Coping with Christmas and the holidays  

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    The holiday season can be difficult for people who have experienced a cancer diagnosis. Feelings of sadness, loneliness and isolation can be common and holiday traditions can be painful reminders of how life has changed, and energy, money and Christmas spirit may be in short supply.

    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 decorations or shopping and/or accepting help from others with this, can make it easier


    • To help keep costs down consider making home-made gift vouchers for acts of service eg gardening or social activities eg going to a movie or coffee


    • Booking Christmas lunch or dinner at a restaurant, arranging a picnic at a local park or beach, or asking people to bring a contribution to make the meal easier


    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 rest on the day


    • If you don’t have lots of energy that you have had other years, you may feel frustrated about it. Try not to beat yourself up about it


    • 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 in the Christmas spirit – allow yourself to feel that way and validate a difficult loss


    • Give yourself some simple opportunities for enjoyment of the season – maybe a walk to see Christmas lights of a favourite Christmas 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 “thoughtless comments”


    Keep activities simple and save your energy

    • Feeling very tired (fatigue) is a common side effect of cancer
    • Conserve energy and avoid overwhelming numbers of visitors and long car trips if possible
    • Plan the day’s activities and then half them
    • Allow for rest time during the day if needed
    • Plan regular daily exercise over the holiday period
    • Keep meals simple
    • Say “no” to requests that you might feel resentful about later


    Create new rituals

    • If your usual Christmas rituals or traditions no longer feel right, consider replacing them with a new ritual or tradition this is special to you
    • It’s also ok to have Christmas a bit different from previous years- being with people and sharing laughter is more important than the “perfect” table decorations.


    Remember there are no rules!


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