Christmas carols playing in the background everywhere you go, menorahs lit in the windows, Kwanzaa displays in storefronts, incessant toy commercials – it’s the holiday season.

Whether or not you celebrate a holiday this time of year, it is hard not to get caught up in the pressures that the holidays bring- shopping, cooking, decorating, being cheerful.

That is true for everyone, but it is especially true for cancer patients and their caregivers. You may be dealing with physical aches and pains, side-effects of your medication and treatments as well as with feelings of depression.

It is vital that you protect yourself from these stressors, as elevated stress can negatively affect the healing process, even suppressing the immune system.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “With chronic stress…your immunity is lowered and your digestive, excretory and reproductive systems stop working normally. Once the threat has passed, other body systems act to restore normal functioning. People under chronic stress are prone to more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold, and vaccines, such as the flu shot are less effective for them.” This time of year, it is vital to protect yourself from stress as much as possible to assure that you don’t become sick.

Here are 10 tips for relieving holiday stress in this busy season:

1. Make a list of the things that you know cause you stress during this time of year. Either eliminate those tasks, ask others to help with them, or simplify them.

2. Keep your planning simple. Sit down with your loved ones and find a way to simplify your rituals. Prioritize your rituals, and divide the labor.

3. Make yourself the number one priority on the list. It is vital that you keep up with all your treatment protocols, and that you are focused on your recovery.

4. Be aware of your stress levels and physical limitations. Try to limit your tasks to ones you truly enjoy, and that won’t push you too far.

5. Don’t forget your healthy living routine. Plenty of rest, eating healthy foods and exercising will help you to have more energy to spend with family and friends.

6. Don’t ignore feelings of sadness. The holidays can be difficult, as you deal with not only the limitations your illness places upon you, but also the financial strain a serious illness brings. These feelings are normal. Seek support of loved ones, a support group or a professional if these feelings become debilitating.

7. Find moments of comfort for yourself. Take a bubble bath, listen to your favorite music, cuddle up with a cup of tea and a good book or your favorite pet, watch your favorite holiday movie, or plan to have lunch with a friend.

8. Try one of the holistic healing activities that other cancer survivors have found helpful in relieving stress: Meditation, yoga, reiki, art and music therapy are all excellent tools.

9. Remember to have fun. If you could do just one thing during the holidays to have fun, what would it be?

10. Find the true meaning in the holidays for yourself. Concentrate on that, whether it be spiritual meaning, time with family and friends or remembering holidays past, it is not the hectic pace and unrealistic expectations that truly make a holiday special.

Remember that you are not alone. The Life Raft Group community is here for you, during the holiday season,
and all year long.