How To Cope With Holiday Stress As A Cancer Survivor - Karen Berrios

How To Cope With Holiday Stress As A Cancer Survivor

The holiday season should be full of many blessings. It should be full of hope and love and excitement. Unfortunately, many people feel the exact opposite with the holiday season.

For them it could feel like too much exhaustion or fighting that comes from seeing extended family. It could be grief behind missing someone special in their lives. It could be overwhelming because we can’t afford gifts.

This could be true for anyone and add on top of that cancer, and the holidays can be even more tough. You might not feel good, physically, during the holidays. You may have to spend the time in a hospital. You may feel exhausted from all the people time. Or sadness because cancer highlights just how short life can be.

Here are my tips for keeping stress at bay during the holiday season

1. Start each day in prayer or meditation

The second I open my eyes, I make sure for my mind to go to a peaceful place full of gratitude. Gratitude for the new day. Gratitude for what opportunities await me. Gratitude for the beautiful world. Your mind can have a ripple effect, where each thought effects the next. Start the ripple off strong with a positive mindset full of thankfulness.

It may not end up being the perfect day, and things will happen, but your day will, at the very least, will have had a great start to it.

Every day I speak out loud specific affirmations to Jesus (Download my free daily declarations here) and I take dedicated time to not only start my first moments in peace, but then so spend dedicated moments following WITH the Lord. Maybe this looks like meditation for you. What is important is that you do it.

2. Make sure you are getting high quality sleep

If you are sleep deprived, your body will start to go haywire. Your immune system will start to go down, and your mood will suffer.

If anything, you must get good sleep during the holidays as a cancer patient if you want to ward off stress. A night of high quality sleep can make anyone feel renewed!

Sleep is important for detoxing and regenerating new cells as well! Especially in the brain! (Source) I am not a doctor but I will say, when fighting cancer, I made sleep a huge priority (holidays or not) and my body is better for it. It is not necessarily how long you sleep for ( I prefer 8 hours) but how well you sleep. The quality of your sleep. Make sure you are in a room with little to no artificial light. Make sure you don’t consume caffeine too late. All of these things can negatively impact sleep and thus impact your level of holiday stress.

3. Understand what stress does to your body and change what you can

Stress can wreak havoc on the body. It can steal energy away that we need for healing. It can impact our posture. Our hormones. Our immune system. Cancer patients should always be aware of their stress levels in any given moment, and be willing to change something (leaving a conversation, sleeping longer, etc)  if they are feeling stressed.

Chronic stress in general can cause cortisol levels to remain elevated. Cortisol can affect anxiety and blood pressure, amongst other things.  (Souce + Source) So be cognizant.

A solution that can help is practicing yoga or certain exercises, as exercise can help with stress.  Not only should we be concerned about cortisol, but we should also care about insulin when it comes to stress and cancer. Exercising regularly CAN positively impact insulin levels. (Source)

There was a study done in breast cancer survivors who were able to significantly lower their insulin resistance levels after 16 weeks of cardiovascular and strength training exercises. (Source) Movement is so so important. Read what I have to say about that here.

4. Take a stress-supporting adaptogen

Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that can help the body resist stressors- be it physical, chemical, or biological. They are meant to balance out the body where we need balance and there are many of them that can all provide different functions.

You need to find ones that work for you. For instance, I really like Holy Basil. It’s known as Tulsi and it can help people adapt to stress. For me, I like it because it supports the HPA axis and adrenals- which in turn also supports the thyroid. (Source) I am getting multi-benefits from it, it’s helping my stress levels AND it’s helping my thyroid!

One that is universal for stress is Maca. Gelatinized maca (more bioavailable) has powerful cancer-fighting properties and is a classic adaptogen that helps with stress! One study found that not only did maca consumption help ease some of the psychological and physical symptoms of menopause (which includes stress), but that it also lowered levels of cortisol- which of course is related to stress as it’s the “stress hormone.”

Try Maca in your lattes and teas this holiday season, thank me later. 😉 It can also help keep your energy levels up! Which is great for the holidays.

5. Make sure you are eating the rainbow (along with your treats)

During the holiday season, you should definitely indulge a bit (unless you have food allergies), but also, when you’re not indulging, make sure your plate is full of lots of color.
Eating the rainbow keeps your cells working and helps them renew, keeps your energy levels up, and boosts your immune system. It’s all about getting those phytochemicals in.

Just think about variety. Harvard describes phytochemicals as this, “Phytochemicals are literally plant (phyto) chemicals: compounds in plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes) that contribute to their color, taste, and smell. They give carrots their vibrant orange hue, Brussels sprouts their bitter taste, and hot peppers their searing bite. Phytochemicals are found in all edible parts of a plant, especially the skin or peel.”

If we are to eat treats, we need to protect our DNA. When our cells feel good, our minds feel good. Seriously- stress has a strong mind/body connections. Feel protected knowing you are caring for yourself at a cellular level by still eating fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables over the holidays.

By the way, some studies have gone as far to say that phytochemicals can modulate epigenetic alterations  of DNA methylation. Genetic mutations cannot be reversed, but epigenetic alterations can actually be restored to their normal state.

When I get stressed about cancer (and I used to get extra stressed about it during the holidays) I would tell myself that at least one thing I am doing is fueling my body! It gave me peace.

6. Take Camu Camu each day

One thing that can be stressful for Cancer patients with the holidays is being around people and thus worrying about their immune systems. Or having a flare-up of inflammation. I love getting in whole food Vitamin C for this reason, and my daily choice is incorporating Camu Camu. Especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was around more and more people during my time of cancer.

A quick background on Camu Camu, it is a tart berry that is similar in size and color to the cherry. It is native to the Amazon rainforest and grows from a shrub in swampy areas. It’s scientific name is Myrciaria dubia. It was one of the first products I came out with, knowing how important this fruit can be for the cancer community.

One serving of my raw and organic camu camu gets you 1200% of your daily vitamin C needs. This scientific analysis is a great breakdown of camu camu. Vitamin C in general is really great for helping the body's tissues and we even see benefits in the seeds of camu camu, which contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that can suppress inflammation. (Source)

Vitamin C provides a huge boost to the immune system. It is an essential nutrient, so our bodies can’t make it naturally. We must get it through food and/or supplementation. One way it helps the immune system is by providing electrons to where it is needed.

Make Camu Camu a daily thing. Maybe you will keep it around all year!

I recommend putting a teaspoon of camu camu in your smoothies, tea, dressings and baking.

7. Get your spine aligned

During the holiday, we are on our feet more. We may be standing in the kitchen for long periods of time or going for long holidays walks. For this reason alone, it’s a good thing to get your spinal health checked.

Another reason to get adjusted at the Chiropractor during the holidays is because it can help your immune system as well.

How it works is this: If your body’s systems cannot communicate with each other, proper healing cannot occur. Misalignments in your spine can block the central nervous system’s communication pathways.

Chiropractic work gets your spine back in alignment in order to unblock these communication pathways. Proper alignment of your spine prevents or relieves stress on the nervous system; opens up the signaling pathways between your nervous system, organs, and immune system; and in the process boosts your immune system and your body’s ability to self-heal overall.

Sounds like a good thing to do over the holidays, huh? 😉

8. Know that God has you in every capacity and can alleviate stress

Work with God when it comes to stress. Tell him what is going on and have a plan for when stress arises. During the holidays there will be times when you need to self-regulate- recognizing when stress is bubbling up, anxiety is kicking in, and knowing what to do to stop it. This will help you stay mindful of your needs, your environment, and your choices. Have a call to action for you to follow when dealing with stress and anxiety.

One of my “calls to action” when I feel stress bubbling up? I simply pray! Prayer alone gets me out of my head and into my heart. One good prayer you could say out loud during the holidays that I love for myself all days of the year: I choose to be happy today and embrace all the love and every blessing God has given me.

Enjoy the holidays! You got this.

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