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Coping With Holiday Stress And Breast Cancer

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Updated November 30, 2012

Get Real About the Holidays:

Perfect holidays are not something you can order out of a glossy catalog, complete with a loveable cast of relatives and camera-ready food and drink. Special gatherings like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas can generate holiday stress in any family. When you add breast cancer to the hype and picture-postcard expectations of the holidays, you may get swamped. Plan carefully, set some priorities, and take the holidays easy this year. Here’s some tips to cope with holiday stress.

Peace, Love, and Health:

Your health comes first, no matter what the special occasion may be. Talk to those closest to you about your expectations for the holidays. Take into account the possibility of germs and infections that visitors may unintentionally bring along. If you need to limit contact with family and friends, make this clear – it is about keeping your health safe and not about avoiding irritating cousins. Appoint someone to be in charge of making sure that you can escape when your energy plummets or your emotions melt. Plan visits to include times of peace and rest. Enjoy the holiday, but know that you do not have to be the life of the party this year.

Downsize, Simplify, and Say No:

Set aside all the commercial imagery of groaning tables of food, served in the best china and silver – unless you’ve got a house full of servants. Pick essential dishes that make your holiday meal memorable and stick to those. Ask family and friends to bring the food or to come over and do the cooking. Instead of spending time and energy on perfect place settings, ask a couple of people to set out the everyday plates and forks, line up the food, and have a buffet. If a self-serve meal won’t work for you, perhaps someone could pre-load the plates. Let some lucky people clear the dishes and do the washing-up. If there’s a chance to go out and attend a concert or go to the theater after the big meal, feel free to say “no” if you don’t have the energy. Only you know what you are able to do and how you feel.

Eat, Drink, and Be Smart:

There will be many temptations to step away from your anticancer diet during the holidays. But since cancer doesn’t take vacations, guard your health by making a toast without alcohol or big doses of caffeine. Enjoy whole grains and vegetables while taking small portions of red meats. Go for fruit-based sweets rather than sugary baked goods. Give yourself a small treat here and there, but be wise about portions and choices.

Walk, Stretch, and Play:

After the big meal most folks feel like having a nap – but if you take a brief walk outside (weather permitting) and move around for a while, it aids digestion and lifts your mood. If there is snow, sleet, or rain coming down – or it’s just too plain cold out there – try some gentle stretches from the discipline of yoga or Tai Chi. Put on some good music, break out the board games, and gather up some willing players. Avoiding the television gives you a chance to have some real conversation together as well as having fun!

Talk, Laugh, and Cry:

Emotions will surface during the holidays. Memories may be shared and compared, photos will be passed around. No matter what triggers your feelings, be honest and caring when you share with others. You may be still processing your emotions about your health situation and this is a good chance to air those thoughts with your closest supporters. When they respond, listen well and hear what they are feeling too. Even if you are feeling depressed or sad, let others know. Perhaps all of you can find a way to help each other. Be open to receiving comfort and respect any tears that may flow. Holidays can be times of healing if taken easily and without false expectations.
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