Slow Down and Enjoy Your Holidays, Survivors! Savor The Magic
The holiday season can be difficult for cancer survivors who have experienced a major change or loss in their life. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness are common and holiday traditions can be painful reminders of how different life has become. Some are fearful that this may be their last Christmas. Others may be worried that their feelings and emotions may ruin the celebrations for others.
Sharing experiences and strategies from others affected by cancer can help people get through a difficult holiday season. Here are some suggestions of how to slow down and enjoy your holiday.
BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF
- Give yourself permission to get through the holidays the best way you can. Let people know that you may need to have a rest on the day. Try to accept any limitations and remember Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Mood swings and feelings of loss are common over Christmas. Allow yourself some time to grieve and reflect.
- Have an exit plan prepared for times when you may find a family gathering or party overwhelming.
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
- If you’re having treatment over Christmas, consider having a low key, restful day on December 25 and plan a celebration at the end of treatment.
- Booking Christmas lunch or dinner at a restaurant, arranging a picnic at a local park, or simply asking people to bring a contribution to the Christmas meal can reduce stress.
- Consider online shopping and/or gift vouchers for Christmas presents. This can save both time and energy.
EXPRESS YOUR NEEDS
- Tell others if you’re finding it difficult to cope and accept offers of help. Be specific about things people can do to assist.
- Practice being assertive and remember that you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to – especially if you’re not feeling up to it.
KEEP ACTIVITIES SIMPLE AND NON-STRENUOUS
- Fatigue is a common side effect after cancer treatment. Avoid overwhelming numbers of visitors and long car trips. As energy levels may fluctuate, sometimes it can be helpful to plan the day’s activities and then halve them. Allow for rest time during the day.
- Keep meals simple. If the person with cancer has had to change their diet, serve food that can be enjoyed by everyone.
- Create new rituals. If your usual Christmas rituals or traditions are too painful, consider replacing them with a new ritual or tradition that’s special to you.
- Talking to someone about your feelings can reduce feelings of distress and isolation. Family and friends can be a good source of support.
- Churches or community centers sometimes hold Christmas services for those affected by cancer. Contact a local church or community center for more information.
As breast cancer survivor Andrea Paine wrote one Christmas: “Take your worry hat off, if only for awhile. Slow down and enjoy your holiday. Spend time with the ones who love and support you. Take in the awesome smells around you, and really taste the food you are offered. Meditate on your improving health and positive outlook. Walk your dogs. Feed your soul. This is just as much your time. Savour the magic.”