You’ve heard it before: “In the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first.” It makes perfect sense…until disaster strikes.
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, there is no time to think. Suddenly, you’re a caregiver, and your whole life changes.
A caregiver is any person who provides care to a chronically ill or disabled family member or friend. Caregivers play a critical role in the care of cancer patients. Unfortunately, in so doing, many caregivers forget to provide care to the most important person: themselves.
Tener Rogers, a yoga instructor from Ketchum, Idaho, unexpectedly assumed the role of caregiver when her father was diagnosed with colon cancer. “I remember being so stressed that I couldn’t even breathe properly. I would take such shallow breaths,” she says.
Rogers recommends yoga as an excellent practice for caregivers struggling to balance care of others with care of self. “First of all, there is just the component of actually taking time for yourself,” she says. “Not to mention the overall benefits of yoga, including reducing stress. Yoga will remind caregivers to breathe when they feel like the world is closing in on them.”
Rogers says that any type of yoga will be beneficial. Most yoga styles incorporate physical postures with breathing exercises, providing a physical release of stress, as well as an opportunity to get centered and calm.
Research indicates that many caregivers do not have time to take care of their own needs, and they report feeling overwhelmed and stressed. As a result, caregivers can often become depleted, resulting in compromised care of both the patient and themselves.
Rogers says that no matter how hard it is, it’s important for caregivers to take a break. “You have to take care of yourself,” she says. “Otherwise, you’re worthless to the person who needs you.”
In truth, everyone benefits when caregivers stop to take care of themselves. By replenishing your own energy, you’ll have more to give and you’ll feel better, too.
Journal of Family Nursing (JFN, November, 1998 Vol.4, Issue 4)