Why Self-Care Is So Difficult As A Caregiver

The Last Thing On Our Mind

When a partner’s cancer diagnosis enters the picture, taking care of ourselves is the last thing we think about. Literally, it’s the last thing on our minds. We start thinking about our partner and everything and everyone else. Most of us take the approach of just doing more and being more. 

That’s the approach I took. Not really on purpose, it just happened. I learned to incorporate all that having a spouse with cancer required into my life. Over time, it took a toll on me. People would tell me, get some rest… take a break. I would listen and nod my head, but actually doing it was a lot harder. When did I have the time? I’m not the one with cancer after all.

Not Just A Bubble Bath…

Since that time I’ve learned a lot about self-care and why it can be so difficult. I’ve come to understand that there is more to it than just “taking a break” or “getting some rest.”  Self-care doesn’t just consist of a nice bubble bath or getting your nails done. All these activities can be important, but doing them alone does not necessarily mean you are taking care of yourself. 

Let’s say I’ve been worried all day about the results of the recent scan my husband had to see if the cancer was progressing. I’m having a hard time focusing and can’t get anything done. I’m craving escape and so I justify watching some Netflix as a way to take my mind off things instead of writing the lesson I had scheduled for that time. 

Is that self-care? 

Emotions Are Fuel

What is really important in self-care is the emotion driving it. Everything we do is fueled by an emotion. Commitment, focus, anger, desire, love, connection… We may not always realize it, but an emotion is always fueling us. If we avoid something, it’s usually because we are avoiding the emotion we will feel when we do it. 

When we think about taking care of ourselves, what we do is not as important as the emotion behind it. Positive emotions will yield positive results. When we do things for ourselves out of love, appreciation, and value for ourselves, then we will be nurturing ourselves. The action matters far less than the emotion behind it. 

So, if I watch Netflix instead of writing a lesson like I had planned, I may enjoy it, but it won’t nurture me. I’m being driven by a need to escape my worry. Instead, I’ll just put off the worry for a while and it will come right back after the show is over. Plus, I’ll still not have written my lesson, so then I’ll feel bad about that as well. It doesn’t mean I don’t watch Netflix, it’s just that realizing it’s a form of escape will help me be honest with myself. 

Our Relationship With Ourself

How do we fuel ourselves with self love, value, and appreciation? It starts with our relationship with ourself. We have to first valuing ourself fully before we can treating ourself with love. 

Why Self-Care Is Difficult

This is the real reason why most of us forgo our own needs. Our relationship with ourself is not developed, so it’s easy to devalue ourself and our own needs when we have a partner who is sick. We think we are not as important, or we should be better. We don’t honor our commitments to ourselves and put our health last. 

Learning to value ourself is a lot harder than it may seem. Women especially are taught to value others over their own needs. That is how we grow up. It can become very difficult to shift that paradigm especially in the midst of a health crisis. 

What To Do?

The real first step in self-care is to take a look at your relationship with yourself. Do you see your needs as just as important as others? Do you keep the commitments you make to yourself to exercise or eat right? Do you feel guilty when spending time for yourself because you should be home or with your family? Do you allow yourself down time?

Take a look inside and ask yourself those questions. The hard truth is, if you don’t value yourself, no one else will. All the bubble baths in the world won’t make a difference if you don’t feel worthy. Self love is a gift only you can give yourself.  


Most of us have work to do on our relationship with ourselves. A coach is so helpful here! I have a whole lesson dedicated to self-care and discovering your relationship with yourself. Let’s talk!

Click here to schedule a FREE consult.

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