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12 Tips For Celebrating the Holidays Differently This Year


The holiday season is upon us. For the person with cancer, this can be a daunting time. One cancer survivor shares a few tips and tricks for surviving and thriving this unique holiday season.

This year’s holiday season will definitely be different for many as we continue to push through the COVID-19 pandemic. Feelings of stress and isolation have caused us to react differently to public gatherings, even though gathering with friends and family is usually a time of celebration. Most of us would agree we need social interaction, but with the continued spread of COVID-19, modifications will be necessary through the end of the year and more than likely into next year’s season. 

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention published guidelines for holiday celebrations and small gatherings. In that publication, recommendations were made to provide a safer environment for all. Larger gatherings, according to the article, provided more opportunities for COVID-19 transmissions. In order to reduce risks, the CDC felt it best to limit the size of gatherings to members of one household. For larger groups, they asked people to continue with social distancing and the wearing of face masks. At risk individuals, like those undergoing treatment for severe illnesses such as cancer, were advised against attending in-person gatherings.

As I read the information, I was prompted to write a few helpful tips of my own. My tips focus more on individuals currently in treatment for cancer, or for those who’ve recently completed treatment, such as my experience.

  • Weigh your opportunities. Consider those most important to you. Consider your energy level and how it may affect your participation in various events. Do what you feel like doing. Start with plan A and go to plan B, C, or D, if necessary. There’s no need to feel like you must do everything you’ve done in the past. ·
  • If able to attend an in-person gathering, enjoy it but be safe. Pay close attention to those around you. Sniffling, sneezing, and coughing are clues to keep your distance. Wash your hands frequently and avoid commonly touched surfaces.
  • Being around others during holidays can prevent feelings of depression and isolation. If you’re unable to attend in person gathering, go the virtual route. Zoom calls or FaceTime meetings allow participation without exposure to germs.
  • Leave options open and allow yourself the privilege of making last-minute decisions. If unable to give an immediate answer to an invitation, leave it open-ended by adding a disclaimer such as: “I’ll try, or I hope you’ll understand if…”
  • Set limits. Physical or emotional fatigue can affect your choices. Help others understand that holidays can be especially hard when in the middle of treatment, juggling multiple appointments or facing debilitating side effects.
  • Make lists. Lists can help you manage tasks and remember them. It might be helpful to categorize tasks into “need to” and “want to” columns. Lists can lighten the load of personal expectations. Be careful not to place too much on your plate.
  • Say yes to offers of help. People typically have good hearts and want to assist but may not know-how. Give suggestions regarding your needs. Both the giver and receiver will be blessed.
  • If you enjoy shopping, but don’t feel up to the task of getting out in public, use the internet to your advantage. Order online. Use a delivery service like Instacart or ask others to pick up items. Keep your spirits up by doing things you’ve enjoyed in the past but be willing to make compromises when necessary.
  • Speak your truth. Inevitably, you’ll be asked about your health. Friends and family are normally interested in your wellbeing, but remember, the decision to share or not share is yours. Be honest.
  • Steel yourself. During family gatherings, others may offer unsolicited advice regarding your health. It’s your choice whether or not to listen and whether or not to take the information to heart.
  • Take time to enjoy the day. Learn to be present in the moment. Relax! Practice mindfulness. This day comes but once a year. Savor it!
  • Be intentional. Look for the positives. Focus on blessings. Take time to be grateful.

Everyone looks forward to the day things return to normal, but for now, virtual holidays may be the safest way to celebrate and thankfully, we have that option. Technology has become so advanced it’s the next best thing to being there.

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