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Six Tips to Help Manage Holiday Stress After Loss or a Cancer Diagnosis

Six tips to help manage holiday stress after loss or a cancer diagnosis.

Are you feeling stressed about the holidays, or rather, about all the expectations?

Who isn’t, right? 

Let’s talk about a few tips that might help in managing holiday stress following loss or a cancer diagnosis.

For tips specific to getting through the holidays after the death of a loved one, you might want to read or share, Twelve Tips for Getting Through the Holidays After Loss.  

After a cancer diagnosis, or after the loss of a loved one, the holidays can feel very different. They don’t feel the same because they aren’t the same.

If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, the reasons are obvious. After a cancer diagnosis things are not the same either. For example, your energy level is probably not what it was. 

Are you nodding your head yes about now?

You might be feeling anything but festive, and/or you might be feeling overwhelmed for a whole variety of reasons. However, you might still be expected to get the house cleaned and decorated, the shopping and baking done, the gifts wrapped, the cards done and attend school, work, church and family events.

And, of course, you’re expected to do all of these things while still appearing at least relatively cheery, more or less rested and definitely not too stressed.

Or are you?

Sometimes, we put way too many expectations on ourselves. 

So, here are six tips to help reduce (sorry, not eliminate) holiday stress.

1.  Cut back and ask for help.

Let me repeat. Cut back and ask for help. Just because you’ve always done holidays a certain way, it doesn’t mean you must keep on doing things the same way. And asking for help with anything that is making you feel stressed is perfectly fine, maybe even necessary.

2.  Forget about trying to create the perfect holiday.

It doesn’t exist anyway except in movies or on TV. After loss, a cancer diagnosis or during treatment, things just are not the same. Be realistic. Sometimes less really is more.

3.  Try to eat healthy, but for goodness sakes, enjoy the holiday eating too.

Remember it’s all about striving for balance and sometimes things are out of balance for a bit.

4.  Exercise and rest.

You need both (maybe even more so during the holidays) and it’s essential to carve out time every day for at least a bit of exercise (walking around the mall counts too) and as much rest as you can squeeze in.

5. Be real. Be you. It’s enough.

It’s perfectly fine, maybe even necessary, to have feelings of sadness, grief or whatever you might be feeling mixed in with joy and happiness. Feelings never have to be of only one kind, not even during the holidays.

6.  Remember when the holidays are over, no one will care or remember that your turkey was dry, that your house wasn’t clean, how many gifts they got (or even what they got) or that you didn’t bake umpteen kinds of cookies like you used to.

No, they will remember conversations enjoyed, hugs given and received and time spent reminiscing about loved ones.

Mostly, they will remember the togetherness and the love.

So, try to stop stressing (I know, it’s easier said than done) and just enjoy whatever unfolds for you and your family and friends during this special time of year.

Remember, your holiday will be special simply because it’s yours.

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What tips do you have to help handle holiday stress following loss or a cancer diagnosis? 

Six Tips to Help Manage Holiday Stress #holidays #selfcare #loss #grief #cancer #stress


Wednesday 9th of December 2015

My level of sadness is pretty bad around this time of year. I saw a therapist yesterday to talk about my fear of cancer recurrence and ended up making the entire session about my grandma. Forget cancer, where's my grandma at?!

The one tip I would add, is that for people like me, who have their entire family living outside of the U.S., to try to connect with them. If you have a computer with video, make a date with them to talk about memories. I tend to feel disappointed when I don't get calls from my family during the holidays, and I don't a lot of the times. But it's OK to initiate the communication and to be in charge (to be the adult). And besides, maybe they are having a hard time too which is why they aren't calling. Make that connection with your love ones.

Also, find a sense of community in any way you can. People nearby, or even people online, can provide support in new and different ways.

As for grief, the only advice I have is to let it happen. Also, writing about my grandma has helped me. Perhaps it can help you too.

Thank you for these tips, Nancy.


Wednesday 9th of December 2015

Rebecca, That's a great tip you added there since many people do live a long distance from loved ones. Good advice on the grief too. Grief needs to be felt, even during the holidays. I'm glad you find writing about your grandma helpful. I know you miss her so much. Thanks for sharing.


Monday 22nd of December 2014

Great tips!


Monday 22nd of December 2014

Mandi, Thank you!

Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC)

Sunday 21st of December 2014

Thanks for this Nancy. Just the reminder I need this week. Wishing you and your family and peaceful Christmas and all good things in the New Year.


Monday 22nd of December 2014

Marie, Wishing the same for you and yours, Marie. Special thoughts go out to you as you continue to miss your dear mum. xo

karen sutherland

Saturday 20th of December 2014

dear Nancy,

such thoughtful, practical, and inspiring tips - thank you! this will be my second c'mas since Hugh died. last year the pall of shock was still in place, and I did everything on auto-pilot mode, feeling so bad that my children and grandchildren had already lost their Father and their Papa - I couldn't bear to think of them feeling so terribly sad for me not being able to celebrate with them. but this year, as most of the shock has worn off I have not been able to bear having a tree, signing cards with only my name - it's all become REAL that Hugh is gone. so I've carried on with the minimum, just selecting gifts for my nearest and dearest, and will be going to my son, d-I-l, and grandchildren for c'mas day. this evening I was writing a list of the things left to do and it felt so overwhelming. I pushed that list aside and began another one, just for me. the first word I wrote was "BREATHE". I know that intense grief is exhausting, so added taking a nap; and feeling gratitude is one of re-newal, so I will sift through all the kindness and love written in the many c'mas cards I've received. I will visit the elderly widow next door who is often lonely and hates to eat alone, and bring her lunch for us to enjoy together. I will take time to give my Sadie-girl dog some good long walks around the big pond at the nearby park, and drop off a big bag of dog and kittie toys at our local animal shelter. I will revisit c'masses past that Hugh and I shared with such bliss and delight, and probably cry, but that's okay - it's a cryable event , bittersweet, one that my tears can be both happy and sad - and will savor feeling Hugh's presence wrapping me up in such sweet and enduring love. all these things and more add up to what I know I need - self care - and then feeling enormously grateful for all I have in my life.

I wish you and you loved one happiness, joy, and peace...

...with much love,

Karen OXO and a special hello to dear Brenda - gee, I have missed you! OXO


Monday 22nd of December 2014

Karen, You know all too well about grieving during the holidays and beyond. I'm sure your emotions are all over the map, especially this time of year. Please know you are wrapped in love by many. Thank you for your heartfelt comment and for the kind holiday wishes too. xoxo

Brenda Coffee

Wednesday 17th of December 2014

Hi Nancy, Great post. In some way, I think we can all identify. Christmas Day will be the fourth year without James. In someways, it feels like yesterday, but in others, it was a lifetime ago. After James's death, his family broke up, which was another huge loss. Guess I've turned to work to fill the gap. I have a big project due January 1st, so Christmas Day will find me before my computer. My choice:) Happy New Year Sweet Lady! XOXOXO, Brenda


Friday 19th of December 2014

Brenda, It's so nice to hear from you. I'm sure Jame's death still does feel like yesterday in some ways and like a life time ago in others. I'm sorry his family broke up too, and yes, that's another huge loss. I'm glad you've had your new work venture to turn to. Looking forward to hearing more about that big project. Happy New Year to you too, Brenda. Thank you for reading and sharing. xo

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