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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Caregiver’s Survival Guide: Six Steps to Maintain (or Regain!) Your Sense of Balance

There is no doubt that being a cancer patient is overwhelming at best.  However, we often overlook the toll it takes on our loved ones, our caregivers. The following is a guest post by Theresa Conti.  She shares with us some advice for caregiving.

Finding balance between caring for the needs of your loved one and the needs of yourself may feel like a daunting task. You may feel weighed down with responsibility, and not know where to turn for help or support, or watch as your resources dwindle (emotional, physical, and financial!) and wonder what to make it of all. But don’t despair! There is a solution and it starts with self-care.
Taking time to replenish yourself may seem like a luxury you can ill afford. Yet the investment will be well worth your while and the dividends you receive will keep you feeling energized and smiling. Good medicine for you and the ones for whom you care.
These six simple steps will revolutionize your life and put a little zest in your spiritual bank account:
·         Breathe!
Breathing is simple, yet something we often forget to do when under stress. Holding our breath disrupts our body’s natural rhythm, and when chronic, creates physical, mental and emotional tension.
This following exercise will help to reduce stress and get you back in the flow. But don’t take my word for it. Try it for a month and see for yourself.
To implement, pick an activity you do throughout the day, such as answer the telephone, and use it as a reminder to stop and take note of your breathing. Note if your breath is deep and flowing or short and shallow, and if there is anyplace in your body where you are feeling tight or tense. Next, take three slow deep breaths. Consciously feel your breath as it moves in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. When done, take note of how you feel.  Best of all – breathing is free and can be done anywhere!
·         Get Inspired!
Inspiration feeds the body, mind, and soul. Find something you love – and enjoy it! Read a poem, listen to music or smell a flower on the way to work. Even five minutes a day will do wonders for your mood.
·          Make a Date!
Thank Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way for this one. 
Take time once a week to go on a dream date. Yes, yes, I know. Taking time for yourself may seem impossible, but even an hour or two once a week will serve to replenish and energize you. Don’t know what to do? Make a list of things you like to do (or used to!), then block time out in your calendar once a week just for you and do them!  Blocking out time for yourself will bolster your emotional bank account, and leave plenty left over to share! (Note: No work or errands allowed!)
·         Set Boundaries! 
Setting boundaries can be tough. We want to please; to do our best.
Yet, maintaining a sense of balance requires that you are clear with yourself and others about what you can and cannot do. Saying “no” or settling limits on how much you can give may feel uncomfortable. However, it also provides an opportunity to heal and grow. (Need some help? Try reading When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith, Ph.D.) 
·         Have Fun! 
In addition to your weekly dates, be sure to plan something fun on a regular basis. Having fun invigorates, inspires and increases the endorphins that lift our spirits and keeps us feeling strong and healthy. 
·         Connect with Others! 
Coffee with a friend or a chat on the phone can be medicine for the soul. Apply daily! 
Theresa Conti is a Reconnective Healing® Practitioner, Spiritual-Life Coach and Workshop Presenter, specializing in working caregivers of all kinds. For more information, please visit her website at  Theresa can also be reached at or at 917-478-1722.
~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~
Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer coach, radio talk show host, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She mentors women who are coping with issues of well-being associated with breast cancer and its aftermath; she is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and wellbeing. Elyn has been featured on CNN Money, Talk About Health and more and has contributed to Breast Cancer Answers as well as written for the Pink Paper, Breast Cancer Wellness, Natural Healing-Natural Wellness, Integrative Oncology Essentials, and other publications and newsletters. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys.
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