8 ways reduce fatigue and increase energy around the holidays

November 22, 2022 | by Samir Undevia, MD

Some days, there just isn’t enough time to accomplish everything we have on our ‘to-do’ list. During the holidays, our list of tasks is even longer, filled with decorating, shopping, dinners with friends and wrapping presents for our loved ones.

It can be easy to feel tired, stressed or burned out by the time the big man in the red suit arrives. For cancer patients, the feeling of fatigue is entirely different.

As one of the most common cancer-related symptoms, people with cancer describe fatigue as feeling weak, listless, drained or washed out. Some may even feel too tired to eat, walk to the bathroom or even use the TV remote.  

Other signs of cancer-related fatigue include:

  • Feeling tired and the feeling doesn’t get better with rest or sleep, keeps coming back, or becomes severe  
  • Feeling more tired than usual during or after an activity, or feeling tired and it is not related to an activity
  • Noticing you’re putting less energy into your personal appearance
  • Feeling like you are weak, have no energy, and are too tired to do the things you normally do
  • Feeling like your arms and legs feel heavy and hard to move
Cancer-related fatigue can be caused by numerous factors, including anemia, cancer treatment, the cancer itself and depression.

How can you reduce fatigue and boost your energy throughout the holiday season? Try these tips:

  • Find alternative ways to deal with stress, including deep breathing, meditation, talking with others, reading, coloring or listening to music.
  • Know your limits. Listen to your body and pay attention to how much rest you need. Avoid over committing and over extending yourself.
  • Shop online. Logging miles in the local mall, carrying loads of shopping bags and dealing with the stress of picking out the perfect gift can be tiring. Save your energy and try shopping online from the comfort of your home.
  • Move during cancer treatment. Exercise can boost your energy, improve balance and keep muscles from wasting away due to inactivity. Talk to your doctor about an exercise regimen that will work for you.
  • Eat healthy. Good nutrition is essential when going through treatment. A healthy diet can help you feel better, fight infections and keep your body strong. Here are a few ideas of how to eat well when fighting cancer.
  • Make a realistic to-do list. It is great to be organized, but it can often be overwhelming when we realize how much we need to get done in a short amount of time. List your activities in order of how important they are to you so you can do the more important ones when you have the most energy.
  • Rest, but limit your zzzz’s. The American Cancer Society recommends planning your day so you have time to rest. Take short naps or rest breaks (30 minutes or less), rather than long naps during the day. Too much rest can lower your energy level and make it harder to sleep at night.
  • Plan get-togethers with family, friends or coworkers. Laughter is contagious. Having the support of our friends and family often puts us in a better mood and increases our energy level.

Talk to your doctor if you find your feeling of fatigue gets worse, persists or interferes with your ability to accomplish everyday tasks.  Also keep in mind the true reason for the season – spending quality time with the ones we love. 

Read ways caregivers can avoid holiday burnout.

Learn more about cancer services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.


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