Give Yourself a Break: Ideas for Caregivers

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By: Aileen Trang, MSc - Patient Education & Research Coordinator
Adapted from Sweet Escape: Ideas for Caregivers

Caregivers of people with cancer can often forget to take time for themselves. A break can help relieve stress and boost mental wellness. Here are some ideas to help caregivers take breaks.

Visit the hospital terrace or garden.

Most hospitals will have a terrace or garden for patients, visitors and staff to use. Stretch your legs and get some fresh air. If your loved one will be sleeping for a while, enjoy a cup of coffee and some light reading out there.

Create an “I’ll be back soon” symbol.

Caregivers often need to stay close to a loved one who is staying in the hospital. Come up with a signal. Leave a stuffed toy on your chair as a sign that you will be back in a few minutes. It will help your loved one feel less anxious and help you feel less worried about leaving.

Create an “escape” space.

When a loved one returns home, you may still need to keep an eye on him or her. You can create a special place for you to “escape” to during your breaks. For example, hang bird feeders in your backyard, or put your work station in front of a window, add decorations and play soothing music.

Go for a nature walk.

Studies have shown that natural settings are best for relieving stress and enhancing mood. Go for a nature walk in a park when and if your caregiving duties allow it or if another person can take over that day. You can go alone or invite friends for a picnic.

Everyone’s sweet “escape” is different. It may also seem like you’re giving yourself more to do or postponing your caregiving duties, but the break will recharge you and help you do a better job. Remember, any escape, no matter how short, still counts. Longer getaways have a longer lasting effect, but that may not always be possible.