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16 Stress Reducing Strategies

By Lisa Bailey
(Page 1 of 3)

When my husband Phil’s colorectal cancer returned in October of 2006, this time in the liver and lungs, I found myself stressed to the max. With my full-time job as a kindergarten teacher, my commitment to my adult children and grandchildren, and keeping tabs on my teenage daughter, adding compassionate caregiving to my life’s work demands from me an incredibly difficult balancing act.

The following sixteen coping strategies have helped me in my attempts to live a balanced life. Because caregiving is such a universal task, faced by nearly all of us at one time or another, I hope you find these strategies helpful as well.

1. Make all choices from a solid base of integrity. I try to make medical and personal choices from the base of my Christian faith, which helps free me from second-guessing myself.

2. Be clear about today’s reality. Don’t imagine things are worse than they are. Enjoy the good parts of today and don’t let worries for tomorrow take over your emotions and thoughts.

3. Talk honestly to family and friends. Honest, frequent communication with close family and friends from the start of diagnosis is much easier than trying to play catch-up later. I discovered a wonderful, free Internet service at caringbridge.org which has allowed me to create a Web site to communicate regularly about Phil’s health.

4. Expect and prepare for tough talks. Family and friends process the news about a serious illness at their own pace. They will not accept the reality of the illness on a schedule that meshes with yours. This means that sometimes family and friends will not understand the tension of your caregiving lifestyle, especially at first. This requires a difficult conversation about what the illness is, how it will be treated, and what kinds of side effects will be expected from the treatment and the disease itself. It is helpful to have a family conversation with the doctor present.This provides an opportunity for questions to be answered accurately.

5. Learn the medical lingo. It will help you as a caregiver and a medical advocate to learn the lingo surrounding your loved one’s illness. The Internet is a helpful resource, but you need to learn what Web sites can be trusted and what Web sites have a hidden agenda. I have included a list of trusted Web sites I have used for medical information. However, even with a trusted Web site, don’t believe everything you read. Not all information will pertain to your loved one’s situation and you can worry yourself into a frenzy over some Internet information you have read. Ask questions of the doctors and nurses. Check the accuracy of your information if you are at all troubled or in doubt.

6. During treatment, pain or pain medication might do some talking. Be aware that pain, stress and pain medications will release the patient from their social “filter” and they can and probably will say some interesting and difficult things at times. Actually, caregivers do this, too, as stress lifts our social filters at unexpected times—forgive yourself as well when this happens. Listen and be compassionate as best you can. Children and teenagers will need help understanding the changes in their loved one’s personality, especially to know that the changes are not permanent. 

 

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