Article date: November 24, 2014
By Kirsten Eidsmoe
Holiday time may seem like just about the worst time to have cancer in the family. Even the jolliest of traditions lose their luster when you’re worried about your health care needs or those of someone you love.
If you or someone close to you has cancer or another serious illness this year, use these tips and resources to help lift your holiday spirits:
Give yourself permission to feel and express your feelings, whether of joy, fear, sadness, or pain. Let yourself laugh or cry.
Take care of yourself: Eat balanced meals and make time for some exercise. Physical activity is a good way to release tension.
Allow yourself simple pleasures — hot baths, naps, favorite foods — that will help lift your mood.
Find distractions like going to a movie, dinner, or a ball game; playing cards with friends; or other activities you enjoy.
Prepare for the holidays. Decide if you want to continue certain traditions or create new ones. Plan in advance how you want to spend your time, with whom, and for how long.
Enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, meal preparation, and cleanup.
Learn to say no. You don’t have to participate in everything. People will understand if you can’t do certain activities.
Don’t pressure yourself with unrealistic expectations or try to do everything yourself.
Don’t overindulge in alcohol. Because alcohol is a depressant, it can “bring out” or heighten bad feelings.
Don’t try to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
Don’t shop ‘til you drop. Stick to a budget if you are going shopping. Buying things will not make up for any negative feelings you are having. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then stick to your budget.
Don’t try to do too much in one day. Plan ahead, setting aside specific days for specific tasks.
Don’t abandon healthy habits. Eat and drink in moderation. Get plenty of sleep.
If you’re grieving over the holidays
For people who have lost a loved one, the holidays can be even more difficult. Allow yourself to feel pain and whatever other emotions come along, too. Try following some of the tips above, and remember that although working through grief is important, it’s OK to give yourself a break from grieving by distracting yourself with activities you enjoy. Try to use this time to forgive yourself for all the things you did or didn’t say or do.
And remember that you don’t have to handle your grief alone. Talk with your family and friends about your loss, or find others who have lost a loved one. The American Cancer Society is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can help you find support online, local bereavement groups, and other resources. Call 1-800-227-2345.