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4 Crushing Caregiver Stressors (And Realistic Ways to Beat Them).

The biggest caregiver stressors and how to beat them when cancer explodes into your family. If you’re struggling to cope and you don't know how, this guide is for you.

 

When my dad was first diagnosed with cancer, my family was ready to take on the world.

We were a ball of fire, all of us.  Radiating with positive energy, we had hope coming out of our eyeballs and we were ready to dominate this thing. 

 Seriously, if anyone could have kicked the shit out of cancer, it was us.

The thing about cancer is it’s incredibly overwhelming and it will crush you if you let it. 

As things get more and more intense… the stress, the anxiety, and the fear creep in and start wearing you down.  

You’ve never felt exhaustion like this unless you’re a caregiver.  

You know what i’m talking about.  Those days when you can barely open your eyes, and you have to drag yourself out of bed.  It feels like you could sleep for a year and it wouldn’t make a difference.

And watching someone you love deal with the pain that leaves them in tears, or nausea that rocks their whole body…  heartbreaking ?

Being a caregiver is a tough gig.  

I know you’re exhausted and you don’t know if you can keep going.

I know you feel like you haven’t slept in months.

And, I know how guilty you feel for wanting even one day off from this insanity. 

I know how bad things suck right now.  The bad news is it’s gonna suck for a while…

 The good news is… You can do this. 

 I know it doesn’t feel like it right now.  But, I promise, you’re gonna make it.

 Caregiver Stressors #1:  Overwhelm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before my dad was diagnosed with Lung Cancer it didn’t matter if I was a mess or if I wasted a ton of time on things that had no bearing on my life.

But once cancer exploded into our lives, I had to figure out a way to organize all of this stuff and I didn’t have time to figure out a super complicated process.

  • “Why can’t we ever find what we need?” 
  • “Who can find anything in this mess?”  
  • “I swear, I just had that paper yesterday!”

Sound Familiar?

Cancer is like a whirlwind of information and emergencies flying at you from every angle.

It’s easy for important information to get lost in the chaos.  And it’s really easy to forget to communicate something important because there are “emotionally charged” distractions flying at you every minute.

After losing several important documents and a disk that took days to replace, we found a system that could be set up in less than an hour and took minutes to maintain.

The First Step to Getting Organized

We needed something quick and easy that I could set up fast…  and we needed it to actually work.

Getting organized started with paperwork and we desperately needed The Cancer Binder Pack (which you can get here, it’s 100% FREE)…

The Cancer Binder Pack will walk you through everything step by step so you can get all of your important medical information organized and under control, for free. 

We used it to organize…

The Cancer Binder Pack actually works.  It’s quick to set up, super easy to use and requires no extra effort to maintain.

You can get more info about the Cancer Binder Pack here (it’s totally free)…

Our Next Steps to Getting Organized

 Do you ever find yourself wondering…?

  •  How will I get all this done?  
  • What if I screw this up?  
  • How in the world can ANYONE keep all of this straight?

We know exactly how you feel.

Cancer involves constant running around to doctor appointments, treatments, scans, physical therapy.  And after that there may be caregiving duties like bathing, changing, meals, etc. you may need to do as well.  

One of the most difficult caregiver stressors to deal with is overwhelm.

Once you’ve done all that, you now have to find time for everything else.

You know, like spouses, raising kids, working, an hour or two of “me time” once in a while…

Before you know it you’re totally overloaded.

Anything that helps you get better organized and saves you time from constantly scrambling around is a GODSENT. 

Because there are times that it feels impossible to manage all this stuff.

Small Changes That Make a Big Difference in Caregiver Stressors

There are a few small changes that made a big difference in tackling caregiver stressors and in my ability to manage everything.

Implement the Cancer Binder Pack: 

Creating a cancer binder is cheap, easy and you can put it together in under an hour.  And, once it’s assembled it only takes a few minutes to maintain.  

Using this system will save you HOURS of searching for the medical information you need.  Whether you’re looking for something from yesterday or 3 months ago… You’ll know exactly where to find it.

You can get the Cancer Binder Pack for free here…

Figure out what’s important 

 

Make a list of everything that needs to be done and then identify what can wait/can’t be missed, etc.  The Weekly Planning Pages make this easy by helping you weed out what’s a priority and what you can skip.  They have a simple system that takes minutes to figure that out.

Use a Planner

Splayed image of a few of the pages from the Weekly Planning Pages including, monthly calendar, weekly planning page, daily planning page, bill tracker and cover page.

 Keep track of your schedule in a planner so you always know…

  • Where you need to be.  
  • What you need to do.
  • You can head off as much of the chaos as possible

You can also plan meals, write notes, create a shopping list, keep track of paydays and due dates right in the planner.   

The Weekly Planning Pages are designed for caregivers who are running in 6 different directions and need an easy and flexible way to stay organized.  

The planner is SIMPLE to use.

Weekly planning is the ONLY way I’m able to manage everything that we have going on without completely losing my mind.  

  • Things are changing constantly
  • Emergencies pop up all the time
  • My sanity is usually running on empty.

 Just having a quick basic overall plan is a LIFESAVER when life gets crazy and it does, frequently.  

You can learn more about the planner built for caregivers here…

 Meal Planning 

This is a super quick way to get ahead for the week.  Plan all your meals in advance.  You can do it right from the couch (if you ever find 5 minutes to sit!).  Stick to 15-minute meals and once you have a plan follow these simple steps.

  • Make a shopping list at the same time as your meal plan.
  • Plan for any late or hectic nights. 
  • Identify who will cook when you can’t.
  • Hang your meal plan on the fridge so every one knows what to expect.
  • Grab your groceries (or better yet, order grocery pick up online) and get them in the house.

Then you’ll have what you need, and have one less thing to worry about.

Always have a bag packed 

The contets of a packed bag

Our very first emergency experience with cancer was a HUGE caregiver stressor.  I ended up two hours away from home for 10 days.  All I had was the clothes on my back and my wallet.

Cancer comes with a lot of emergency situations and there will be times where you have to drop and run within minutes. I may need to sleep at my parent’s house, spend the night in the E.R. or sleep in the hospital if we’re admitted.

Keep a bag already packed so you can just grab it and go.

Just toss in a few things that you can’t live without so you don’t have to worry if you’re stuck away from home for a few days.   

  • Change of clothes 
  • 3 t-shirts 
  • PJ’s 
  • Extra socks and underwear 
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste 
  • Hairbrush 
  • Deodorant 
  • Travel size shampoo and body wash 
  • Cleansing facial wipes 
  • Dry shampoo (just in case) 
  • Advil (or a few days of any prescribed medication) 
  • Extra phone charger (that just stays in the bag)
  • Deck of playing cards 
  • Cash (like $30 in case I can’t use my card) 
  • Notebook and a pen 

Then you’ll have everything you need for a few days away and you skip the super fun experience of washing your underwear in the bathroom sink.

Find time for you

I know, it feels impossible sometimes, but you have to find some time to relax, decompress and do something fun.  If you don’t it will catch up to you quick.  

This type of stress is devastating and constant and nothing you can do will take it all way, so you have to make time for a break as often as possible.

And here’s the truth.  Your loved one needs this as much as you do.  This situation SUCKS.

It’s human nature.  We need things to be excited about and we MUST have things to look forward to.  If we don’t, what are we fighting for?

A bucket list is a POWERFUL way to…  

  • Have things to look forward to.
  • Keep fighting hard.
  • Find energy you thought was long gone.

We have some great ideas to get started with this here…

Caregiver Stressors #2: The Fear and The Stress

Two women hugging and comforting each other.

 

Fear creates a lot of stress when it comes to cancer because the stakes are so high.  We’re not talking about high blood pressure here; we’re talking life and death.

And things can change in an instant.

When cancer explodes into your world, you start to see things differently… 

  • The things you love.
  • Things you’ve taken for granted.
  • The things you wish you had paid more attention to.

Suddenly you realize that life is a lot shorter than you thought.

It’s human nature, we don’t realize how precious life is until the things we love are threatened.  It sucks that the only way we seem to be able to truly appreciate things is when we are faced with a tragedy.

The fact is, we do appreciate life when everything is good.

But the IMPACT is so much different when your whole world is crashing down around you. 

And when everything is collapsing, the stress is unbelievable.  Cancer makes you so exhausted that no matter how much you sleep you get you don’t feel any better.

 I spend a good amount of time in a zombie-like state, just going through the motions. 

 After about a month or so, you won’t even remember what it feels like to have energy.  You just learn to live in a physically and emotionally exhausted state and you get used to it.  These two Caregiver Stressors are intense!

What’s the secret to keep fighting when you’re exhausted?

How to Combat Fear and Stress

Take Back Your Life From Cancer: This free workbook was created for my family about halfway through our battle when the stress and the fear were at an all-time high.  You can grab the workbook for free here…

So we could gear up to keep fighting hard (even when we were exhausted), we needed to…

Because, sometimes in the middle of the storm you just need something to remind you that you can do this and no matter how crazy things get, this will all work out the way it’s supposed to. 

You can grab Take Your Life Back From Cancer here…

Take a Deep Breath

 

A simple but effective way to help you relax in less than a minute.  

No, it won’t solve everything, but you’ll feel a big difference after this one little action.  Deep breathing is a proven method of lowering stress and helping you get through life’s challenges.  

You just have to remember to do it!

Put Things in Perspective

This experience is terrifying, and it changes constantly so you can never actually trust that you’re in a stable place.  

There is no easy answer as to how and no earth-shattering advice that’s going to make it easier to overcome the fear and crisis you are experiencing.  You just have to go through it.

And no matter what, you have to keep going.

Whatever is happening right now, it’s probably not as terrifying as is it is in your head.  

I’m not saying that the situation is good, but I am saying that you have survived every challenge that has been thrown your way up until this point and you are going to survive this too. 

Hang in there…

Ask for help

You can’t do everything by yourself, you’ll burn out fast.  And if that happens, you won’t be able to help anyone.  Figure out the people who can help you combat these caregiver stressors, the people you can rely on.  Even if it’s just for an hour.

Anything you can remove from your to-do list is time that you can use to relax, spend time with your family, catch up on sleep, read a book or grab coffee with your best friend.

And trust me, there is not a huge amount of time to do any of those things so you should take advantage of every single second you have. (And yes, sitting quietly staring at the wall totally counts!  At least it’s a break!)

 Help can be as simple as…
  • A neighbor to cook a meal or do a few loads of laundry.
  • A friend to pick up the kids or grab a prescription.
  • A cousin to mow the lawn or fix the front door.

If EVERYONE is asking to help but you have no idea what you need, we put together a list of incredible ways people helped us…

It will give you a few ideas, so the next time someone asks if they can help, you’ll know what to say. 

Talk to Someone

Unload some of this stuff you’re carrying around.  You won’t believe how much better you feel when you get some of it off your chest.   

It may be exactly what you need to releive these caregiver stressors and get your head back in the game.  

  • Talk to a friend
  • Talk to a family member or a co-worker.
  • Text a therapist (which by the way you can do while you are running all over the place).  

Talkspace is a custom based therapy plan that works AROUND your life and your circumstances.  Unloading some of the stuff you’re carrying around, may be exactly what you need to get your head back in the game.  

You don’t have to worry about being overheard or having to go somewhere to get help, because everything is done from wherever you are and it can be done by text.  They take some insurances so it would be worth it to see if you qualify.

Talkspace can help you find real ways to cope with the incredible stress flying at you.  

You can learn more about Talkspace here…

You HAVE to push through this.  Your loved one needs you.  Talking to someone will help.

Here are a few quick tips that actually help with these caregiver stressors…

Laugh out Loud

woman lying on her bed laughing.

Laughing is an incredible (and natural) stress reliever.  Sometimes my family and I just laugh because we honestly can’t believe how crazy everything is and we don’t know what else to do.  

You’ll be surprised how much better you feel.  

Make laughing a priority and find something that makes you laugh so hard you cry.

Have a Meltdown

Crying is an incredible stress reliever. I always feel so much better after I cry everything out. 

Aside from the swollen eyes, and the overall feeling of exhaustion…  Crying is a great way to get some of the pain and the stress out of your system.  And it makes a huge diffrence in these caregiver stressors.

Prayer

There are very few things that are certain during this journey. 

Things are changing constantly and whatever direction you are heading in now could take a sharp left by tomorrow. 

God is the only one who knows what’s actually going to happen here.   

We were told in the beginning of our journey that my dad had “days to weeks” to live.  

And we battled Lung Cancer for 21 months (and finished two bucket lists).  

A lot of meaningful time and some pretty amazing things happened over the course of our journey.  In the end, God was the only one who knew what was actually going to happen.

Exercise

Expel some of your anger, frustration, and fear by walking, running, hiking, boxing, swimming, CrossFit (the list is endless).  

Working through some caregiver stressors with exercise is a great way to shed some of the stress and keep yourself healthy at the same time.  It’s one of the best ways to combat the caregiver stressor of fear and it totally works.

Break Things

During our cancer journey, my husband and I spent an entire weekend ripping out all of the bedroom ceilings of our house.  We pulled down tons (and I mean TONS) of plaster and lathe and replaced it with new updated ceilings.

And we did all the work ourselves.  By the end of the ceilings, we were both totally exhausted.  But there is nothing in the world like the feeling of taking on a huge project like that and breaking everything in your path.

It was an absolutely incredible stress reliever.  I slept like a baby.  And the ceilings looked great.  We ROCKED it.

Caregiver Stressors #3: Money

Computer and a cup of coffee caregiver stressor making money.

Cancer is expensive.  Like really expensive.  And if you’re helping someone you love battle this terrible disease, your whole life will be turned upside down.  So, a 9-5 job and full-time caregiving may not be a manageable situation.

And if you’re anything like me, you’re in a position where you can’t work a regular (40-hour a week) job but your family also can’t survive without your paycheck. 

When you have a spouse and children who are relying on your paycheck to pay the bills and survive, but someone close to you (like a parent) is diagnosed with cancer and can’t fight the battle without a lot of physical and emotional support… 

You may feel like you have to make a choice about what’s more important.  This is the most stressful caregiver stressors to deal with if you don’t know your options.

  • So how can work a full-time job and make your loved one the priority they are? 
  • How can you collect a paycheck while you are the main support system and you’re running around fighting cancer?
  • How can you make sure you’re family is taken care of while everything is going insane.

The truth is, it’s never been easier than it is right now.

The key is a flexible job that allows you to work around your priorities.

And, thanks to the internet, there is a huge market of jobs that allows you to work from anywhere.

My job as a virtual assistant is the reason I was able to support my dad through a 21-month cancer battle and still make sure our bills were paid.

It wasn’t easy, but it was possible because I could work from literally anywhere including waiting rooms, hospitals, hotel rooms, my parents’ house…

And so can you.

Ways To Make Money As A Caregiver

Get paid to be a caregiver

If your family is eligible, you may be able to get paid for dealing with all of these caregiver stressors and the work you are already doing.  

It will require some extra work on your part (you’ll have to develop a care plan, and document your services) but this is a great way for you to be able to pay your bills and help someone you love battle cancer.  

You can find more about becoming a paid caregiver here…

Find flexible jobs that work for your life

FlexJobs is our #1 recommendation for jobs that work around you and your hectic life.  

That’s because they do the hard part for you by tracking down and finding legitimate work from home jobs in almost EVERY FIELD you can imagine.

They have a massive data bank; I mean HUGE that includes 40+ fields such as Human Services jobs, Government and Politics jobs, Research jobs, Consulting jobs, Science jobs, Medical and Health Jobs, and much, much more…

The job bank includes entry-level and freelance positions all the way up to managers, professionals and administrative positions.  

These are flexible hours jobs, that allow you to focus on the important stuff and still manage to make a living.

There is a small fee of $14.95 a month to apply for positions but it’s totally worth it because they HAND SCREEN each job to make sure that they are legitimate and flexible for your life.  That process alone would take HOURS of your time, and energy and only be successful if you knew enough about remote jobs to avoid a scam (which most of us don’t).

With FlexJobs you can find jobs that you already have the skillset for and you can apply right online.

You can learn more about FlexJobs here…

Get paid for skills you already have 

You probably already have skills and previous experience that will make you money.  There are a ton of ways to make money from home (or from anywhere). 

Like starting a side hustle: 

There are several side hustles that will work for this situation and don’t take months to get started.  We have a list of those here…

Flexible jobs that allow you to work from anywhere can make sure that you can pay your bills and battle cancer, our best tips for caregivers to make money from anywhere can be found here…

If you need more ideas to get started, here are some good ones…

Caregiver Stressors #4: Depression and Anxiety

I am naturally one of those happy go lucky people who can ALMOST ALWAYS find the silver lining in any situation.  That being said, cancer is not a typical situation and these caregiver stressors can leave lasting effects.

 Cancer journeys are full of panic, anxiety, and depression and those feelings dominate everything.  

There were days during our journey, that I could barely get out of bed and I cried all day.  At night I would worry to the point of sleeplessness and then try to make it through the next day on whatever sleep I managed to get.  

How is that even possible?  

You’re dragging through the day barely able to keep your eyes open, desperately waiting for bedtime and when it finally gets here…

You can’t sleep.

These are the hardest caregiver stressors for me to cope with.

Feelings of hopelessness creep in and it feels like it’s never going to get better.  Keeping your head in the game becomes the new battle you have to fight every single day.

You want to sleep all the time and doing anything… getting off the couch, makes you feel like you ran a marathon.

Dealing with Stress and Anxiety

There are no easy answers for this section, but these helped me…

Embrace the miserable 

This pain is real and it’s raw, and it definitely can’t be ignored.  And most of the time you don’t have time to even deal with it.  You have to make time.

Spend a day or two feeling miserable.  Be sad, feel sorry for yourself, whine, cry, scream, meltdown, be mad at the world…

Some days completely suck, everything is falling apart, and it feels like it will never get better.  Determination isn’t always going to be enough to keep you going.

This does suck, this is unfair, you can be mad at the world, no one should have to deal with this shit…

Those are pretty natural feelings but if you feel unsafe talk to someone immediately…

Sadness and some depression are a part of cancer and trying to pretend that it wasn’t happening didn’t work for me and I doubt it will work for you.

I gave myself a day or two to go through the pain, cry, stress, and be miserable… and then I would get up, brush myself off and get my head back in the game.

My dad used to always say, Things look better in the morning.  And he was right, every single time.

 Be sad, be miserable, be angry… but don’t stay there.

Write It Out 

Womans hand writing in a notebook

I am convinced that the only way I survived the stress of this journey, the death of my dad, and then the diagnosis of my husband and my mom (who are both doing well!)…

Is this blog. 

Here, I unload everything I’m feeling and hopefully make things a little easier for you in the process.

You have to get some of this stuff off your chest. 

This kind of stress and anxiety is really intense and dangerous to your health.  Writing it all down helps you find some relief, some perspective, and the motivation to keep going.

We can help!

You can get Take Back Your Life From Cancer a free workbook that was created for my family the stress, fear and anxiety were at an all-time high.

So we could keep fighting hard (even when we were exhausted), we needed to…

You can grab Take Back Your Life for free here…

Talk to someone who can help 

Talkspace is a custom based therapy plan that tackles caregiver stressors and works AROUND your life and your circumstances.  Unloading some of the stuff you’re carrying around, may be exactly what you need to get your head back in the game.  

You don’t have to worry about being overheard or having to go somewhere to get help, because everything is done from wherever you are and it can be done by text.  They take some insurances so it would be worth it to see if you qualify.

Talkspace can help you find real ways to cope with the incredible stress flying at you.  

The stress and anxiety will eat you alive and you feel like you can’t escape.  You have to unload some of this stuff you’re carrying around. 

You’ll be surprised how much better you feel once you get it off your chest.   

You can learn more about Talkspace here…

Get out and do something fun 

Sometimes taking a break is exactly what you need.  Get out of the house, go for a walk, catch a movie, take a drive, head to the beach, go for a swim, grab lunch, spend some time reading…

Whatever you feel like doing, make arrangements for someone to cover with your loved one for a short period of time and go do it.  If today is not a possibility, then make it happen tomorrow.

We need things to look forward to, things to get excited about.  And the 10 extra minutes you spend procrastinating in the shower, just doesn’t cut it.

If you’re truly in a situation where getting out for an hour or two is just not possible….  

We have a ton of ideas to escape this situation (at least for a little while) and you can do them wherever you are.

Time with people that make you happy 

Family, friends, neighbors, kids, nieces, nephews, GRANDCHILDREN…  They are the key to everything.  

The reason that my dad kept fighting for as long as he did was so he could be here with the people he loved.  His grandchildren came first and the rest of us came (a close?) second.

The people that make you happy, have a way of making everything feel better just by being around.  And kids not only make you feel better, but they are also a great distraction

Kids bring a whole other perspective to the situation and are naturally stress relieving, not to mention entertaining.  A little fun and entertainment can go a long way in how you feel about… well everything, actually.

And, the people in your life who have always supported you… Those are the people you’ll want to seek out now.  

The ones who love you, listen to you, and make you laugh out loud (you’ll be shocked at how much better you feel after a good laugh). 

Identify the people who make you happy, bring the serenity, give good advice or are incredible listeners and line them up for some much needed bonding time.  

Bonus:  You can do this in your living room in your pajamas with wine.

What helps you stay in a good place: 

Figure out what works for you and make sure you always have it available.  Keeping a “bag of tricks” that helps you combat caregiver stressors and that you can use when things get intense can be a great way to stay mentally healthy and take a break when you need one!

 And they can be simple things, as long as they make you feel good!

  • Bubble baths
  • Cuddle with your dog
  • Journaling
  • Herbal Tea
  • Prayers
  • Mommy/daughter dates
  • Read a good book
  • Music
  • Aromatherapy
  • Someone else cooking dinner

Figure out what works for you and keep it on hand.

 Get Physical: 

woman tackling caregiver stressors by walking her dog.

There are literally hundreds of ways that you can get physical and combat caregiver stressors at the same time.  It’s about finding something you love to do, that feels good and just doing it.

Ways to get physical like…
  • Exercise
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Jog 20 blocks
  • Play at the playground with your kids
  • Clean out the garage
  • Do some gardening
  • Participate in a relay for life
  • Go out dancing
  • Take the kids skating or bowling
  • Take a hike

You’ll use your muscles, get some exercise and feel better in the process.

 Talk to a doctor about options: 

This is not a typical situation, but it’s probably going to be a long situation.  

Caregiver stress is the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced and you need to be game on, all the time.

If you’re struggling to get yourself back in the game, it may be time to talk to the doctor about something that can help.  About 8 months into our journey, I felt like if I didn’t talk to the doctor about something to help with the anxiety, the stress alone was going to kill me.

The medicine they gave me helped tremendously with the constant worrying about everything.  Talk honestly with your doctor about what this experience is like for you and what you’re struggling with.  

There may be something that can make a big difference in whatever caregiver stressors you happen to be going through.

So, tomorrow morning when you can barely open your eyes and you’re dragging yourself out of bed…  

Stop.  

Lay there for a minute, take a deep breath, and tell yourself as many times as you need to hear it… 

You can do this.  You’re gonna make it. 

P.S.  If you’re drowning in all this cancer business, and you have no idea where to start…  we can help you formulate a plan to tackle the immediate issues.
  • Finding the best care
  • Talking with your insurance company
  • Finding resources that will actually help
  • Dealing with the fear, anxiety, and overwhelm of this whole situation.

We can’t control the cancer, but we CAN show you how to manage this crisis.  

And it’s 100% Free.

You can get the Cancer Combat Plan FREE here…

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