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Coping with cancer during the holidays

A couple exchanges presents.

Here's how to celebrate in a way that won't wear you down.

When you have cancer, the holidays can be bittersweet. And the stress of the season can be difficult to manage, especially if you're in the midst of treatment. But while this holiday season may be different from past ones, that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable.

Very likely, you'll need to make some adjustments in how you celebrate. But you can still make wonderful memories with these tips from the American Cancer Society, American Society of Clinical Oncology and CancerCare:

Prioritize. Take an honest look at your holiday traditions and ask yourself, "What is truly meaningful to me?" and "What is a drain on my energy?" It's OK to scale back your holiday plans or turn down invitations. People will understand. And setting some limits can help you truly enjoy what you do say yes to.

Keep things simple and let others help. For example, if you typically host holiday gatherings, consider ordering out for food or asking someone else to host this year. Or if decorating is something you cherish, maybe a loved one could help you trim a special window or room instead of the whole house. Others may be able to shop, run errands and wrap gifts. Chances are many people who care for you want to help, if you tell them how.

Celebrate in a new way. Be flexible about your traditions. Maybe do quick video chats instead of sending out holiday cards. Or plan a relaxing holiday getaway or staycation instead of visiting faraway relatives. Try to focus on what these new traditions add, rather than what you miss from the past.

Take care of yourself. Nourish your body and mind with balanced meals, plenty of sleep and exercise, if your doctor approves. Find little ways to be kind to yourself as well. You might treat yourself to mood boosters like a massage, a soothing bath or an afternoon nap.

Connect with others. You don't need to plan big events to stay in touch with family and friends. Just text someone that you're thinking of them, read a holiday story with your kids, or relax and regroup with your significant other.

Accept your feelings. Give yourself permission to feel and express any emotion during this time. Rather than bottling up fears and tears, share them with a friend or family member you trust. And if you feel overwhelmed, tell your doctor. Counseling can help you cope.

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reviewed 9/18/2019

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