Celebrating the Holidays During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Cancer Foundation on December 2 / 2020

[Cancer, Cancer Coaching, Caregivers, Families, News, Uncategorized]Comments

There’s no doubt about it, the holidays will be different this year. After all, celebrating the holidays during a global pandemic certainly isn’t something most of us thought we’d ever be doing!

For cancer patients and their families, this year may also be different since they could be the midst of receiving cancer treatment, coping with a loved one’s illness, dealing with life after treatment, or coping with the loss of a family member. Due to the pandemic, many people impacted by cancer have to protect themselves even more and limit social contact, which is an extra challenge for those needing the support or care of their loved ones.

Since this is usually a time of connecting with family and some of the traditions families always had may look different this year, our Cancer Coaches wanted to share a few tips that might help you through the holiday season.

“There is still room for celebration even when the world is in a messy place.” –William Chase, psychologist

Have a plan

It is stressful not knowing what is going to be happening, and how things are going to unfold. Accept that things are going to be a little different this year. Avoid dwelling on what you cannot control and focus on the things you can.

Start by looking at your local public health guidelines and talking to your health care team. Reflect on what traditions are most important to you and your family: Take some time to check in with yourself on the essence of the holidays for you and what you want to preserve. Get creative and think of ways that you can keep your most important traditions alive.

For example…

  • If you really love baking and normally do this with others, consider setting up a video chat to do this instead of hosting something in person.
  • There are also online programs like Elfster that allow you to organize a Secret Santa exchange with your loved ones.
  • Focus this year on setting up more outdoor decorations, like decorating a tree outside for those outdoor socially distanced visits with family and friends.
  • If you live in the country, maybe you have a fire pit in your backyard and can invite family members over to social distance and open presents around the fire in the backyard.
  • Plan a socially distanced walk with a close family member who doesn’t live with you, ensuring you bundle up. Bring hot chocolate or tea in a thermos for your walk to keep you warm!
  • If getting together outside is not possible, you might consider organizing a video chat with your extended family on Christmas or phoning a close friend to catch up during the holidays.

*Note: These are not meant to be recommendations, they are simply ideas to get you thinking of what safe activities you can do this holiday season! Please always consult your doctor and public health guidelines before making any decisions. 

Be Kind to Yourself

Know that your feelings are valid and that you’re not alone. There are things you can do to help yourself during this time – take time to connect with your feelings, talk about it, journal. If you’re feeling anxious, taking stock of what you’re grateful for might not be the first thing that comes to mind, however research shows that keeping a gratitude journal can help improve your mental health.

Try not to abandon the healthy habits that are important to you

For some, overindulgence or too much of a break from routine can add to their anxiety. Make efforts to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Look into creating or downloading a self-care advent calendar. You can make one yourself by grabbing a calendar, looking at the month of December and choosing one thing you will do for yourself every day.

Meditation can help take the festive weight off your shoulders

Focus your attention and eliminate the thoughts, issues, or problems that may be crowding your mind and causing anxiety. Meditation can create a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. It can also help with both physical and mental well-being.

Find new ways to help others

For some families, helping their communities and giving back during the holidays is something important to them. Consider a donation to a non-profit organization, dropping off cookies or pizza for the nurses and doctors at the hospital or sending a holiday card to a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Take time to talk and reach out for help if needed

It is normal to feel worried, scared or helpless during uncertain times. Remember: it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too. If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, don’t wait, reach out for support.

For Cancer Coaching, go to www.ottawacancer.ca or call 613-247-3527.

For Counselling, visit https://www.counsellingconnect.org/

For 24 hour Crisis Support: call 613-238-3311 or https://www.dcottawa.on.ca/24-7-crisis-line/

Article by Cancer Coaches Melina Ladouceur and Patricia Barrett-Robillard. 

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