Believe it or not, a smile can bring some big benefits for someone going through chemo. Researchers at the University of Kansas recently found a genuine grin can reduce heart rate and help defuse stress. And that’s not all: Even a fake smile can take down tension a notch or two. Easing stress is key because it can improve your loved one’s ability to cope and stoke his immune system. So try these delightful ideas for getting your partner, parent or other loved one beaming from ear to ear.
1. Shower her with gifts
Give your loved one something that will help her pass the time. An engrossing book by a favorite author or a movie starring a favorite actor can distract them from chemo’s side effects. Or pamper her with a new pair of slippers or a warm throw blanket. Bonus: A study published in Psychological Bulletin found that splurging on other people instead of yourself boosts your own overall happiness, in addition to theirs.
2. Reach out and touch.
Giving a foot massage or reaching over for a simple hug is a great way to reduce your loved one’s stress, boosting overall mood. The reason? Physical affection triggers the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone that fosters a sense of warmth and security.
3. Take cooking off her plate.
Chemotherapy can curb your loved one’s appetite, never mind leave her too fatigued to prepare meals for herself. So cook up a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner, high in chemo-friendly ingredients (think protein and whole grains). And always make extra so she can freeze and reheat the leftovers when you’re not around.
4. Volunteer to be an appointment buddy.
Going to the oncologist with your loved one is a great way to lend moral support. In fact, research by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that when caregivers consistently go with an older loved one to appointments, his or her overall quality of health improves.
5. Lighten their load.
Housecleaning or laundry may be easy for you, but it can wear on someone undergoing chemo, especially if she’s tired or nauseated. You might also offer to pick up their prescription at the drugstore or their clothes at the dry cleaner’s. Even something as simple as getting the mail or watering the plants will let her rest, allowing for a quicker recovery.