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How To Cope With Holiday Stress & Depression & Colorectal Cancer


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Holidays are usually regarded as a time to celebrate traditions and connect with family and friends. At the same time, the holidays can be a stressful and depressing time for anyone, and particularly so for a person managing cancer. There are very few people who don’t experience some kind of holiday stress and anxiety.  Add the extra emotions of managing a colorectal cancer diagnosis, and the season can be quite overwhelming. 

Following are time tested tips that may help, many of which are based on the recommendations of the National Mental Health Association. Information about each tip is contained in other sections of this document.

  • Prioritize your activities.Get the most joy and satisfaction out of what matters most.
  • Revise holiday activities to fit your current physical and emotional condition and priorities, and to include people you care about. Don't over extend yourself. By pacing yourself, you will lessen the stress and have the energy to enjoy gatherings you do attend. 
  • Think about past holidays to see what has previously helped you cope. Look for consistent holidays stressors and do what you can to eliminate them. 
  • Keep your expectations realistic. It’s okay to feel sadness and joy at the same time.  Find a balance between time with family and friends and time for yourself.
  • If you are in treatment, ask your doctor if you can either take a break during the holidays or perhaps arrange your treatment schedule around events which are important to you so you'll feel your best.
  • If you're not physically or emotionally up to going shopping,  or not allowed in holiday crowds, shop online or from a catalogue. Enlist the help of others to pick things up for you. (You can avoid lines by shopping early in the day in brick and mortar stores.)
  • If a money crunch is causing stress, focus on the real meaning of the holiday. Heartfelt, homemade gifts send a thoughtful message. Create a budget.
  • Live healthy. Overindulgence increases stress. Be active, exercise, practice relaxation, get plenty of rest. Keep alcohol to a minimum. Keep food balanced and don't over do it.
  • Share your feelings. As Art Linkletter said, "Laughter is the best medicine." It's okay to cry. You are entitled to y our emotions. Sharing emotions with people close to you helps you deal with them.
  • If you are dealing with grief, use the holidays to help finish your grieving. Allow others to show their support.
  • Build in alone time.
  • Practice forgiveness.
  • If you're lonely, get busy.
  • Accept what you can't change.
  • Practice coping mechanisms such as religion/spirituality.
  • If you make resolutions, keep them doable
  • If seasonal decrease in sunlight causes you to suffer emotionally from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), get treatment.
  • Stay in the moment. 

If none of the above ideas work, call your doctor or other medical practitioner. Everyone has "the blues" now and then, but if you can't seem to pull yourself out of it, and your mood is affecting normal daily activities, it's time to get professional help. If suicidal thoughts appear, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (800.273.8255) or get to an emergency room.


  • If you are planning on traveling over the holidays, check with your doctor first about the timing of the trip, your proposed destination, and means of travel. For information about traveling, including how to prepare and what to pack in the carry-on click here
  • Don't be surprised if there is a post holiday let down.  It is not uncommon to feel a let-down if the holidays were extraordinary or disappointing, or even from stress or fatigue. 
  • Remember to stay on your daily medication schedule.  It can be easy to forget with holiday activities, but it’s not wise to skip your medications. If you do skip taking medications, let your doctor know. For information about buying, storing and living with medications, click here.

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