Becoming the Best U: Christmas stress and finding a new normal

By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times

Question: Christmas is my least favorite holiday. My parents are divorced and both got remarried. My sister spends Christmas with her husband’s family. Me, I just want to get through the day. I hate the drama the comes with it all. Is it terrible if I just stay home and ignore the day?

Jane – Berwyn

Answer: You’re not alone. Although many people say they love Christmas and all the holidays of the season, the anxiety and stress that comes with it, as well as depression, is common. In fact, according to some statistics, as many as 55% of Americans say they experience more loneliness, financial stress, and time pressures than any other time of year. The numbers are even higher for those that are single. Thus, please make sure you don’t give in to the pressures during this holiday season. If you’re not up for getting together, be willing to tell your family. Perhaps, instead, you could consider spending Christmas volunteering at a soup kitchen, as many people find giving back helps them feel the essence of the holiday spirit. Another suggestion is you take a little vacation, and give yourself a much-needed Christmas present. All this being said, people who isolate themselves often feel worse, so don’t rush to turn down an invitation. You can always leave if you find yourself uncomfortably stressed. And, although Hallmark doesn’t want to remind everyone, it’s just one day. Next Monday, everyone will be back at work.

Question: I recently went in remission from breast cancer. And, as much as I’m relieved and happy, I’m also scared as you know what. The problem is, everyone keeps asking when am I going to get back to my normal life.  I don’t know what a normal life is anymore. I quit my job when I got too sick and I don’t want to go back. Any tips?

Phyllis – West Chester

Answer: Congratulations Phyllis! It is great news you are in remission now, and I can totally relate to being scared about how to begin to get your life back. For me, cancer decimated almost every part of my life. While everyone thought I could just go back to normal, the epiphany was realizing that I didn’t want my normal old life back; instead, I wanted to become the best me and start a new, better life. (Hence, my company name and column, Becoming the Best U.) Please give yourself the time you need to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally, while you figure some things out. Recognizing that cancer’s wrath causes much grief along with other things, will help when you still experience one or more of the six stages of grief (in no particular order) -denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, finding meaning. The road after cancer is uncharted. However, I believe cancer gives us many gifts; one of them being a new set of priorities. For me, I had always accepted my stress level, believing there was nothing I could do about it. After hearing the words, “You have cancer,” I vowed to lower my stress in all areas of my life. It’s made all the difference. What has having cancer taught you? Give it some time, and you’ll find your silver lining. And, please, consider working with a therapist or psychiatrist, as the emotional rollercoaster from cancer is usually scarier than most people recognize. On a more positive note, have faith in yourself, as you are a survivor! Your road to remission was challenging to say the least, I’m sure. And just as you woke up each day and faced more obstacles that lay ahead of you, and succeeded, so, too, will you on your new road ahead. This is when the Serenity Prayer can help us a little, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Nancy is a survivor of stage 4 ovarian cancer, metastatic brain cancer, plus many other traumatic events. As a Wellness & Relationship Coach, she offers sage advice on ways to accept and navigate life’s challenges, and help you become the best you.

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