Holidays can be stressful under the best circumstances. With all the planning, visiting, shopping, cleaning, decorating and cooking, it’s easy to become tired and overwhelmed. When cancer treatment, lasting effects of cancer treatment or grief – are added to the mix, normal holiday stress can become difficult.
What can you do to lower the stress factor, and enjoy this time with family and friends?
Acknowledge where you are – It may be hard to change traditional roles. If you’ve always made an elaborate dinner, or spent days decorating your house, you might be unwilling to admit that things are different this year. Your loved ones might also expect you to be up to fulfilling your typical seasonal role, particularly if you have finished treatment. It’s important to recognise:
- Physical limitations that may be brought on by current or past treatment: Fatigue, discomfort and changes in mobility can make your traditional tasks much more difficult. Some side effects of cancer or treatment can linger long after treatment ends.
- Financial burdens: Time away from work, medication and other lifestyle changes during and after treatment may make this a more difficult year financially.
- Family changes: treatment can put an enormous strain on personal relationships, which can be heightened over the holidays.
- Fear of recurrence or worsening condition: Many patients put incredible pressure on themselves to make the holidays perfect because the future is uncertain.
- The importance of setting reasonable expectations: Often, patients push themselves too hard to operate at full capacity. This can be unhealthy, causing side effects such as fatigue to worsen.
Reframe expectations and reshape traditions - To get the most enjoyment out of this holiday season, try to:
- Reframe your expectations: Think about your typical holiday activities; determine which are most important and then modify them to meet your needs. For example, if you don’t want to give up hosting a party, enlist help with cleaning, decorating and cooking well ahead of time so you don’t become overwhelmed.
- Give yourself permission to do LESS… or NOTHING: It’s okay to have days when you can’t recall a thing you accomplished. Sometimes the most important item on your holiday to-do list is – ‘do nothing’
We often demand much more from ourselves than others would expect. Be kind and compassionate to yourself.
- Practice simplicity: Ask your self –“do I really need to prepare every dish my grandmother handed down?, hang the lights on the house?, do my loved ones really need all those gifts?” Sometimes simplicity can be freeing and add richness to your celebration. Less can be more.
- Delegate: If there are things you want to do and include to make the holidays specials. Delegate some of the preparations and plans to someone else. Make a list of preparations you could use help with. Ask a family member or friend that enjoys being a coordinator to take this role on. Most people appreciate direction on what to do to help their loved ones.
Learn to say NO and YES - those simple words without feeling you have to explain yourself or feel guilty.
- Say yes to activities that you might have skipped in the past because you felt selfish indulging yourself.
- Practice saying no in a way that feels authentic for you.
- Take time to decide where you want to invest your time and energy and practice saying no to things that don’t align with where you want to spend your time and energy and don’t excite you.
Maintaining your regular routine as best you can: healthy eating, relaxation and sleep can go a long way in eliminating stress through the holidays. Don’t compromise your health for the sake of the season.
Honour your Emotions: Give yourself permission to feel and express emotions.
- Your feelings are real. Don’t try to hide what you are feeling to protect your loved ones. Don’t be afraid that you will ruin their holiday by sharing what you are feeling openly and honestly.
- Your loves ones may welcome your honesty in expressing your feelings and give them the freedom to express theirs as well.
Remember the reason for the season. Celebrating whichever holidays ignites a spark in your heart and spending time together with loved ones should be your focus.
- Nobody will remember if you didn’t have time to send cards, hang lights on the house, or forgot to pick up the pickled herring.
- Okay, they might, but what both you and your loved ones will remember most is simply being together.
Make Memories: Another thing you could consider is starting a new tradition with your friends or family that can be enjoyed for many years to come.