We all have a unique experience of the holidays and for some, many in fact, this can be a challenging time. Many of us working in the cancer world see the holidays come and go without any stop in treatment or suffering for our patients. Others have suffered a loss, are caring for an ill loved one, struggle with depression, or have experienced other major changes in life. All of these factors can make the December holidays less…jolly.
Tips for Coping
Here are some tips for how to cope in a healthy way:
- Prepare yourself by adjusting your expectation – for yourself, others and the holiday traditions. Allow all emotions to emote – to move through you and pass. It’s ok to not be ok. Don’t judge yourself for any of those emotions and don’t feel obligated to attend every party and event; instead, choose a few that you think you might enjoy the most. Adjusting your expectation also includes how others will react – don’t expect them to understand how you feel but know they have their own unique experience of the holidays.
- Surround yourself with people you trust for support and utilize them. Be vulnerable and allow others to care for you and connect at a place of healing. Explain to those you trust how you feel and lean into their love and support. Express to others what you want or need during the holidays; they likely want to help, but don’t know how.
- Do something different; just because your family has had the same traditions for many years, does not mean that you can’t make changes and adapt to them. Sometimes we feel a pressure to “do” the holidays, the way we have always done them but it is absolutely okay to do things differently—it might be just for this year or it might not. For example, plan a trip somewhere warm and tropical or escape to a little cabin in the woods, or schedule a self-care day full of movies, massages, or fun fitness classes.
- Make a self-care plan. This is the hardest time of the year to make healthy choices – in every way; we are most likely to let our nutrition, exercise regimens, and sleep patterns go haywire during the holidays. All of these lifestyle practices, as well as alcohol consumption and stress management habits, have a profound effect on our emotional well-being. Write down your plan for managing your self-care during the holidays and schedule in healthy food, events, and exercise and encourage others around you to do the same; make healthy substitutions to some not-so-healthy traditions. I allow one guilt-free day during December where nothing is off limits, knowing that I make healthy choices the other 364 days of the year.
Coping with the holidays starts with self-compassion. Here are five ideas to accept and remember during this month:
- I can’t escape the holidays, so I may as well plan for them.
- It’s okay if the holidays can’t be what they once were.
- There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays.
- I don’t have to do this all by myself.
- Taking care of myself must be a priority.