There’s a lot to be excited about leading up to the holidays. For many, the holiday season is a joyful time for reconnecting with family and friends, indulging in seasonal treats and observing long-standing traditions.
But the festive season can be hard for people who have experienced a significant change in their life, like a cancer diagnosis.
Christmas traditions can be painful reminders of how much life has changed. And this year has been particularly hard because of the impact of Covid-19 and the uncertainty it continues to bring.
And if you’re going through treatment or recently recovering, you may be feeling especially fatigued and overwhelmed. You can’t imagine how you’ll cope with the pressures of the season.
Regardless of whether you are coping with a recent diagnosis, currently going through treatment or still trying to find your “new normal”, you don’t have to choose between decking the halls and coping with cancer. Here are some of our tips to help you navigate the season.
Set realistic expectations
- Scale back on decorating, entertaining, cooking or shopping.
- Buy online or give gift vouchers rather than brave the crowds and busy malls.
- Don’t feel you need to accept every invitation to celebrate the festive season.
- Keep it simple. Book Christmas lunch at a restaurant, arrange a picnic at the park or beach or ask people to bring a contribution to a shared Christmas meal.
- If you are having treatment over Christmas, consider having a low-key day on 25 December and plan a special day for when you have finished treatment.
Ask for help
- Tell loved ones if you’re finding it difficult to cope and accept offers of help.
- Be specific and let them know what they can do to make things easier for you, like picking up the groceries, filling up the BBQ gas bottle, taking away all the Christmas present packaging or putting air in your tyres before a trip.
Be kind to yourself
- Don’t let the festivities distract you from routines that support your wellness, like getting regular exercise and good sleep.
- Have a plan B for times when you may find a family gathering or party overwhelming, like going for a walk.
This year Covid-19 brings an added concern for people with cancer.
- Be mindful if you’re travelling around the country to see friends and family and follow public health advice.
- Maintain good hand hygiene, mask-wearing and physical distancing, especially in indoor settings.
- Keep it Sun Smart too, and remember to slip, slop, slap and wrap this summer.
Changes in your routine or time on annual leave may mean difficult thoughts and memories are front of mind. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness are common at Christmas.
Allow yourself some time to reflect. Remember, you’ve been through a tremendous amount and the impact of Covid-19 in addition to your cancer experience has been especially tough.
If you feel this is more than just the holiday blues, or the blues go on and on, then seek support. Talk to someone you trust such as your partner, a friend or a trusted medical professional.
Coping with cancer during the holidays is a challenge. But finding ways to navigate the season on your own terms can help make the most of this special time of year.
Allow yourself to do less, delegate more, and let people know you may not be up for certain activities.