The Thing About Cancer: Dealing with Caregiver Burnout

by Team Onco

Caregivers of cancer patients often feel angry and irritable, and it can lead to a health problems for themselves and they end up in a vicious circle of guilt and stress. Let’s understand what they can do to deal with such feelings. 

1. Am I suffering from caregiver burnout?

If, as a caregiver, you feel excessive anger, guilt, excessive tiredness, anxiety and even depression, then you might be experiencing caregiver burnout. 

Burnout refers to exhaustion; physical, mental and emotional. Caregivers have to juggle multiple roles within the family. This can create stress and anxiety, as they try to take on more tasks than they can handle. 

Often, a disease like cancer has aspects that are outside of our control. If the caregiver sets unrealistic expectations from themselves, they will feel an overwhelming lack of control at how things are progressing. 

If the caregiver is unable to allocate anytime to care for themselves and to do things that improve their own emotional, mental and physical health, then this neglect can increase the feeling of stress and anxiety within them. 

caregiver burnout

2. How can I prevent a burnout?

Here are some steps to preventing a burnout:

Step 1: Be aware

Know what symptoms to look out for. Check on yourself regularly to see if you are feeling very tired, overly anxious or are having trouble concentrating. Have you been losing weight without any known reason? Is there a change in your appetite or your sleep pattern? 

Being aware of how you feel can help you take the steps to reduce such feelings before they become worse. 

Step 2: Find people who will listen to you

Being able to talk about your feelings helps you feel better. Identify people who will give you a patient and confidential ear, without being judgemental. 

Having regular conversations with friends and family who are supportive and caring will help.

Step 3: Acknowledge your feelings

Feeling tired, angry or unappreciated is not a negative quality. You need not be embarrassed of it. It is just as natural for you to feel negative emotions as positive ones. 

Try not to blame yourself for how you feel. 

Step 4: Care for yourself

Self-care is crucial to avoiding a burnout. Despite your busy schedule, find the time to take care of yourself. 

Ensure that you are eating right, sleeping well and are getting some form of exercise.

caregiver burnout

Set aside time to do things that you enjoy doing, this could be a morning exercise routine, or a hobby like reading, gardening, drawing or a sport. 

Here is a self-care menu to choose from. Most of these activities can be done within 10 -15 minutes and will help brighten up your day.

Step 5: Join a support group

Speaking to others who are in a similar situation to yourself will help you realise how normal your struggles and feelings are. You can also share tips and solutions with each other and form a mutual support system. 

Joining a support group of cancer caregivers will help you feel validated, even if you do not want to share your problems there. Just listening to others speak will help you. 

If you would like to join our cancer support group, click here

Step 6: Seek professional help 

If you feel like you are unable to manage the burnout on your own, consider reaching out to a professional who can help you. A psycho-oncologist, or a counselor, can provide inputs, guidance and monitoring for your emotional and mental wellbeing. 

If you are worried about the cost of seeking professional help, consider reaching out to NGOs and helplines that provide free services. 

Use the internet wisely. You might find a lot of advice on the internet and not all of it will be from trained healthcare professionals. Just like you wouldn’t take medication prescribed by a quack, you should also avoid reading unsuitable advice online. 


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