Surviving and Thriving During the Holiday Season

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December 7, 2022
Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—except when it isn’t.

Facing the holidays with cancer presents unique challenges. It’s very common to experience a mixture of anticipation, excitement, and apprehension. The social workers at Arizona Oncology work with our patients to help them prepare for and cope with holiday-related pressures. Here are some of their tips.

P Plan in Advance. In previous years you may have had the energy to pack the holiday season full of activities, traveling, and shopping. This year, however, doctor appointments, treatment side effects, and low energy may prevent that. Plan ahead for activities, giving yourself plenty of downtime. Setting realistic expectations and boundaries will help you to fully enjoy the things that do make it onto your calendar.

E Enlist Support. Delegation is a key success strategy taught by leadership experts, and it can help you, too! Ask family and friends to help with cooking, decorating, shopping, and gift-wrapping. Letting someone else do the heavy lifting of holiday activities is a great way to spend time with them and get things done without wearing yourself out.

A  Adjust Traditions. It’s okay if traditions need to change while you’re undergoing cancer treatment. Let this be an opportunity to enjoy a quiet, more introspective holiday. You may even discover new traditions that you’d like to carry forward in years to come.

C Celebrate Your Strengths. Many individuals and families discover strengths they didn’t know they had when going through a cancer journey. Don’t downplay what you’ve accomplished. You are a survivor and a thriver!

E Engage in Simple Pleasures. In our culture, we tend to want to “go big or go home.” There is value, however, in the simple, delicate joys of life. A cup of herbal tea and a book under the holiday lights. Enjoying the children’s antics from a spot on the sidelines. Unhurried conversations. The smell of pine, woodfire, and baking. Some call it “mindfulness” or “being present.” Whatever you call it, it is good for the soul.

L Learn to Say No. You don’t have to go to every party, support every group, or attend every event—people will understand. If you aren’t up for hosting the meal this year or putting family members up in your home, be clear and firm. They can (and will) figure something out. Your loved ones don’t want to cause you additional stress, but they might not know what you need unless you tell them.

O Open a Dialogue with Your Provider. If you have holiday plans, ask to schedule treatments and other appointments around them. Don’t forget to take into consideration how you might feel the evening or day after a treatment. It’s okay to make space around important events. Your providers will do their best to be flexible.

V Validate Your Feelings. Give yourself permission to feel and express your feelings, whatever they are. Joy, fear, sadness, pain—these are all normal and okay. Let yourself laugh or cry.   Tears can bring a sense of relief. Laughter can be relaxing. Sharing how you feel with someone else can bring comfort.

E Encourage Reflection. Holidays are a season of reflection. Embrace this moment and look back at what brought you to it. Has your cancer journey taught you anything about the people, places, and responsibilities in your life? Have you learned anything about yourself? Can you use that knowledge to make your life better moving forward? What do you still hope to learn?

J Join the online shopping movement. The internet has officially given you permission to avoid crowds, exhaustion, and potential exposure while you are going through cancer treatment. While a quick trip to a local shop probably won’t be too taxing, hitting the malls and big retailers can be. Put on some holiday music while you browse the online marketplace, and let’s be grateful for technology!

O Opt for Distractions. If the holidays are a difficult time for you because of cancer or other personal reasons, distractions can be a good way to cope. Binge a TV show or movie marathon, plan and fix a fancy dinner, watch sports, play cards with friends, catch up on your reading, or take a drive or walk to look at holiday lights.

Y “You” Time. With all of the hustle and bustle, don’t forget to focus on yourself. Eat balanced meals. Make time to exercise and get fresh air. Physical activity is a great way to release tension. Indulge in self care like taking a bath, getting a massage or pedicure, and treating yourself to a tasty treat now and again.

The holiday season is a time of sharing, tradition and renewal of hope. That doesn’t change when you have cancer, but it may need to adjust. Whatever your holidays bring this year, we wish you peace, love, joy, and beautiful new memories.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Arizona Oncology!