Cancer Coach tips for coping at Christmas

ChristmasWhether you are still receiving treatment for cancer or have completed treatment and are facing life without the protective cocoon of medical support, Christmas can become a worrying burden, which places additional pressure on you.

It’s normal that cancer can make us feel low or not ourselves, which makes the hype of the holiday season something we may want to avoid. Try and recognize that this might be a difficult time of year for you. Think about what you feel you can manage this year. It can be easy to feel stressed, overwhelmed and pressured to cook, invite family over and do the usual Christmas rush around.

So don’t be afraid to set some boundaries for yourself, and let your family know what you feel you can do this year and that you need help to make it a nice relaxing Christmas.

You can say no

If you have been invited to Christmas or New Year parties, don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t feel up to attending this year. It can sometimes help to set your limits with your partner or friends. Agree to go to the party, but let them know you might not be able to stay long, as you still get tired. If you are feeling vulnerable, ask them to give you some extra support while you’re there. It’s good to see your friends and have fun if you want to, but don’t feel you have to stay all night.

Chemo brain lists

If you are struggling with chemo brain it can be difficult to remember all the things we have to do at this time of year. With chemo brain, making lists and writing on post-it-notes can be really useful to help you stay organised and stress free. Cross items off when they are done and don’t be afraid to delegate – you don’t have to do everything on your list.

Keeping options open

Some days you may feel you have lots of energy and on others you might feel very fatigued. If you keep your plans loose, it relieves the pressure if you are having a tired day. For example, Christmas day might be very busy, so you could feel more tired the next day. In which case, plan for Boxing Day to be a bit quieter, allowing yourself time to relax and recharge your batteries.

It’s ok to not feel yourself

Don’t forget it’s ok to feel down and low at this time of year when you are recovering from a traumatic illness like cancer. The bringing of the new year can make you reflect more than usual about what you have been through and the pressure to ‘put on a happy face’ can be overwhelming. Make sure you have the contact numbers handy of those people you can talk to honestly if you feel this way – it might be family, friends or a trusted charity helpline.

Helplines open over Christmas

  • The Samaritans – you can call the Samaritans, for free 24/7- including Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Telephone: 116 123
  • CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably will support anybody who needs them. Their helpline is open 5pm- midnight, 365 days a year. Telephone: 0800 58 58 58
  • Shout – Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Text: 85258
  • NHS 111 – when it’s not a 999 emergency, but you have an urgent concern, the NHS 111 service can help you access specialist mental health support. Telephone: 111 (available 24/7, all year round)
  • The Silver Line – free confidential helpline, providing information, friendship and advice to older people. Open 24 hours per day (including Christmas). Telephone: 0800 4 70 80 90
  • SANEline – A national out-of-hours telephone helpline offering emotional support, informationand guidance for people affected by mental health problems including family, friends and carers. Telephone: 0300 304 7000 Open: 4:30pm to 10:30pm every day of the year (including Christmas).

For help with anxieties or worries post cancer treatment why not join our free Cancer Coach groups.