Tips for managing the holidays when living with cancer

It’s a special time of year if you are celebrating any of the seasonal holidays. Celebrations, religious observations, cooking, decorating, gift-giving, time with friends and family—these are just a few of the things filling up your calendar.  If you or someone you love is also living with cancer, these additions to your already busy schedule may seem overwhelming. TV shows, magazines and the Internet all have suggestions for how to manage the holidays, but there are also some tips that may be helpful if cancer is in your life. Although you may not like it, it may be that for this year, you won’t be able to do all the things that you have usually done to celebrate. That’s OK. Accept that this year may be different, and make adjustments: ask for help, cut back, say no on occasion but also remember to enjoy yourself and celebrate. Here are some suggestions for how to manage to take care of yourself and to make sure you can also enjoy those special times.

Be Realistic – Know your limits. You will enjoy the holidays more if you are honest with yourself and others about what you can and can’t do. Exhausted by treatment or caring for a loved one? People will understand. If the smell or sight of all that holiday food doesn’t agree with you, say no to those invitations. If decorating the tree seems overwhelming, maybe this year you can enjoy helping others decorate theirs.

Create new traditions - Remember that every “tradition” started with year one. Instead of getting gifts for everyone maybe try a Secret Santa. Always the one to host the New Year’s Eve party? How about trying a potluck this year? If you worry that you won’t be up to celebrating on the actual day, keep it low key and maybe a celebration later in the year will work for you.

Simplify – If you exchange gifts, try shopping online instead of at the mall. If cooking and baking are on your list, maybe there is a simpler version of a recipe or instead of 5 different kinds of cookies, bake two or start a cookie exchange. Order pre made latkes. Instead of cooking a meal, maybe go out to a restaurant.

Let Others Know What you Need (and then let them do it) – Although we might wish otherwise, friends and family aren’t mind-readers. Try as best you can to ask for help. This can be practical or emotional support. Ask for their understanding as well if things will not be as usual this year.

Be Good to Yourself – Try to keep up with your regular wellness routines. Eat as well as you can. Try to get regular exercise, meditate and be sure to get enough rest. Also be aware of your emotions. For some, the holidays are a joyous time but you may not be feeling that way this year. Try to enjoy yourself as best you can. If you are feeling sad or depressed, you may find that your spirits are lifted if even for only a few moments. Whatever you are feeling is OK. If you are feeling especially sad, anxious or overwhelmed, reach out to someone and share your thoughts. It could be a friend, family member, support group or spiritual leader.

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