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The holiday season is traditionally met with excited anticipation, joy, and gratitude. Families come together, homemade foods are served, and gifts are given and received. However, for many people, even those who are generally content, the holidays bring about stress, anxiety, loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.
According to Adam K. Anderson, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, part of the general holiday depression issue is caused by the overwhelming amount of media and advertisements displaying images of happy couples, friends and families in perfectly decorated worlds. Of course, for many, “picture perfect” isn’t reality, and the holiday media bombardment is a constant reminder of that.
For individuals with cancer, this experience is likely two-fold. For them, this time of togetherness and thankfulness serves to highlight and emphasize any confusion, defeat, or anger they feel throughout the year. Dealing with the stress of the holidays can be difficult enough, but managing a cancer diagnosis can bring extra, unmanageable stress that clouds the holidays completely.
If you’re one of these individuals who feel like they can’t possibly find a reason to celebrate, here are some ideas and things to consider.
Keep Things Simple
Regardless of how you may have done things in the past, give yourself a break and take advantage of the comforts of modern times. Opt for doing most of your shopping and shipping online, for example. Removing the stress and energy expense of in-store shopping will make a huge difference. You could also opt for more homemade, personalized gift ideas that you make at home.
Ask For Help
If you used to be the main cook or host(ess), it’s best to ask friends and family to help lessen the load, or take over completely. At the same time, choose to support your favorite local food places by ordering holiday treats and dishes from them, which will also reduce time and energy spent over the stove. If there is shopping that can only be done in the store, ask a friend to pick it up for you.
Indulge A Little Bit
While it’s important to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle that supports your treatment plan, the negative feelings associated with not being able to enjoy certain holiday foods and traditions can be more detrimental than partaking. Give yourself permission to have that slice of pie, and leave the guilt and worry behind. If you have traditional holiday events that take a lot of energy, choose your favorite one to attend. Make the most of your energy.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to ever leave early, or not attend at all. The most important thing is that you take care of yourself. Do whatever will help keep your mood lifted, whether that be stay at home, or go to the holiday movie.
Find Small Reasons to Be Grateful
It’s been said many times before and in many ways, but it really is important to take a step back and notice smaller things that bring feelings of joy. Start to keep a gratitude journal, where you find at least one thing to write down about the day that brought you joy and gratitude. Maybe you made someone laugh, or you were up early enough to see a breathtaking sunrise. This practice will also help you notice these kinds of moments more often, adding to an overall sense of contentment over time.
For the holidays, this will help remind you of what truly matters, and what the holidays are really about.
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