Nurturing the Caregiver: Managing Holiday Stress - CancerChoices

Effective caregiving is crucial for the physical and emotional well-being of individuals with cancer. While balancing your own needs with those of your loved one may seem challenging, nurturing your own resilience and well-being, particularly during busy seasons like the holidays, will benefit both you and the person you are caring for.

The holidays carried a unique weight when my husband was in the thick of cancer treatments, awaiting approval for a liver transplant. Balancing the needs of a sick husband with the festive expectations of our three young children felt like an emotional rollercoaster. Reflecting on that challenging time, I recall simple stress-relief techniques that saw me through.

Unmanaged stress can significantly impact daily life, affecting not only emotional health but also our physical well-being. That chaotic holiday season, I learned  that managing stress didn’t require me to climb a mountain, it could be as simple as a commitment to remember myself. Recognizing my roles as a caregiver, mom, friend, and more, I understood the importance of self-care. Putting on my own mask first and showing self-love allowed me to be the caregiver, wife, and mother that I wanted to be.

Here are a few simple ways I incorporated stress relief during that emotionally and physically demanding time, all of which I continue to use on a daily basis. What worked for me may not work for everyone, but the key is to pay attention to what feels good.  Learn little moments that bring joy–even if it’s the simplest of things–and try to do, see or feel more of that. Step back and observe how you are reacting to certain situations or people, and give yourself the grace and honor to prioritize your needs accordingly.  While the challenges faced by those with cancer are immense, caregivers also experience a profound journey. By taking small steps in self-care, we can be more present for ourselves and our loved ones. Stress management plays a crucial role in that self-care.

Regardless of the practices and habits you choose to incorporate to reduce stress, recognize that you deserve self-love. You are fulfilling an incredibly important role for someone who greatly needs you, and you are making a difference. I wish you warmth and love this holiday season.

Step outside for a deep breath

Whenever things felt overwhelming, I stepped outside. Just 30 seconds of outdoor air can work wonders. Changing your location gives you a moment to reset, gain perspective, and look at things from the outside in.

Balance sleep

A good night’s rest is crucial for stress management, allowing your body time to recover and recharge. Despite the challenges of getting sound sleep with so much on your mind, many different strategies can help, such as limiting blue light in the evening, engaging in physical activity, and considering supplements like melatonin. 

Feel gratitude

Regardless of my feelings or my family’s challenges, I tried to remind myself that others were facing even greater suffering. Balancing tenderness and compassion for myself and my family with perspective was crucial. Each night, I tried to think of one thing I felt grateful for, settling into the night with a peaceful heart.

Get physical activity

Physical activity can be a powerful stress reliever. After a brisk walk or a good workout, I instantly feel lighter and recharged. Finding what works for you during this busy season is key—whether it’s starting your morning with five minutes of yoga, an evening walk with a friend, or taking the stairs instead of an elevator when the opportunity arises, every bit of movement counts.

Share love and support

Family, friends, and our community provided essential love and support, for which I am deeply grateful. Spiritual connection also played a significant role. Feeling loved and supported takes different forms for each of us, but meaningful relationships, being heard, and feeling seen are vital aspects of caregiving.

For more inspiration and guidance on caregiving, explore our Caregiver Handbook.

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About the Author

Melissa Oprish

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Melissa Oprish brings several years of experience working in marketing, content creation, and writing with a focus on wellness, parenting, and food. Melissa has been closely touched by cancer through her husband’s diagnosis and believes deeply in the power of not just physical healing, but spiritual and emotional healing as well. Melissa’s educational background is in sociology and marketing with a recent certification in holistic nutrition.

Melissa Oprish Communication and Outreach Lead