The holiday season is nearly upon us. Plans for social gatherings are in the works. The malls are filled with the sights and sounds of the season. Families are mapping out their holiday meals. But for people fighting cancer, the joy of the holidays may be tempered by stress, sadness and worry over your diagnosis and treatment. The chaos of the coming weeks does not help. But there are ways for you to de-stress and take the time to enjoy the season.

Instead of looking forward to spending time with your loved ones, you may be asking, “How do I manage the holidays while paying attention to what is best for my health?” Elaine Smith, MS, LMFT, Mind-Body Therapist at our hospital near Atlanta, offers these tips for cancer patients trying to navigate the holidays:

Make realistic plans.

  • Draft a priority list of activities.
  • Even if this year is different from years past, focus on the here and now with an open mind and gratitude for the positives in your life.
  • Develop a budget and stick to it. Financial challenges may extend your stress to the post-holiday season.
  • Make plans to accommodate your life today, not how it used to be.

Assess your energy level realistically.

  • Recognize that coping with fatigue and treatment may be overwhelming.
  • Take the time each morning to gauge your energy level for the day.
  • Schedule your activities according to how you feel that day. Energy levels wax and wane, so each day will be different.
  • Stay positive.

Be open and honest.

  • Say yes when you mean it.
  • Say no, without guilt, when you feel it is in your best interest for your health and emotional well-being.
  • Share your thoughts and feelings with others.

Get more than enough rest.

  • Pace yourself. Overdoing it and being overstimulated may affect our sleep patterns.
  • Make sleep a priority. Sleep is restorative and healing. A lack of sleep may wear you out and affect your mood.

Take time to revitalize yourself.

  • Relax by practicing mindfulness breathing.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Use guided imagery and positive mental images to help relieve stress.
  • Spend 15 minutes a day on mind-body techniques, which may positively affect your physical and mental health.

Maintain healthy habits.

  • Be careful about over-indulging. The holidays are often a “free for all” for many. Practice moderation.
  • Enjoy special foods and activities, but stick to your health plan.

The holidays are a special time of year. They provide an opportunity to spend quality time with people you love. While it may be easy to get wrapped up in the gift-giving frenzy, balance the potential fun of holiday cheer with the realization that as a cancer patient, your health and well-being should be your number one priority. “Giving a gift can bring us joy,” says Smith. “But sharing the gift of ourselves with those we love can be priceless.”