Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J., November 22, 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:

  1. 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.
  1. Focus on balanced meals, avoid excesses and make time for light exercise to reduce stress.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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:

  1. Instead of focusing on losses and what you and/or your loved ones aren’t able to do this year, try doing something new.
  1. Volunteer to assist with activities like holiday shopping, cooking, or wrapping gifts.
  1. Practice self care, too. Take the time you need to enjoy the holiday season for yourself.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.