Reduce Cancer and Holiday Stress


Cancer survivor and motivational clutter-clearing trainer offers ideas to clear the clutter and the stress from your holidays.

Holidays are often a difficult time of year, whether or not cancer is in the picture. This year will be my first Christmas without Mom, plus she had a December birthday, too! As I get older, the holidays become simpler and more bittersweet.

I am getting better at letting a lot of meaningless details and excess materialism fade away. As cancer survivors, we know what matters in life and holidays and what just isn’t important. I think that knowledge is one of our most important cancer super powers. Actively let go of the stressful holiday stuff that truly just doesn’t matter. You are a cancer survivor, and you can do this!

As a two-time cancer survivor and a clutter clearing motivational speaker-trainer, I want to help you. Before cancer, I was presenting holiday seminars to groups of stressed out people to encourage and support them in their efforts to simplify their holidays. Let go of the holiday "stuff." So much of that just doesn’t matter.

People matter. Shared time with loved ones matters. Memories matter. Decorating and gifts and elaborate food don’t matter. Do you agree? At least partially? The preparations with loved ones to decorate or bake or cook together matter, but if you are exhausted, it is just fine to let loved ones take the lead. It is OK to watch and be the cheerleader if that fits your energy level better.

Try fewer decorations. Ask loved ones which parts of decorating matter the most to them and get their help. I tell people that I discovered that one of my children hadn’t even been noticing the lighted tree, snowman and lighted greenery that I put up outside the front door every year. Yikes! Clearly that stuff won’t be missed in subsequent years, and I feel a little silly.

Too much baking or cooking? Make just a couple things that are most important or traditional for your family, or delegate, or even purchase store-bought. Do you need all those side dishes? I have served entire holiday meals and forgotten dishes in the refrigerator or microwave. The holiday still happened.

Consider fewer gifts. As children become adults, set dollar limits and draw names or simply enjoy just being together. Holidays are not about the material gifts. Discuss prior to the holiday to make sure everyone is agreeable. If they aren’t, decide you may be planting seeds for next year (give them time to think) and simplify this for yourself with gift cards and online shopping.

Drop the holiday "shoulds.” You are loved for being you. Please don’t guilt yourself into doing more than you really can. Tell people what you will and won’t be doing. Remember that whatever they choose to do or choose not to do in response is their own choice.

Drop the holiday guilt. We see impossible expectations sold to us in glossy advertisements and television commercials. We worry if the holiday isn’t "perfect." Think of the movie "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." I try to watch it every year. The holidays will happen whether expectations are perfectly met or not. Truly, I think this is really the most important message that all of us could learn.

Holidays aren’t about the stuff. The holidays are about peace, joy, goodwill and being with people we love. As I have said before about the holidays: Imperfect? Always. Worth it? Absolutely. The rest of it? Let it go, let it go, let it go.

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