Holidays are traditionally viewed as a time to celebrate. During this season, many people enjoy spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and celebrating traditions.
However, according to experts, it is common for breast cancer patients and their loved ones to have trouble coping with the stress of cancer during the holidays and feel “out of touch” with the rest of the world during this time.
1. Prioritize yourself: Accept where you are and take the pressure off yourself. If you are feeling tired and less social, know those feelings are normal. “Our stress hormones are in high gear when we’re going through cancer treatment,” shares Patricia Ganz, M.D., Director of Cancer Prevention and Control Research.
When faced with stressful situations, people often have high expectations for themselves and others. Let go of any expectations and allow yourself to be where you are emotionally and physically.
2. Adjust your traditions: Decide which holiday traditions are most important to you and adjust them to fit your needs. If you love hosting holiday parties, consider getting food delivered from a nearby restaurant and asking for help with cleaning and decorating. Set a holiday budget and shop online. These small changes will help you enjoy the Christmas season without becoming stressed.
3. Enjoy every moment: Focus on making new traditions with your loved ones instead of focusing on how cancer has changed a holiday or special occasion. If you can’t make it to every event, use FaceTime or Zoom to stay in touch with your friends and family.
4. Surround yourself with support: Communicate what you need physically and emotionally and don’t close yourself off from relationships. Talking through your emotions is important. It’s okay to let yourself cry and feel all the feelings. Find a significant other, friend, or family member who can help make the holidays as pleasurable as possible.
Managing your own emotions and worries while caring for someone with cancer during the holidays can be difficult to navigate. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Discuss expectations: It’s important to listen and be respectful of your loved one’s needs this holiday season.
2. Take the pressure off: Create an environment where your friend or loved one feels comfortable sharing their needs during this time. Continue to offer invitations and make plans, but don’t be offended if they aren’t able to attend.
3. Recognize when your loved one needs support: Pay special attention to their emotions. “You don’t even have to ask someone directly if they are depressed—you can ask about mood, sadness, and symptoms that may be indicators of depression, such as fatigue, trouble falling asleep, and trouble concentrating,” explains Ganz.
Let them know they are not alone and that it’s okay to ask for help. There are many resources available for patients and caregivers. Contact your loved one’s healthcare team for more information to ensure you are both getting the support you need.
You can find more information on managing stress during the holidays here.