It’s the holidays but not like you remember; filled with joy and your biggest worry was what to buy your impossible to shop for mother. You are now have cancer and everything has changed. The holidays with cancer are a hard time of the year because you are trying to take care of you while celebrating and it seems like an impossible task. Cancer makes remembering past holidays frustrating as you now feel disconnected from it. Trying to deal with the regular holiday stress while having treatment makes even the most simple tasks seem unbearable. Depending on what stage you are in, you might not enjoy the holiday foods because of your nausea and loss of appetite, you’re drained from chemotherapy treatment and you can’t holiday shop because of the new nerve problems associated with your cancer. So how do you navigate the holidays with cancer?

1. Know your limits

Knowing your limits will set the foundation for your holiday season this year. Understand you might not do all the things you could previous years and honor that. You know how fatigued you feel and how much you can handle, but also letting others know this as well can be helpful. Limit your activities to a level you can actually enjoy this holiday season.

2. Lower your expectations

It’s easy to get swept up in the holidays and want to have the perfect christmas despite the cancer. Planning to attend all the holiday events, eat all the food and do all the things, yet when you discover you cannot accomplish these things you feel let down and frustrated. By lowering your expectations you will be much happier and less likely to be disappointed. Try taking the holidays day by day and be grateful for what you have. Set modest realistic expectations for yourself and don’t over-commit.

3. Stay positive

The holiday blues are real which is why when it’s a time of the year that most people are prone to stress and depression, cancer patients should take extra care because they are at an even higher risk. Try looking for the positives and focus on them. Surround yourself with positive people who inspire you through your cancer journey. Consider a daily mantra for positive thinking. It’s also ok to not feel positive all the time, letting yourself grieve and talking to another person about that grief is part of the healing process.

4. Practice stress relief

You are stressed about your diagnose. You are stressed about cancer treatment. You are stressed about your future. And now you are stressed about the holidays. Your stress is probably at an all-time high and for good reason, try to practice good stress relief. Reach out to family or friends for emotional support. Take time for yourself and relax. Focus on things that make you happy you may have forgotten about since the diagnosis. Give yourself a break, it’s ok to not do a lot for the holidays this year.

5. Prepare family and friends of your condition

Along with worrying over all the cancer symptoms you’re probably experiencing, you might also worry about how your family will react. You may not eat food this year at holiday gatherings and your appearance might have changed. Preparing your family for this so they know what to expect will help both parties involved. Inform your family of your condition before the family gathering, it can be tiring having to repeat yourself to each individual person. It might also help to have one person relay your medical updates for you and keep everyone up to date. Take charge in conversations, your family might not know how to have a conversation with you in fear anything they say will upset you. Let your family know it’s ok to talk about your cancer (if you feel like talking about it) otherwise if you would rather talk about another topic, that’s ok too.

For more cancer support, checkout our specialized Cancer Warriors program and see how we can help.