Self-Care for Caregivers: Adjusting Holiday Expectations

Cancer & Caregiving

Being a caregiver to your loved one with mesothelioma may bring on a myriad of thoughts and feelings and present new challenges to overcome. Most caregivers admit that the holiday season feels different than the ones before mesothelioma came into their lives. 

Here we’ll share some helpful hints to help navigate the holiday season this year as a caregiver.

Acknowledge and Validate

It’s helpful to simply admit that this year feels different than past holidays. It’s certainly okay to grieve a bit as you remember how you and your loved ones celebrated the holidays and new year before your loved one’s mesothelioma diagnosis.  

If you’re not able to participate in certain holiday traditions or travel to visit family this year because of your loved one’s health or your caregiving responsibilities, it’s completely understandable to feel sad and disappointed. Give yourself permission to not feel quite as “jolly” this time of year if you just aren’t feeling it. 


Take a moment and think back on previous holidays throughout your life. Make a note of any holiday memories you have that are particularly meaningful to you. What traditions or activities do you remember fondly? 

Did you enjoy building a snowman, shopping for a tree with the family, decorating the house with lights, attending religious services, shopping at the mall, hosting holiday gatherings or making certain holiday foods or treats? Reflect for a moment on what was special to you about each tradition or activity. Gathering with loved ones? Being outside and working as a team on a project? Feeling spiritual? 

As a caregiver, you may not have the opportunity or the energy to do all the things you used to. But it’s possible to find other activities or create new traditions that feel meaningful to you with a little bit of modification and flexibility.


As a caregiver, you are probably used to making adjustments to your schedule or routine depending on the health or mesothelioma treatment schedule of your loved one. The holiday season is no different. 

You may need to scale back on hosting a lot of people for a big meal and instead invite fewer people over for a catered meal or ask guests to participate in a potluck. You may be fortunate enough to have family or friends who want to help and you can take them up on offers to let them do some shopping for you or help decorate the house. 

It can be challenging for some caregivers to reach out and ask for help with practical things like shopping or running errands. Some caregivers may feel like it’s their job to take care of everything or they don’t want to impose on others. It’s important to give yourself permission to ask for help or to decline to be responsible for some holiday activities that you used to do. Many caregivers have family and friends who offer to help but they may not know exactly what would be helpful. Make a list of tasks that you can delegate to those people.

You may not feel up to attending a crowded religious service for various health reasons. You may want to explore other ways to honor the holidays spiritually at home or attend a smaller service on a different day. Make room for flexibility this holiday season.

Support and Self-Care

There are different types of support that you may need at different times: emotional or practical. Caregivers may benefit from reaching out to other caregivers when they are struggling with sadness or disappointment. 

You may feel alone in your struggle during a time of the year when it seems like everyone else is celebrating and having fun. Connecting with other caregivers can help alleviate that isolation to give you a place to share your thoughts and feelings with others who understand what you are going through. 

The Mesothelioma Center has a few options to connect with other caregivers including our monthly virtual Mesothelioma Support group and our Facebook group – Mesothelioma Survivor, Caregiver and Family Support. Both groups are open only to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. 

Self-care is always important but seems to be the very thing that caregivers scratch off their “to do” list when life feels stressful and overwhelming. You need to listen to your body when it’s telling you to slow down and rest for a while. Your body and mind operate at their best when you get enough sleep, eat well and allow yourself some down time. It’s vital to your well-being to give yourself permission to sit on the sofa to watch a favorite holiday movie or to read a book. 

Whether this holiday season is your first as a caregiver or not, you’ll notice that it feels different. Acknowledging the difference and giving yourself permission to have some mixed feelings about it is the first step to adjust to the new normal of life with mesothelioma. Maybe the best holiday gift for yourself is to give yourself permission to ask for help and to take some time for yourself this holiday season!

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