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Coping with Cancer during the Holidays

As the classic holiday song goes, it is the most wonderful time of the year. But do you know what else the happiest season of all brings? Stress. This year is no exception, especially with the continued threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With all the planning, shopping, decorating, and cooking, it’s easy to become tired and overwhelmed.  When cancer treatment is added to the mix, holiday stress can seem unmanageable. 

This year the holiday season may seem even more unbearable for those whose lives have been impacted by cancer due to needing to limit interactions with beloved family members, halting holiday traditions, and having constant concerns about your health care needs or those of a loved one.

If you or someone you love has cancer or another serious illness this holiday season, use these tips from the American Cancer Society to help lift your spirits and manage your merriment (and stress):


Give yourself permission to feel and express your feelings, whether of joy, fear, sadness, or pain.  Let yourself laugh or cry.

Take care of yourself: Eat balanced meals and make time for some exercise.  Physical activity is a good way to release tension.

Allow yourself simple pleasures -- hot baths, naps, favorite foods -- that will help lift your mood.

Find distractions like going to a movie, dinner, or a ball game; playing cards with friends; or other activities you enjoy.

Prepare for the holidays.  Decide if you want to continue certain traditions or create new ones.  Plan in advance how you want to spend your time, with whom, and for how long.

Enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, meal preparation, and cleanup.

Learn to say no.  You don't have to participate in everything.  People will understand if you can't do certain activities.


Don't pressure yourself with unrealistic expectations or try to do everything yourself.

Don't overindulge in alcohol.  Because alcohol is a depressant, it can “bring out” or heighten bad feelings.

Don't try to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

Don't shop ‘til you drop.  Stick to a budget if you are going shopping.  Buying things will not make up for any negative feelings you are having.  Decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items.  Then stick to your budget.

Don't try to do too much in one day.  Plan ahead, setting aside specific days for specific tasks.

Don't abandon healthy habits.  Eat and drink in moderation.  Get plenty of sleep.