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Coping with Caregiver Fatigue

It seemed like everything would slow down once Rob returned home from his first week in the hospital, but the reality is that things are moving much faster. The resource applications, healthcare correspondence, disability applications, and phone calls needed to meet short deadlines are overwhelming. It seems impossible that people can continue managing their households, communicating with multiple agencies, keeping up with appointments, and coping with the stress during such a drastic and traumatic change in life.

I have been trying to make sure I'm investing time into my wellness to continue to advocate for my family and complete all the daily tasks on my to-do lists. One of the treats I got for Rob and myself is Buddha Heart, Buddha Mind, a daily journal, and a cookbook with recipes specific to individuals coping with cancer. I found a Yoga for Cancer guide that also refers to their website for a free yoga class geared toward cancer patients and their caregivers. Of course, I haven't had a chance to use any of these resources because of the little time I have for myself in between a growing list of tasks to complete. I am making sure that I designate at least 30 minutes of personal time each day to meditate, do Yoga, or self-reflect through journaling with this blog.

As an English teacher to many at-risk teens, I've focused various writing assignments on topics that promote a growth mindset, mindfulness, and understanding the neuroscience of trauma. These informational texts help my students learn to develop research-based skills to cope with varying problems that arise in their lives. These assignments are created with sensitivity in mind to prevent re-traumatization; they instead focus on learning the science of how to activate the logical and reasoning frontal lobe of the brain rather than the emotionally responsive amygdala. There are many incredible and free resources to help incorporate bits of information into lessons without overwhelming learners. One of my favorite classes to implement into informational media is The Science of Happiness course offered by UC Berkley on We get to explore ancient philosophical thinking, modern definitions of happiness and take a more in-depth look into how practicing some basic studied strategies can increase a person's daily satisfaction.

I'm using resources for my family to help us all deal with many changes that complicate our lives at this time. My homeschooled 10-year-old recently told me that her favorite class is growth mindset because it explains emotions, how they occur, and how to respond to others' feelings in healthy ways. I've even noticed my 3-year-old has a much larger vocabulary and uses words like "frustrated," "aggravated," "annoying," and "confused" to describe her bad moods. I've used Mr. Roger's Neighborhood episodes to help explain concepts like feeling ambivalent, where a person feels more than one emotion simultaneously—watching the Won't You Be My Neighbor? documentary allows me to communicate with my preschooler using a stuffed tiger who understands her big feelings. Tigey is our most beloved stuffed animal in this house, and I think I even have an emotional bond with the toy at this point. Its fur has been matted from years of cycles through the washer and dryer since my oldest took him to Mott Children's Hospital to have her tonsils removed for Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea 5 years ago. Tigey had its wrist band and accompanied Emma in her hospital bed while the staff pushed her down the hall to surgery while blowing bubbles for other children.

These points I've made so far explain that compassion, sensitivity, and a little wisdom go a long way when dealing with a traumatic experience. I end with inclusion of a link to a few of my favorite resources, including a free emergency meditation and trauma-informed Yoga exercise (donations accepted through their website). Also, be sure to seek medical advice if you are experiencing trauma that disrupts your daily functioning or you are having thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harming others. Call 911 if you need help now, there is no shame in reaching out for support.

If you have any favorite go-to coping resources, please feel free to share a link in the comments for others.

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