Tips for Anxiety and Loss of Appetite During Seasonal Holidays

Health & Wellness

It’s the time of year where we gather together with friends, family and coworkers to celebrate the end of another year and the seasonal holidays. Ideally, it’s a festive time of celebration and connecting with loved ones. But for those diagnosed with mesothelioma, festive feasts can cause some anxiety and feelings of isolation.

Eating and drinking is usually a big part of holiday celebrations. Seasonal favorites include egg nog, Christmas cookies, babka, challah bread, mulled wine, sweet potato pie and other decadent offerings. 

For many people with mesothelioma, eating and drinking can be a challenge as a result of a variety of treatments or disease symptoms. Loss of appetite, nausea, pain, fluid retention (ascites), mouth sores, constipation or diarrhea can all impact the ability and desire to eat. If a mesothelioma patient is struggling with eating or weight loss, they may need to limit their consumption of certain foods that can exacerbate their symptoms. 

Not being able to eat much during the festivities of the holiday season can be a source of stress. But our tips can help make holiday gatherings more enjoyable.

Navigating the Emotional and Social Factors of Food

A balanced mesothelioma diet is particularly important for survivors, but food and drinks are not only nourishment and hydration for our body. They have significant social and emotional meanings as well. 

We show affection and celebrate important events with food, like the tradition of birthday cake and ice cream. We bond socially over a cup of coffee with a friend or a pitcher of beer while playing darts at a sports bar or pub. We demonstrate care and concern for a sick friend when we bring them soup if they’re sick or a casserole if they’re mourning. 

Because mesothelioma survivors often need to adjust their diet to manage symptoms and treatment side effects, they’re not always able to participate in celebrations the same way they did before their diagnosis. Not being able to enjoy the same foods as your loved ones during a holiday gathering can lead to feeling isolated.

Not being able to eat and drink celebratory food and beverages may feel like a painful loss and reminder of the challenges of mesothelioma. It can also feel stressful from a social perspective. 

Family and friends may unknowingly pressure or guilt the survivor for not eating or drinking like everyone else. Pressures to join in the fun and not offend hosts when declining food or sadness about missing out on things that usually bring joy can cause feelings of anxiety and isolation.

4 Tips for Maximizing Holiday Enjoyment

These four tips can help minimize social isolation and eating issues during the holidays. With some adjustments, people diagnosed with mesothelioma can still enjoy holiday gatherings at this time of year.

1. Focus on the people, not the food.

Ultimately, most people are drawn to gatherings not only for the food but for the connection to our loved ones.  Even if we can’t enjoy all the food and drinks during the holiday season, we can still share stories, give and receive support and make each other laugh.

2. Eat and hydrate well before the social event.

If we’re well-nourished prior to arriving at a social gathering, then we may not feel like we’re missing out on the food that is being served.

3. Give the host(ess) a heads up.

Let the host know in advance that you may not be able to enjoy all the food served at their event and that you may need to bring food of your own. Most people understand that someone going through mesothelioma treatment may struggle with certain side effects that will affect what they eat. A good host will be supportive of you bringing what you need.

4. Ask for support.

Ask a family member or friend to support you. Sometimes well-meaning loved ones may encourage the person with mesothelioma to cheat a bit on their “diet” because it’s a special occasion. Having a support person to help reinforce the eating challenges may cut down on any social pressure.

Taking care of yourself and focusing on the joy of being with our loved ones can help make gatherings more enjoyable. Happy Holidays!

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