Cancer in the time of Covid: Get Ready for the Holidays!

This year the holidays will look and feel quite different for us.

As a result of the COVID-19 virus we are being compelled to not gather in numbers and to make an effort to reduce exposure to others.  What…no massive holiday dinners to prepare or parties to attend, no shopping ‘til we drop???  Might we really be able to follow through on our annual commitment to not become exhausted and overwhelmed?

Granted, we will be doing our best, despite our imposed limitations, to create an environment that allows us to celebrate and “connect” with the important people in our lives, so here are some tips to help us stay healthy and sane!

Connect, connect, connect – Just because we can’t hug and touch doesn’t mean we can’t “be with” those we love.  By now we have all probably figured out the wonders of the internet, Zoom, Facetime, etc.  MAKE A PLAN and set a date and time to “be with” family and friends over the holidays.  It is more important than ever this holiday season to combat isolation and loneliness.

Conserve your energy -Cancer and treatment are a HUGE energy drain.  PLAN your activities so that you have the energy to do what is most important to you.  Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do.

Attend to your own self-care – You know what you need to do to take care of yourself and it is critical to not let those things slip off your plate.  Get in a walk each day or whatever form of exercise you have been doing, take that afternoon nap and keep eating a healthy diet. If you practice meditation or mindfulness, be sure to continue with your practice.  All of your efforts toward self-care will BOOST your energy level!

On-line shopping – Accomplish in a few hours what usually takes days to do!  You won’t be putting your health at risk, stressing out over lines at the register, traffic or parking.

Managing the Emotional Triggers

The holidays can be an emotional time under the best of circumstances and this year your “emotional buttons” may be even bigger and more accessible.  Maybe the COVID virus is preventing you from traveling or gathering to be with those you love.  Maybe this is your first holiday living with a cancer diagnosis and the future feels so uncertain right now.  Maybe you are feeling so emotionally and physically depleted you are dreading the upcoming holidays.  Feeling sad, anxious, and stressed are absolutely normal, BUT you don’t have to be consumed by these feelings.

 

Create a NEW tradition – While we may not be able to engage in the holiday traditions we have come to look forward to, think about creating a new tradition.

  • Choose family or friends that you want to join you and set a date and time to have a virtual “toast” to the holidays.
  • Have everyone create a holiday decoration, set a date and time to have a virtual “show” and vote on the winning decoration.
  • Choose a day during the holiday season and go for an early morning walk or hike.

 

Celebrate resilience & strength – This has been a year unlike any most of us have ever known before. Obviously, we have been living with a pandemic for most of the year all while living with a cancer diagnosis.  Stop for a moment and reflect on what you have been able to do! We are often quick to see our shortcomings or challenges but not our strengths.  Write yourself a letter of admiration, create a collage, write a song or a poem…CELEBRATE YOU!

Talk and share your feelings with others – Nothing good will come from hunkering down with “me, myself and I” for days on end.  We run the risk of getting caught in that crazy cycle of unwanted thoughts that only raise our stress, anxiety and fear.  Having the opportunity to talk about all that is running through our heads diminishes the power those unwanted thoughts have over us!

Set-up REGULAR on-line visits and/or telephone calls with family and friends. There is tremendous value and comfort to be gained from seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the important people in our lives.

Register to join on-line support groups. Nothing can compare to the feeling of being a part of a community of people who truly understand your experience and “get it.” Support groups (all cancers & cancer specific) meet regularly and welcome new members!  For dates and times go to the Cancer Lifeline website www.cancerlifeline.org/support-groups/

Call the Lifeline or use the Lifeline chat. Need someone to listen and help you sort out your feelings? Call the Lifeline at (800) 255-5505 or (206) 297-2500 (Monday – Friday 9am-5pm PST).  Lifeline chat (instant messaging service) is also available Monday – Friday 9am-5pm and can be accessed through the Cancer Lifeline website www.cancerlifeline.org simply by clicking the green “We are here to listen” button.

Access Cancer Lifeline’s Therapist Referral Program. Receive names of therapists in the local community who have experience working with people affected by cancer.  Referrals and support in choosing a therapist are available for patients, survivors, family members, friends, and oncology professionals. Find out more at https://cancerlifeline.org/therapist-referral-program/