Your partner has cancer, and now your life feels totally out of control. Gone are all the plans you had for the future. Now, it’s hard to know what to expect from one day to the next. It can feel like riding a roller coaster you never wanted to get on in the first place!
A cancer diagnosis will throw everyone’s life out of balance. Your regular routines will be completely disrupted, and you’ll need to find a new normal. But it is possible not to have cancer take over everything in your life all the time. You can find balance, even in the midst of your partner’s cancer battle. It’s not about getting off the roller coaster; it’s learning how to ride it. Keep reading to discover how finding balance is possible and how to do it.
How to Feel More in Control of Your Emotions as a Caregiver?
Before you can start balancing your life, it’s essential to feel more in control of your emotions. Because the truth is your emotions determine your life experiences. Here are four ways to feel more in control of your emotions as a caregiver:
- Become an observer of your thoughts and emotions: You can’t change something you aren’t aware of. By becoming an observer of your negative thoughts and feelings, you will actually remove yourself from the experience of them.
- Acknowledge and feel your feelings: Feelings are part of the human experience, and you can’t escape or avoid them no matter how hard you try. When you start noticing your emotions, acknowledge and open up to the feelings. It will actually move you through the experience with more ease.
- Work through your difficult thoughts and emotions: Your thoughts and feelings need an outlet, or else they will stay circling in your mind. Use a journal and download all the negative thoughts, fears, worries, questions, and emotions you feel daily. This will help you stay present.
- Adjust your mindset: Your mindset is essential to finding balance and staying balanced. If you are in a victim mindset, you will feel powerless. Instead, remember that you can decide how you respond, no matter the circumstances. So while you may not have control over your partner’s health, you have control over YOU and how you show up each day!
How Can a Caregiver Balance Life? 6 Tips for Finding Balance
Whether you’re a working parent trying to balance caring for your kids and your partner or retired with adult kids, your partner’s cancer will throw your life out of balance. Often, life can feel like it becomes all about cancer. No matter your situation, there are things you can do to bring back some balance and normalcy. Below are six steps to finding balance in your life as a caregiver. For more on this, read: Do You Believe In Your Partner’s Strength?
1. Stop Listening to the News, Seriously!
When your partner has cancer, your environment matters. To find balance, you want to choose wisely. This takes extra work when we live in a world inundated with inputs. From digital media and phone notifications to our apps and options for entertainment, there are endless choices of ways to distract ourselves.
While there are many wonderful aspects of technology, our brains were not designed to handle the constant input. Even in the best of times, this amount of information–much of it negative–is not healthy. But when facing the challenge of your partner’s illness, you simply don’t need all the constant input. It will drain you.
Limit your inputs, especially anything that is negative. I recommend starting with the news. Either limit your exposure to it or cut it out altogether. Same with any news apps or negative social media. You are already facing the very real challenges of your partner’s illness, which include uncertainty and confronting what you don’t have control over. You do not want to add any more negativity to your life. This matters and will make a difference!
2. Get Rid of Should and Must
Finding balance during this time means adjusting your expectations for yourself. You may be used to being on top of all the various aspects of your life, and then this new circumstance enters, and you simply don’t have the energy you used to. Instead of pushing through to the point of exhaustion or berating yourself with all the things you should be doing, let go of should and must and just do what is most important.
My husband always did the cooking, and I did the clean-up. We liked having a clean kitchen every morning, so I always cleaned each night before I went to bed. It had become our routine. One evening, after a full day of work, I was simply too exhausted to clean the kitchen, even though I felt I should. Then it occurred to me… I didn’t actually have to do this. The world was not going to end if I let it go.
Finding balance in your energy involves loosening up some of your standards and looking for areas to simplify your life. During one particularly intense period for one of my clients, I encouraged her to make a list of all the things she thought she needed to do. Then, choose 2 or 3 most important things, and let go of all the rest. If that bothers you to even think about, I want to remind you that the world will not end if you don’t wash your sheets weekly! This won’t last forever, and we’re not talking about permanent changes. Just think about it as a temporary adjustment. You can always adjust again later.
3. Plan to be Flexible
When a cancer diagnosis hits, it can rock the foundations on which you have been living your life. Your routines and plans for the future get thrown out of whack. Instead of resisting this state of change and uncertainty, adjust to it by planning to be flexible.
When your partner has cancer, so much of life feels out of control. It can be frustrating to feel like you can’t make plans or don’t know what to expect. But when you accept this new normal, you can start planning to be flexible. This doesn’t mean you don’t make plans. It means you don’t attach your emotional wellbeing if your plans don’t work out exactly how you want. I find it helpful to remind myself that there are always multiple pathways to a goal or getting something done. Expect that the first, second, and third plans might not work out. That will open you up to seeing new possibilities instead of shutting down in frustration.
4. Ask for and Accept Help
One of the easiest ways to go about finding balance as a caregiver is to accept help when offered and ask for help when needed. I know that while that sounds like simple advice, it’s not. I really struggled to ask for help because I didn’t want to burden people, and asking made me feel vulnerable. And when people offered, I often didn’t know what I needed or wanted help with.
At various times in our lives, we all need help. It’s not a weakness or vulnerability, and it doesn’t mean you have “failed” to be an independent adult. It simply means you and your family are facing a major challenge and shouldn’t try to go it alone. If you can wrap your head around this, it will make asking for help much easier.
I also found that if I didn’t know what help I needed when someone offered, I could avoid the awkwardness by being honest. Simply saying, “I don’t really know what I need. Did you have something in mind?” is an excellent place to start. You can dive into this topic more in this blog post: 6 Ways to Build Your Caregiver Support System When Your Partner has Cancer.
5. Look for Gifts and Blessings
If your partner is facing cancer, it can feel like there is nothing but disappointment, anxiety, and bad news. However, finding balance is possible when you look for the gifts and blessings in your life.
Did you know your brain is wired to look for threats and challenges? Researchers believe this aspect of our brains evolved to help us survive, which makes sense. However, when facing your partner’s cancer battle, this bias toward seeing threats can leave you very out of balance emotionally.
To counter this tendency, you need to look for the small gifts, blessings, and things you can be grateful for daily. Look for them and acknowledge and appreciate them. It may be as simple as a genuine smile your partner gives you or a kind word from a stranger. It may be noticing nature and the simple beauty of a flower. My client told me that her husband’s cancer allowed them to talk about things at a deeper level. While difficult, it actually created an opportunity for connection.
There are always gifts and blessings in your life. Begin looking for them. You can start by asking yourself, “What can I be grateful for today?” For more tips on this topic, read: 5 Reasons Why Gratitude Is Truly Worth Cultivating And How To Make It Work In Real Life
6. Decide How You Want to feel Regardless of the Circumstances
Did you know that you can decide to feel however you want, regardless of the world around you? It’s true because our feelings come from our thoughts, not from the circumstances in our lives.
You may be used to looking to the doctors or your partner to determine how you will feel each day. I was too. I wanted reassurance from our doctor, and when he didn’t give us that, I felt devastated. I would also frequently look to my husband to gauge his mood before I knew how I would feel. If he felt good, I felt good. If he felt bad, I felt bad too.
While it’s natural to respond to the moods and feelings of others when caregiving, it’s something you need to be careful about. If you do this unconsciously, your emotions will be constantly yanked around by all these things that are not in your control. This leads to emotional exhaustion. Additionally, we cannot show up as our best and most resourceful selves when we feel down or sad.
Instead, I want to offer that you can decide how you want to feel, no matter what anyone says or does (including the doctors or your partner)! If feeling hopeful brings you peace, then decide to be hopeful, regardless of what others say or do. And guess what, others will pick up on your energy too! Read more on this in my article: F*** The How.
Finding Support When Finding Balance Seems too Hard
Finding balance is possible, even as a caregiver! Cancer can often be a long journey, so finding ways to balance your life is important. You can start with the tips listed here, but if it still seems impossible, it’s time to find support for yourself.
As a coach for you when your spouse has cancer, I want to help you not only find balance but find calm and peace during this time. If you want support on this journey, schedule a free consultation and let’s talk!
Content provided by Women Belong member Marika C Humphreys