Other useful tips for supporters

Relaxation exercises

There are many different ways to relax. The following is a breathing technique you may find useful. For further information on relaxation, phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

Slow breathing

Take a long, slow breath in and then let the air out slowly and gently … feel your whole body relax.

Take another long slow breath in, and allow the air to travel deep into your lungs … filling from the base … feeling your abdomen and lower ribs expanding. As you breathe out, listen to the sound of your breath.

Continue to breathe with a slow, steady rhythm, drawing the breath deep into your lungs, expanding the ribs and abdomen … and then letting it out slowly, hearing the sound of your breath.

Feel your body relaxing further with each breath, breathing in energy … and breathing out tension ... and with each breath out say the word “relax” silently to yourself, as you become more and more calm. (If ending your relaxation at this point: take your own time … start to become aware of your surroundings …)

Steps for successful problem solving

To start, make a list of all the challenges you are facing. Put the problems into order – list those that need to be dealt with straight away first, followed by those that can wait for now.

If a problem feels huge or overwhelming, break it down into smaller problems. For example, coping with treatment may involve:

  • sorting out transport
  • arranging childcare and meals
  • organising time off work
  • managing financial worries.

Brainstorm: Take your most urgent problem, and list all the possible options for dealing with it. Make sure you include every idea, no matter how silly it may seem, as these ideas can lead to more flexible and creative thinking.

Weigh up the two or three best options: Consider what might happen if you follow it through – will it help you reach your goal?, who will it affect?, how much time and effort will it take? It may be useful to use a problem-solving worksheet to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each idea.

Decide upon the option or strategy (or combination) that seems best and then try it out. If it doesn’t work then try your next idea.

Ask and accept offers of help.

Check with your local Cancer Society about whether there are groups or talks you can attend.

You might like to talk to another supporter through the Cancer Society’s Cancer Connect Service or Cancer Chat, which is a Cancer Society online forum.

Top 10 tips other supporters have found helpful

  1. Sometimes being a supporter changes and you end up doing more than expected. Work out what you are able to do and revisit this every now and then. If things are becoming too hard, you may want to say you cannot carry on.
  2. Make sure you are supported in your role, by talking to friends and family/whānau and letting your workmates and employer know what’s going on for you.
  3. Take time out to do something other than talking or thinking about cancer.
  4. Be prepared to compromise – let others help – let some jobs go undone.
  5. Find out how others manage in this situation – talk to other supporters, contact Carers New Zealand, Cancer Connect or Cancer Chat (see our website for details). Look for publications written by or about supporters.
  6. Try to get a good understanding of the community health services in your area. Each District Health Board and hospice across New Zealand offer different services. Your GP, practice nurse or local Cancer Society can help guide you.
  7. Check what extra services are available in your area, such as help with driving, online shopping (which is delivered), gardening or childcare.
  8. When others offer to help, try to find things suitable for them to do. Some people keep a ‘to do’ list, such as lawn mowing, shopping and cleaning.
  9. Suggest things that friends can do to give you a break, such as a coffee date, seeing a movie, going for a walk or, simply, spending time together.
  10. Recognise grief is a mixture of emotional and physical changes. It is a normal response to change and loss.