No doubt about it, the holiday season can be a fun and joyful time of year, but it can also pose its own special challenges. Parties and get-togethers, shopping, traveling to visit friends and relatives – you name it – the list goes on and on. Combine those busy days with cancer treatments, and that can lead to exhaustion and stress, making it more difficult to get the rest your body needs to heal.
Many of us have certain expectations for how the holidays should play out, according to Dana Nolan from The Mesothelioma Center. These expectations - such as what foods to feature, which family and friends will be involved in our holiday celebrations, and what our decorations should look like – can be factors that can lead to distress. She calls this “bad stress,” when our perceived obligations or responsibilities outweigh our perceived ability to meet them.
Cancer symptoms, including fatigue, appetite loss and difficulty swallowing, may make enjoying those normal holiday goodies or activities more challenging for you.
Here are some tips that can help you – or a loved one affected by cancer– cope with holiday stress:
- Ask for help, or accept it when others offer help – delegate tasks, like food shopping, gift wrapping, or putting up decorations. It’s important to realize that it’s OK to ask for help or to take up a loved one’s offer to help with cooking, shopping, or decorating.
- Let go of stressful or tiring holiday traditions – holiday shopping at the mall may be a tradition, but that doesn’t mean you have to push yourself so hard this year – modify your traditions to allow for rest (mentally, emotionally, and physically).
- Modify your travel plans or social activities to allow you to rest – giving yourself time to rest and relax, even while visiting a relative, can help you feel less stressed and allow you the energy to visit with family and friends.
- Lower your expectations and simplify your life, even during the hectic holiday season – if you’re not able to see all of your relatives and friends over the holidays, that’s OK. Be realistic about what you can handle, even if that means curtailing or shortening normal visits to friends and family.
- Set aside some time just for you – it’s important to take care of your health, especially as you are healing from cancer. Be sure to include regular exercise (even a brisk walk around the block or some simple stretches) in your daily routine, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. Watch a favorite holiday or seasonal movie or play some seasonal music to help lift your spirits, should you find you’re getting worn down or discouraged.
The holidays can be a joyous time to spend with those you love, but also remember to take care of another special person – you!