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Managing Holiday Stress with Cancer: Top 10 Tips for Patients and Families

Thu, 11/18/2021 - 15:30

woman in multi-colored sweater holding her hand to her forehead against a grey background covered with question marks

New Brunswick, N.J., November 19, 2021 –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 a difficult time. There are strategies to help reduce stress and keep cancer from dampening your holiday joy. Gabrielle Alvarez, MSW, LCSW and Samantha Campanella, MSW, L CSW, OSW-C, social workers at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, share some practical tips to minimize stress during the holiday season.

For Patients:

  • Recognize the physical and emotional stress attending gatherings may create. It is perfectly acceptable and appropriate to modify your plans to make time for adequate rest.
  • Focus on balanced meals, avoid excesses and make time for light exercise to reduce stress.
  • Self-care is an essential part of maintaining well-being and managing stress. Allow time for self-care activities you enjoy such as reading, listening to music or crafting.  
  • Remember it is normal to experience feelings of sadness over how cancer may have changed your holiday season.  Be patient, compassionate and gentle with yourself.
  • Though it may be uncomfortable expressing these normal feelings with family, friends or a helpful professional, do it anyway.  You might also consider joining a support group.

 For families and friends of cancer patients:

  • Instead of focusing on losses and what you and/or your loved ones aren’t able to do this year, try doing something new.
  • Volunteer to assist with activities like holiday shopping, cooking, or wrapping gifts.
  • Practice self care, too. Take the time you need to enjoy the holiday season for yourself.
  • If you have experienced a loss to cancer, allow yourself the space to express emotions when needed. Grief brings a range of emotions, from sadness and anger to guilt.
  • Most importantly, be there to listen to and support your loved one with cancer.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center together with RWJBarnabas Health offers support services for cancer patients and families, including stress management. Learn about our Patient Support Services program.  


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