It looks like you are using an older version of Internet Explorer which is not supported. We advise that you update your browser to the latest version of Microsoft Edge, or consider using other browsers such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Caregiver Support > Caring for Yourself

Caring for Yourself

As a caregiver, you may feel overwhelmed by your loved one’s condition. You may be handling difficult emotions, more responsibility, and a lot of information to learn. This constant stress can build up over time, making you feel tense or sad.

It’s natural for caregivers to put their own needs aside and focus all their attention on their loved one. But taking care of yourself is not selfish. In fact, it can help you be a better caregiver. Just think of what you would tell someone who’s a caregiver like you: you’d encourage them to practice self-care, right?

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself:


Taking time to relax can be a good way to manage the challenges of everyday life and living with a loved one with metastatic breast cancer.2 But just like anything else, relaxation is a skill that we can learn by practicing it. Give a few things a try and see what works best for you.

There are lots of ways to relax. Some ways are designed to relax your mind, and some focus on your body. Because the mind and body are connected, many help relax both the mind and the body. Here are a few you can try:

Relaxing your mind

  • Practice a breathing exercise. You can find a simple exercise here.
    1. Find a comfortable position, such as lying in bed on your back or on the floor with a pillow under your head. You may choose to sit in a chair with your shoulders, head, and neck supported.
    2. Take a deep breath through your nose. Let your belly fill with air.
    3. Slowly release the air through your nose.
    4. Place one hand on your stomach; the other on your chest.
    5. As you inhale, feel your stomach rise. As you exhale, feel it sink. The hand on your stomach should move more than the hand on your chest.
    6. Repeat this 3 more times, inhaling deeply each time. Feel your belly rise and fall with each breath.
  • Listen to soothing music. Find a comfortable position. Close your eyes and notice the different musical instruments, the melodies, the chorus, and the different verses.
  • Practice mindful meditation by focusing on things that are happening right now. Pay attention to your breathing: is it fast, slow, or deep? Notice your muscles: are they tense or are they relaxed? You could also listen to the sounds in your environment. Do you hear traffic, children, birds, or nothing at all? Be aware of these noises as they come and go.1
  • Use visualization to take yourself somewhere else. Imagine yourself in a place that helps you feel calm and relaxed—maybe a favorite beach, a forest, or a garden. Tune in to your senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What can you feel? What can you taste?2

Relaxing your body

  • Select a few yoga poses you enjoy and practice them regularly.
  • Do some light stretching. You can stretch your fingers and toes, your arms and legs, or your torso. You can do it in a chair, on the floor, or wherever you’re most comfortable.
  • Practice a muscle relaxation exercise. You can find a simple exercise here.
  • Take a stroll around your neighborhood or do some other light physical activity—gardening and housework count too!
  • Get a massage or have someone give you a back rub.
  • Soak in a warm bath; add bubbles or an essential oil if you’d like. Pay attention to the water as it surrounds your body. Feel the bubbles and smell the oil.
  • Have a warm drink that doesn’t have alcohol or caffeine in it, like herbal tea or warm milk. Focus on how it feels as you drink it.

Pace yourself

It’s important to pace yourself throughout the day. Pacing is about finding a balance between times of activity and times of rest. Resting is important because it gives your body time to repair and recover. Even when your daily life is keeping you busy, remember that taking a break may help you do more over the long term.

Pacing is also important when you’re feeling fatigued or out of energy, which is common among caregivers. When you feel very tired, being active is often the last thing you want to do. When you feel that way, try these tips for pacing yourself:

  • Plan your daily tasks in order and spend your time doing the most important ones first.3
  • Break a task down into smaller parts. For example, instead of trying to clean your whole house in one day, try cleaning just one room to start.
  • If you need help getting something done, don’t be afraid to ask. People generally like to be able to help. Think about what tasks you can turn over to someone else.5

Preventing caregiver burnout

Caregiving can be very stressful. If you don’t take care of yourself, you could experience burnout. A caregiver who is burned out is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted from the stress and burden of caring for their loved one. 6 Caregivers who are burned out may have fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Below are some tips to help you prevent caregiver burnout:

  • Pay attention to your emotions. It can be helpful to write them down in a journal. Watch for signs of depression or anxiety. If they last for more than 2 weeks, talk with your doctor.5
  • Spend time on a productive and healthy activity. You might try listening to music, walking, writing in your journal, watching a favorite television show, or meditating.
  • Plan activities with friends and family.
  • Take time to eat well, exercise, relax, and enjoy life. you need a break, consider respite care, even if it’s only for a few hours a day.7
  • Find meaning in caregiving.8 Perhaps you feel grateful that you can be there for your loved one.5 Maybe your relationship is stronger—challenging times can sometimes bring people closer together. Finding meaning may help make caregiving easier to manage.5,8
  • Make sure you have someone to talk to. It may be a friend, a family member, a counselor, or a support group.5
  • Consider a caregiving class.3 Many organizations offer workshops and classes (both online and in-person) for caregivers. Topics covered may include stress reduction, decision-making, communicating more effectively with doctors, and preventing caregiver burnout.9 Ask your healthcare team to help you find local support organizations.
  • Connect with other caregivers. Many caregivers find it helpful to connect with others who are going through a similar experience.10 Although everyone’s experience is unique, talking with someone can provide real comfort—and even make you feel less alone. You may also learn how to cope better in your caregiving role. Find support groups by searching online.

Bottom line: Don’t try to do it all alone. Build a support network and ask for help when you need it.

Where to next? Learn about treatments for MBC >


  1. Benefits of mindfulness. A Harvard Health Article. Accessed September 23, 2019.
  2. Visualization and guided imagery techniques for stress reduction. Stress. Accessed September 23, 2019.
  3. Goodman S, Rabow M, Folkman S. Orientation to Caregiving: A Handbook for Family Caregivers of Patients With Brain Tumors. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: University of California, San Francisco; 2013.
  4. Covey, SR, Merrill, RA, Merrill RR. First Things First. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1994.
  5. National Cancer Institute. Support for caregivers of cancer patients. Accessed September 6, 2019.
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Caregiver burnout. Accessed September 6, 2019.
  7. Health in Aging Foundation. Tips for avoiding caregiver burnout. November 4, 2019.
  8. National Cancer Institute. Caring for the Caregiver. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014. NIH publication 14-6219.
  9. Family Caregiver Alliance. Powerful tools for caregivers. /powerful-tools-caregivers-4. Accessed September 8, 2019.
  10. American Cancer Society. Caregiver Resource Guide: Caring for a loved one with cancer. Accessed November 4, 2019.