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Healthy Balance

12 Tips for Coping with Cancer During the Holidays

If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, caring for a family member or friend who has cancer, or grieving the loss of a loved one who had cancer, the holidays can be very difficult. Read below for ideas on how to get through the season while remaining healthy and positive.

  1. Reframe ySpending time with family can help you cope with cancer during Christmas. our expectations: This year, your holiday traditions might be different. Think about how you can incorporate aspects of past traditions but modify them and start new ones in light of the challenges you’re experiencing this year.
  2. Take care of yourself: Limit your involvement to what you can truly handle and enjoy. You don’t have to accept every invitation. Keep everything in moderation.
  3. Try to reduce stress: Exercise, even just walking a few minutes a day, can help reduce stress and allows you to get out of the house. Establish a routine and stick to it. Be mindful of your breathing. Breathing exercises can calm anxiety.
  4. Remember your dietary restrictions: Many cancer patients have dietary restrictions that are intended to help you handle treatment and/or symptoms related to your condition. Stick to them, even during the holidays.
  5. Ask for support if you need it: Chances are, your family and friends are more than eager to help you but might not know how. Try to let them in and talk about how you feel. For additional support, see the resources available to patients and caregivers through UVA Cancer Center.
  6. Accept kindness from others: Friends and family will likely offer to bring you food or gifts. Don’t feel guilty for accepting their generosity, as it is your time of need.
  7. If you are struggling financially, scale back on gifts: Those around you will understand if you can’t afford to buy gifts this year.
  8. Shop online or buy gift cards: If you’re unable to get to stores but would like to buy gifts, shop online. Many websites offer free shipping around the holidays. Also, gift cards are easily accessible and can even be purchased at grocery stores.
  9. Take regular breaks: If you are a caregiver, take time for yourself and continue to do things you enjoy. This does not make you selfish or take away from the care you’re providing; it allows you to restore your energy.
  10. Express your feelings: It’s normal to experience feelings of loss or sadness over how cancer has changed a special occasion. But patients and caregivers alike may feel they have to portray themselves as happy and cheerful so as not to alarm family, friends or a loved one. Try not to hold in all your feelings; share them with someone you trust, such as a friend or counselor.
  11. Be patient with yourself: It’s okay to grieve the loss of a loved one or even the loss of celebrating the holidays like you normally do because of your illness. Allow yourself to grieve patiently by knowing it’s okay to feel the way you do.
  12. Toast to 2015: Regardless of your circumstances, this holiday season will come and go, and next year will be different. You’ll be stronger, as will your family and caregivers. Toast to the possibilities that the New Year may bring!

Get Cancer Support

Call licensed clinical social worker Rebecca McIntyre at 434.924.2717 or send her an email.

UVA Cancer Center offers counseling, nutritional guidance, educational support resources and many other programs and tools for patients and caregivers year-round.

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