Managing Mental Health during the Holiday Season

New Brunswick, N.J., November 21, 2023 –If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, caring for a family member or friend who has cancer, or grieving the loss of a loved one who had cancer, the holidays can be a difficult time. There are strategies to help reduce stress and keep cancer from dampening your holiday joy. Lauren Campasano, MSW, LSW and Elizabeth Brady, MSW, LCSW, social workers at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health, share some practical tips to minimize stress during the holiday season.

   Graphic image of mental health tips  Graphic image of mental health tips          

  • ​​​Continue your daily routine. Routines, even simple ones, can be important anchors to maintaining good mental health and dealing with anxiety. 
  • Put your own needs first – recognize the power in saying ‘no.’ Putting yourself first can create more mental health stability by helping with self-care and build your self-esteem and confidence by setting boundaries. 
  • Join a support group or individual peer support program. Look for cancer support groups in your area or search online to connect with those who truly understand what you are going through.
  • Breathe. Studies have shown that practicing breathing exercises and mindfulness can lead to better mental health and positive emotions.
  • Engage your senses. Grounding exercises that activate your five senses — sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste, helps to ease anxiety by encouraging you to focus on the present moment. 
  • Check in with yourself emotionally. Take intentional steps to pay attention to how you feel on an emotional, mental, and physical level. 
  • Avoid going down a rabbit hole of web searches. Scrolling for hours can worsen existing mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression and increase panic and worry. 
  • Connect with and lean on your support system. Seeking support from a trusted family member or friend can help you feel less alone.
  • Engage in radical self-care. Make your mental wellness a top priority every day.  
  • Try mindfulness exercises. Creating a gratitude list, engaging in a walking meditation or eating slowly are some examples. 
  • Express your emotions in whatever way is comfortable to you. Maybe you like to express your feelings through art or writing. 
  • Take one day at a time. This approach can reduce anxiety about the future, allowing us to have a calmer and clearer mind. 

Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health, the state’s leading cancer program and only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, offers support services for cancer patients and families. Learn about our Patient Support Services program.  

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