The holidays are a time of being with family and friends, a time of joy and celebration. For many who have been recently diagnosed with cancer, or who are undergoing treatment for cancer, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time. While cancer patients may feel all of the typical holiday feelings like joy, celebration and thankfulness for many areas of their life, dealing with cancer during such a time changes the experience and poses many challenges. Even for those who are feeling well, cancer frequently changes your outlook but for those who are not feeling well from treatment the idea of attending a holiday gathering, having to see a lot of people, or feeling like they have to “paint on a smile” is simply very hard.
When you are going through cancer treatment at most other times during the year you may feel like you can lay low and focus on treatment but during the holidays it feels like it is front and center. Each extended family member you see has questions or looks of sympathy and if you are not feeling well the whole thing may just be exhausting. If you are dealing with cancer during the holidays, whether as a patient or by watching and supporting a loved one going through treatment during the holidays, there are ways to cope with the wide array of emotions and ensure that health is protected as much as possible. It is important to remain focused on maintaining health and taking care of yourself, even during the holidays. Focus on what is most important during the holidays, and all year long – the health and happiness of you and your family, and all of the other stresses and expectations will fade away.
1. Keep It Simple
- If the hustle and bustle of the holidays, such as parties or endless shopping trips at the mall, sound daunting then do not add stress to your life – keep it simple. Family and friends will understand why you need to leave early or completely miss an event. Nobody will expect you to be out shopping when you are feeling unwell. Perhaps it is best to keep gift giving during the holidays to focus on what you are truly thankful for or, if you still want to give gifts, allow other to help or consider simply shopping online and having things shipped right to your front door.
2. Feel Your Feelings
- The holidays are filled with cheer and joy but if you are not feeling particularly cheery all the time do not pretend. You do not have to feel happy all the time just because it is the holidays. Give yourself permission to feel your real emotions – whether it is joy, sadness, love, fear, thankfulness or frustration. Allow yourself to both laugh and cry as you need to.
3. Reduce Stress
- If you need to shop, do it in advance as much as possible. If you need help wrapping presents, ask a friend or loved one for help. Don’t work yourself up if you cannot do certain traditions this year. If you want to continue certain traditions, make plans for how long you think you can do them and have contingencies in place. Or, consider starting new and different traditions that would better accommodate how you feel both physically and emotionally.
- Don’t be afraid to set time limits on things – whether it is a large party or a friend coming over to visit. By carefully scheduling things you will protect your time and avoid becoming overwhelmed or exhausted. Remember to schedule time to take care of yourself with things that relax you such as hobbies or simply some down time watching tv or taking a bath.