The Christmas holidays are a time that is associated with joy and lots of tinsel, but when you’re not feeling at your best mentally and/or physically, the seasonal festivities can present challenges as well. For anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis or treatment, the holidays can be especially challenging, but it’s ok to acknowledge that and do things to look after yourself.
As much as you may consciously want to join friends and family in all the merriment, you may find that you don’t really have the mental or physical energy to do so in the way you normally might. From a mental health perspective, you may be feeling tired and overwhelmed, or you simply might not feel all that jolly. Meanwhile, on the physical side of things, depending on the stage and type of cancer that you have, as well as where you are in your treatment, you may feel tired, uncomfortable, nauseous or have any other number of symptoms and side effects that cause discomfort or anxiety.
There’s no complete solution to any of this, but there are things that can help. That’s both in terms of how you feel, as well as putting processes in place to give you what you need to enjoy things as much as possible, and not to feel overwhelmed by the occasion.
It’s ok not to be ok
This is a phrase that’s been worn to the point of cliché, but that doesn’t make it less true. You don’t need to pretend that you’re on top of the world just because it’s the festive season. It’s also ok to take measures to look after your own wellbeing. Little things can make a big difference: speak to people in a similar situation at support groups (we work with a number of local charities that we can recommend), or add rituals to support daily wellbeing, give you a moment of tranquillity and help to boost your mood. For example, our natural diffusers bring aromatherapy into the home with organic essential oils. Our Well Being Beauty Confidence Diffuser includes patchouli and ylang-ylang to improve self-confidence and combat feelings of anxiety, while the Well Being Beauty Holistic Wellness Diffuser includes spicy, citrus aroma of lime and black pepper essential oils formulated to improve your mood and help you feel balanced and happy.
Talk to friends and family about what you might need
Whether it’s needing to feel able to excuse yourself for a lie down without making a fuss, making dietary adjustments, or anything else that will help to make your day easier, think about what would make you feel secure and have a chat with the people you’re going to spend the holidays with so that they’re best able to support you. Contrary to how it may feel, by having a conversation in advance, you are likely to minimise the fuss and keep things easy. A great benefit of preparing that way, is that it not only helps you to enjoy the holidays as much as possible, but chances are your loved ones are also anxious to give you what you need. By being open about it, everyone can prepare as needed, thereby making the festive season a bit more relaxed (or as relaxed as a period characterised by Jingle Bells and Christmas crackers is ever going to be).
You don’t have to do everything
For lots of cancer patients, fatigue is a big issue, and the holiday season, whilst joyful, can also be intense. In lots of ways you will no doubt want to be involved with everything, but to limit your anxiety about being able to do it all, remember that you don’t have to. Why not pick your favourite parts of the day and pace yourself to enjoy those? Perhaps you can treat yourself to a good long lie-in in the morning, rest quietly for a little bit between lunch and present opening, or perhaps this is a good year to keep the holidays quiet and simple with just the closest family members.
Have a strategy for food and alcohol
Food is such a big part of Christmas, but as we all know, it’s rich! For many going through cancer treatment in particular, food can be a tricky topic. It’s important to maintain your energy levels, but often it’s better to eat a little and often rather than to go for the marathon of indulgence that the holidays are so well known for. Nausea can be an issue as well with difference cancers and treatments, making rich foods a bit of a challenge. One of the big things here (and hopefully your loved ones will be respectful of this), is that it’s ok to say no to some things. Try to stick to your routine in the morning when it comes to breakfast, see if it’s possible to stagger some of your food throughout the day - especially if there’s a need to eat with medication at specific times. As you will already know, alcohol can be a tricky subject when going through cancer treatment, and that’s something your doctor will be able to advise on. In terms of feeling your best however, our recommendation would be to have a little if you like (unless medically advised otherwise) but try to avoid quantities likely to lead to a hangover, and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Get some fresh air
The best of us can suffer from headaches at the height of the holidays. Too many rounds of White Christmas and an overload of turkey will do that to you. It’s what fuels that other seasonal tradition - the Christmas Day walk - that so many of us indulge in. However, if you’re going through cancer treatment, or even if you’re several years into remission and still struggling with tiredness, a long walk late in the day may well be too much. There are little things you can do, however. Perhaps fit in two 10-minute walks around the block or garden, just to get a breather. Or take the time to treat mind and body with carefully chosen wellbeing at the start and end of the day. Try our Well Being Beauty Mental Clarity Body Oil with an aroma of lavender and eucalyptus essential oils to ease away headaches or use our Well Being Beauty Mental Clarity Foot Soak to blow the cobwebs away and provide clarity.
Like we said at the start of this article, this is by no means an exhaustive list of suggestions, and they are just that - suggestions. However, what we hope to convey is that you are completely within your rights to take a step back from the business of the holidays and think about what you need. Everyone will want you to have a nice time, and if that means that you only feel able to spend a couple of hours with everyone, then that’s wonderful. Or if you’re not sure how to handle something that you’re worried about then there are lots of people available who will happily offer advice or simply listen if that’s what you would like.