December 2023

Coping with Cancer During the Holidays: Tips for Patients and Caregivers

Here, you will find our top tips for managing stress and embracing the holiday spirit even when times are tough.

Cancer and other life-threatening conditions are stressful, regardless of the time of year, and even more so during the holidays. This time of year leads caregivers and patients alike to wonder, “How do I manage my usual tasks while maintaining a joyful holiday season for myself and my family?”

Be Present

In the midst of managing life with a life-threatening illness during the holiday season, striving for perfection can add unnecessary pressure. This journey is not about flawless execution; it’s about embracing the small yet profound moments that make life beautiful. Take a conscious step away from distractions like phones and social media. Share genuine, quality time with your loved ones, savoring each precious moment together. Navigating a life-threatening illness reminds us that time is the most important thing we have.

Lean into practices like meditation and prayer as soothing companions. They offer a sense of calm and a space for reflection amidst the hustle and bustle. Embracing these mindful practices can ground you and help channel inner strength during this journey.

Maintain Tradition While Accepting Change

There is a fine line between maintaining tradition and accepting change when navigating a loved one’s illness during the holidays. Here are a few of our tips when it comes to making sure they feel supported while fostering a sense of normalcy.

During the holidays, food often plays a central role in celebrations. However, dietary preferences might have changed for someone navigating treatment due to sensitivities or aversions. Taking a moment to discuss their dietary needs or any specific requests can make a world of difference. Accommodating these changes respects their journey and demonstrates love and care.

Consider bringing holiday traditions to them when your loved one might be hospitalized during the festive season. Though they may prefer being at home, sharing these cherished traditions, whether through decorations, music, or reminiscing about fond memories, can help bring warmth and comfort to their space. The effort to create togetherness will undoubtedly lift their spirits.

If your loved one is a child with siblings, be mindful of the other children too. Even with everything going on, it’s important to check in with other family members and ask them what they want to remember about the holidays!

Manage Stress

The holidays are stressful for anyone, even without significant additional stressors, so don’t be afraid to ask for support. Now more than ever, it is important to lean on your community. Reach out to find friends or family members who can take the load off your shoulders and help keep track of things. A helpful tip is to delegate and appoint tasks to a friend. Choosing a task or two that is consistent in your schedule but could be completed by someone else is an easy way to make sure no one feels overwhelmed. Examples might include picking up kids from school or activities, choosing one night a week for help with dinner and meal planning, or a scheduled phone call to plan the week ahead. 

Simplify wherever you can. Make a list of activities or situations most important to you and pace yourself to complete those items. This goes back to the first point we addressed: being present. Utilize tools like online meal and grocery delivery services. Lean into online shopping to simplify gathering this year’s gifts. There is no shame in doing things that make your life easier when you need it most.

Understanding and adapting to the needs of a loved one facing a life-threatening illness is an act of profound compassion. Ensuring their comfort during hospital stays or treatment periods is a way to spread warmth and love. Remember, simplicity is often the key to managing stress during this time. Prioritize what truly matters, seek support when needed, and embrace the convenience that modern tools offer. By valuing these moments and simplifying where possible, you gift yourself and your loved ones the most precious present: the gift of being fully present with one another.

If you or a loved one could use a break to recharge, try Applying For A Respite. In the meantime, explore our other relevant resources like Giving Thanks: Gratitude in Challenging Times, How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout, Healthy Habits for Caregivers, and more