The holidays can be a difficult time of the year for some people, and adding cancer to the list can initially make it feel like more of a challenge. I have listed some of the things I have done in the past to cope. I hope you find a couple tips for mindful coping that can become a habit and help to enhance feelings of joy on a regular basis. Some of my original suggestions are based on current research regarding the habits which support our ability to find joy by practicing gratitude and by living in the moment.
1. Take a few minutes to reflect daily on a few things you are grateful for.
2. Remind yourself to be in the moment and enjoy the now. Agree not to get into the habit of saying “tomorrow” or “in the future,” but rather live in the moment and make the most of your day no matter where you are or how you feel.
3. Focus on ways to make memories with friends and loved ones. I personally prefer a good meal during the holidays or, in lieu of giving gifts, going to a new place.
4. If possible, send a hand-written personal note in your holiday card and call people before the holiday to wish them well. It is more personal than a text or a rushed call on the actual holiday. Make two to three calls a day if needed or start writing out your cards early enough to add a personal message. Maybe it is a simple reminder of how you met, a favorite memory shared with the person, or something else personal. You are likely to smile when writing it and they are likely to feel good reading the message.
5. Interact with your environment as much as possible. Taste a falling snowflake, smell the pine tree, feel the warmth of a fire and if making a meal, consider picking the ingredients yourself or using the seeds of an item to save and later grow on your own.
6. Give others time rather than just giving a gift. Teach your dog a new trick, visit a pet store or shelter and spend time with someone else in need of company. Maybe you can even plant a tree for someone or in honor of a special occasion. Trees can be enjoyed for years to come. My father has done this in his yard. He planted a single tree on behalf of each of his grandchildren and now when they visit, they each have their own personal tree to check on.
7. Write a letter to yourself from someone you love and may have lost. What would they say to you today and in this moment? What kind words would they offer if you have been facing your own adversity? Can you find comfort from the support they would be giving you even today?
8. Take a fun picture. Some of my favorite are family outtakes either before or after what is supposed to be a more serious picture or pose.
9. Consider viewing any current adversity as an opportunity. Make a list of the things you have learned about yourself in the past year. What characteristics would you use to describe yourself? Have others give suggestions and make it a list of positive statements about you and your ability to be resilient. Look at these words often.
10. Love your body. Say at least one kind word to your body and repeat it often. Consider making statements such as I am love, my mind and body are healthy, and one of my personal favorites, "My smile is brighter than any obstacle I face."