A cancer diagnosis might mean you’re not feeling so jolly this holiday season. Rest assured, you aren’t alone. The American Cancer Society estimates as many as 25 percent of cancer patients develop depression; that’s contrasted with about 7 percent in the general population.
It makes sense. Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t eliminate the reasons for feeling sad, depressed and lonely and it’s not unusual or abnormal for these emotions to surface this time of year. Those feelings might be exacerbated if you are in the middle of treatments and find your energy level is low and you experience regret about not being able to do what you have done in past years.
According to CancerCare.org, family togetherness and the often-unrealistic expectations of a holiday season filled with picture-perfect, joyful gatherings can cause tremendous stress for anyone, let alone a cancer survivor. What’s their advice? “Don’t feel obligated to be festive or try to be all things to all people.”
There is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays says Sarah Kelly, LMSW and an oncology social worker with CancerCare.org.
“Some people may wish to follow traditions, while others may choose to change things up. Don’t feel you must make every single moment of the holiday season memorable. It’s better to limit yourself to a few events instead of drifting from one event to another, or feeling too exhausted to be able to enjoy any occasion.”
Kelly recommends planning an afternoon outing or weekend getaway. Spend some time with someone you don’t usually visit, or perhaps spend time in a new or different setting. Even daily exercise can reduce stress by increasing energy.
Here’s more tips on how to cope through the holiday season.