grieving womanEverywhere you turn, the sights and sounds of the holiday season assail you. Before the Halloween candy is sorted and the Thanksgiving turkey is cold, we are reminded of what some call “the most wonderful time of the year.” Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or no holidays at all, there is an expectation that all is to be festive, merry and bright this time of year.

But for some, the holidays are challenging. For cancer patients, the expectations of a consistently happy mood may be unrealistic. If you are newly diagnosed, the realization of what treatment means is probably not fully absorbed. You are adjusting to the new normal, dealing with the physical challenges and perhaps recovering from surgery or adapting to a new medication regime and resultant side effects.

Instead of joy, you may be experiencing an overwhelming sense of sadness or loss. Life has changed for you and your loved ones. In addition to dealing with cancer, there may be other challenges or losses in your life that are adding to your blue mood. This is normal, and it is perfectly appropriate to configure your holidays the way they work best for you. This may mean cutting back on the flurry of activities, and the social expectations that ensue. It may mean finding some new traditions that are less labor intensive, and are more joy-filled.

So how can you ward off ‘the Grinch’, aka cancer, to keep it from robbing you of holiday joy?

1. Looking at holiday decorations, listening to holiday music, looking at the snow falling and eating a holiday cookie. The beautiful silence of a snowy wintertime and the knowledge that “all is calm.” – Wanda S.

2. Faith. Choose to rejoice. You always have the agency to choose, and knowing this gives you power & strength. Use it to grow your joy. Seek joy. Choose hope. Trust. We are greater than our disease even when it hampers our daily lives. – Margaret T.

3. After my GIST diagnosis in 2003, I became depressed, but I eventually recovered. Then when Christmas came, I had a strong case of the holiday blues, and couldn’t shake it. The next Christmas, however, I planned a trip away from home with my husband. That helped tremendously!  – Dina W.

4. I found the best way to cope is to socialize with family and friends and stay positive. – Jeff D.

5. Focus on serving somebody else. Maybe do some volunteer work or help a friend or family member in need. Sometimes seeing other people’s problems puts your own  into perspective. – Mary H.

6. Count your blessings. Try keeping a notebook naming each and every one. – Margaret C.

7. Look for small things to brighten each day, like sunshine or warm feet. – Carolyn D.

8. Live to your fullest on your good days, and be compassionate to yourself on the rest. – Karen D.

9. Create a new tradition. Make it one that requires little preparation or effort. Take a walk as snow begins to fall. Watch a favorite holiday movie.

10. Attend a concert. This time of year many organizations have free concerts. Immersing yourself in music can provide a welcome retreat from your thoughts.

11. Don’t isolate. You may feel like hiding under the covers. Don’t. Take the time to talk to an old friend. Reach out to your LRG community on the ListServ or Facebook.

12. Get plenty of rest. You may need more that your normal amount this time of year.

13. Exercise in a way that works for you. Exercising releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals that will help elevate your mood.

14. Do something that gives you joy. Bake a favorite family recipe and take it to a friend. Play with your grandchildren. Take a walk. Enjoy holiday lights. Snap photos of family and friends. Find a favorite toy from your childhood.

15. Tend to your spirit. Consider attending a religious service. Visit a sacred spot. Commune with nature. Seek the larger meaning of life through reading or discussion.Meditate. Take a yoga class.