The holidays can be overwhelmingly stressful during the best of times, but this year there have been lots of new challenges with COVID-19 as a factor. Planning, decorating and cooking can be exhausting, but add a cancer diagnosis to that and it can all seem too much. To help alleviate some of the stress, we’ve provided some guidance on how to safely enjoy the holidays and take on the new year.

When planning on how you will spend the holidays during this challenging time, consider the risk involved, especially when going through cancer treatments. Remember the reason for the season. Find joy in the little things and be flexible with your plans this year. Don’t overcommit yourself and accept that it is okay to take a break when needed. Ask for help from family and friends if things become too overwhelming. They will be glad to help! Most importantly, spend time with people who will lift your spirits and help you to enjoy this holiday season.

Don’t delay your care

Wherever you are in your cancer journey, it is important you do not stop treatment because of COVID-19 or the holidays. Talk to your doctor about how to safely continue your treatments. At Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA we are taking every precaution to keep you safe during appointments and treatments.

Here are some suggestions to help brighten your holidays:

  • Start some new traditions and make new memories. You can do all kinds of activities virtually like cooking, playing board games, and even virtual dinner parties.
  • Allow family and friends to help. Speak up if you need something and don’t refuse if they volunteer. You do not have to get it all done by yourself.
  • Stay connected with family, friends and your support groups virtually. You are not alone in this journey.
  • Stay active, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. This is the time to take care of you. Being outside and amidst nature as well as engaging in some safe physical activity is psychologically healing.
  • Explain to loved ones and friends that you may not be able to attend some events because you may not feel up to it and don’t want to put your own health at risk. They will understand.
  • As always, our doctors and support teams are here for you. Please contact us with any questions or concerns you may have.

Cancer Support Services

According to the CDC, there are certain people who should not attend in-person holiday gatherings:

  • People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Anyone waiting for COVID-19 results.
  • Anyone who believes they may have been exposed in the last 7 days.
  • Anyone who is at severe risk of illness from COVID-19.

Learn more from the CDC: Holiday Considerations

Relax and remain joyous this holiday season:

  • Remember the true meaning of the holidays. It’s not about expensive gifts and wearing yourself out. It’s about spending time with loved ones. Visits may be virtual this year and things much calmer all around, so get some rest, read a book, catch up on movies and reflect on all the things you have to be thankful for.
  • Give yourself a break this year. Nothing is perfect and doesn’t need to be. When going through treatment, your energy levels are often impacted.
  • Don’t worry about disappointing people. Only do as much as you feel comfortable doing. People will understand.
  • If you are feeling alone or isolated and want further social connection resources, reach out to us and we can help look into different options with you.

Remember that it is common to feel overwhelmed during the holidays. Cancer and COVID-19 may be adding to those feelings this year. If you find yourself struggling during the holiday season, please reach out to our cancer support team for support. We will be happy to help and can connect you with a variety of different support services. Please use the following link to learn more about our services.

Contact Our Cancer Support Team

Cancer Support Services

Watch our webinar, Cancer Support Services – Your Partners in Care to learn about our psychiatry, clinical social work and survivorship cancer support services.

Additional Resources:

Here are some additional resources to help support you this holiday season and into 2021

About the Authors

Joseph Greenberg

Joseph Greenberg is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked in the field of medical social work since 2013. His clinical interests involve applying modalities of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness meditation techniques and other forms of supportive therapy. Learn More About Joseph Greenberg, LCSW.

Caroline, M.S.W. Sarafin,

Caroline Sarafin, M.S.W., is an outpatient social worker at Providence at Saint John’s Health Center. Her clinical interests involve applying modalities of cognitive behavioral therapy, direct practice with individuals, families, and groups, and providing other forms of supportive therapy. Learn More About Caroline Sarafin, M.S.W..