The holiday season can be difficult for people who have experienced a major change or loss in their lives. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness can be common and holiday traditions can be painful reminders of how life has changed. Energy, money and Christmas spirit may be in short supply.

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Tips for coping over the holidays 

Set realistic expectations

  • Consider online shopping and/or gift vouchers for Christmas presents to save time and energy
  • Scaling back on decorating or shopping and/or accepting the help of others with this, can make it easier for you
  • To help keep costs down consider making home-made gift vouchers for things such as babysitting, gardening or a picnic
  • Booking Christmas lunch or dinner at a restaurant, arranging a picnic at

a local park, or asking people to bring a contribution to the meal  can make it easier

  • If you are having treatment over Christmas, consider having a low key

day on December 25 and plan a celebration at the end of treatment.

Express your needs

  • Tell others if you are finding it difficult to cope and accept offers of help.
  • Be specific about things people can do to assist
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate. 

Be gentle with yourself

  • Give yourself permission to get through Christmas the best way you

can. Let people know that you may need to have a rest on the day.

  • If you don’t have the boundless energy that you have had other years, you may feel frustrated about it. Try not to beat yourself up about it- your body, brain and budget have been through the mill
  • Remember celebrations don’t have to be perfect
  • Mood swings and feelings of loss are common over Christmas. Allow

yourself some time to reflect. You may not be feeling the Xmas spirit- allow yourself to

feel that way and validate your difficult year.

  • Give yourself some simple opportunities for enjoyment of the season- maybe a walk to see Xmas lights   or a favourite Xmas movie.
  • Have an exit plan prepared for times when you may find a family

gathering or party overwhelming, especially with high maintenance friends and family.

  • Be prepared for any “crazy cancer comments” such as cure all diet advice, or alternative therapies such as a gift of shark cartilage.

Keep activities simple and save your energy

  • Feeling very tired (fatigue) is a common side effect after cancer treatment.
  • Avoid overwhelming numbers of visitors and long car trips. As energy levels

may vary, sometimes it can be helpful to plan the day’s activities and then

halve them.

  • Allow for rest time during the day. Try to build in a gentle walk regularly over the holidays as this can help restore energy
  • 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 no longer feel right, consider

replacing them with a new ritual or tradition that is special to you

  • It’s okay to have Christmas a bit different from previous years-

being with people and sharing laughter is more important than

the “perfect” table decoration.

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