with other adults. You need it!
  • Take a long walk.

If nothing else, take a nap. Sleep can make you feel worlds better. And to think those 3-year-olds fight with us on this one!

Feeling Guilty? Try Not To.

Remember that you need this time away. You’ll come back to your child feeling calmer, more rested, and more alert.

caregiver stress

You’ll also be healthier. Chronic stress puts you at a higher risk for things like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and upper respiratory infections, according to an April 2012 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And you might not be able to be there for her as much if you’re sick, too.

Your Child Will Thank You Later.

Another great reason to take a break: Your child might want you to. Kids tend to be very protective of their parents. If he sees you tired and stressed too often, he might feel guilty.

Detaching from the stress, getting refreshed, and coming back with a smile could put your child at ease.

It also might help to know this: Kids need breaks away from parents, too. As much as they love you, it’s still healthy for them to connect with an aunt, uncle, cousins, friends, or grandparents. Sometimes, even kids need some time alone, too.

If your child is home after a treatment cycle, and his doctor approves, consider letting him go out to an event while you and your spouse do something else. Kids are still kids, and he might want to watch that basketball game at school. That’s okay. His friends will be happy to see him.

And he’ll feel a sense of normalcy and happiness—two of the most healing forces of all.

Anisa Hoie
I've been a nurse for nearly 32 years, mostly taking care of kids with cancer. My job is to give the kids and their families a personal touch while they go through treatment.

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