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    A Cancer Survivor’s Guide to the Holidays

    The holidays can be beautiful. And stressful. No matter which way you try to spin it, gathering with friends and family, decorating the house, shopping for presents, trying to squeeze in all the traditions, and make time for everything can get exhausting if we let it. And when you add cancer to the list, even the happiest times lose their spark when you’re worried about the health care needs of yourself or someone close to you.

    But it doesn’t have to be crazy this year. Here’s a few tips to staying present (see what I did there?) and enjoying the “most wonderful time of year”, even dealing with cancer and after-effects of illness:

    Make yourself a priority.

    • Give your emotions some space and express your feelings, no matter how good or bad they might be.
    • It’s easy to forget about your nutrition when you’re surrounded by cookies and treats! Eat your greens and make time physical activity to release tension and boost your oxygen levels.
    • Allow yourself simple pleasures that will help lift your mood. Maybe that’s listening to your body when you need a nap, enjoying a book you’ve been wanting to get into, or taking a hot bath and diffusing some essential oils like lavender for relaxation. saz-b-466958
    • Find distractions that will keep your mind in the present: going to a movie, dinner, playing cards with friends, or other activities you enjoy.
    • Meditate. Practice yoga and stretching to relax and release.
    • Plan in advance how you want to spend your time, with whom, and for how long. Give yourself permission to step away from anything or anyone with negative or toxic energy.
    • Practice saying “No”. You don’t have to participate in everything. People will understand if you can’t attend or need time to yourself. And if they don’t…well, practice boundaries and recognize that your well-being is more important.

    Don’t let this season overwhelm you.

    • Stress lowers the immune system and creates havoc in your body systems. Learn to be okay with letting others help you. Don’t pressure yourself with unrealistic expectations or try to do everything yourself.
    • If you’re of drinking age, don’t overindulge in alcohol. Because alcohol is a depressant, it can “bring out” or amplify negative feelings.
    • Don’t try to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. Give yourself permission to be real. paul-green-58111
    • Buying things will not make up for any negative feelings you are having. Stick to a budge for the holidays. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. And don’t exhaust yourself trying to cram shopping in. “Hustle and bustle” can really take a toll on your health!
    • Don’t try to do everything. Make a list, and be realistic with your time and energy.
    • Don’t abandon healthy habits! Get plenty of sleep. Stay active when you’re up for it. Eat well.

    Holidays tend to heighten grief.

    It’s true — we seem to feel a lot more during the holidays. Extreme emotions of joy and sadness can surface. jennifer-pallian-173714And as a cancer survivor, I have been in that place where thoughts of “survivor’s guilt” and disconnection reveal themselves. Allow yourself to feel pain and whatever other emotions come along, too.

    Grief is an important part of the healing process, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay in that headspace. Try following some of the tips above, and remember it’s okay to distract yourself sometimes. Be fully there with your family and loved ones, practice self-care, and embrace the beauty of the season!

     


    About the Author

    Sabrina Gauer is our Communications Coordinator and Wellness Coach here at 13thirty Cancer Connect! Follow her blog and Instagram for more tips and encouragement for whole health and wellness living! 

  • yoga

    Finding Your Peace – How Rest Can Change Your Perspective

    “Being diagnosed with cancer really opened my eyes to the fact that anyone can have it and that even though we think we have control over everything in our lives, we don’t. What I was forced to learn…was to put myself first. To really honor myself by saying no to the things I don’t want to do…I don’t believe you have to be diagnosed to come to these lessons, but sometimes the catastrophic moments in life force you to focus on the immediate.” Sheryl Crow, from her foreword of Crazy Sexy Cancer by Kris Carr.

    “Now inhale and exhale. Really focus on your breathing, dropping your shoulders, closing your eyes, and bringing yourself to center.”

    I was seated with legs crossed and hands on my knees, yoga mat beneath me. The instructor was patiently and intentionally guiding us through the meditative portion of the class, and I felt my stress lift from my shoulders as I focused on my breath. It reminded me that I hadn’t really thought about breathing that day. It’s a necessity of life, but we too often take it for granted.

    Inhale.
    Exhale.

    Seems so simple, but how often do you forget to just take a deep, cleansing breath throughout the day? How often do you forget to stop living in crisis-mode every time a situation arises?

    How often do you put yourself first?

    Rest and meditation tend to come with negative labels in our busywork society and culture. There’s never enough time in the day to accomplish everything. By the time we’ve raced through our day, whether that looks like doctor’s appointments, school, taking care of children, making dinner, cleaning, dealing with deadlines at work, etc…we crash into bed at night, usually after a few episodes on Netflix, utterly spent.

    But what if we decided to look at resting as a good thing? Sometimes that means actual sleep, and making sure we are getting adequate sleep to heal our bodies (READ: Put the phone on airplane mode and get away from screens before bed!), but other times, that just means being able to say no to the things you don’t want to do. Honor yourself, and don’t be afraid to speak up. As cancer patients, survivors, and thrivers, we are too often allowing other people to make decisions for us (spouses, parents, well-meaning friends, doctors, bosses, and so on).

    But what if you just said “No” when you needed to? Firmly, politely, and without explanation or justification?

    Taking time for yourself and finding your peace can look like spending an afternoon with a good book and your cellphone off. Maybe it’s a gentle flow yoga class with a friend. Maybe it’s journaling and exploring your emotions on paper.

    According to an article published in Psychology Today, meditation, rest, and reflection have scientifically-proven health benefits: “It gives you perspective: By observing your mind, you realize you don’t have to be slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy, jealous, happy and sad but that it doesn’t have to run you. Meditation is quite simply mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself.”

    Whatever helps you to center yourself, breathe, and reflect is the way you heal from the inside out. Letting go of those activities that are life-draining instead of life-giving. And getting alone with your thoughts, closing your eyes, and giving meditation a shot can change your perspective on all aspects of life. You don’t have to give in to the rushed, busywork mentality.

    You can choose to be centered.

     


     

    13thirty Cancer Connect offers monthly yoga, Fit! classes, and massage for parents! Please contact stephen@13thirty.org for more program information and how to register.

     

    About the Author

    Sabrina Gauer is our Communications Coordinator and Wellness Coach here at 13thirty Cancer Connect! Follow her blog and Instagram for more tips and encouragement for whole health and wellness living! 

  • 5 Ways to Stay Healthy this Summer

    I don’t know about you, but it feels as though every May, I start mapping out all the awesome summer plans I have; swimming, being at the lake with friends, trying new restaurants, attempting a roadtrip, hiking, and looking forward to warm summer evenings around bonfires. Pinterest and Instagram are filled with snapshots of happy people seemingly having the time of their lives (which, of course, is hardly ever the case!).

    But, suddenly it’s mid-July, and I haven’t accomplished most of that!

    Maybe time is flying by for you, too. But as the days get busier and fuller with things to do, we tend to let our health slide to an after-thought. As cancer patients and survivors, it’s even more critical to pay attention to our health and wellness, and to be careful to make space for relaxing and stress-relief!

    Here are five easy ways we can focus on staying healthy this summer!

    • Put the phone down.

    Let’s be honest- whether you’re in the hospital right now while it seems all your friends are out living “carefree” summer days, recovering at home with energy levels that require more naps than endless summer nights, or you’re back at the routine of life and trying to keep up with the everyday, social media is an easy way to lose track of time and create a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out). 

    Give yourself a break! You’re doing great! Schedule times in the day when you let mindless scrolling happen – but don’t forget to turn the phone off for a while and connect with actual, real life.

    • Rest! 

    One of the hardest things to do is listen to your body. When we ignore our need for rest and recovery, we cause ourselves more harm than we realize. Find what makes you feel rested: reading, a nap in the hammock, taking a second to breathe and practice mindfulness. In a culture where being “busy” makes us feel most productive, it’s imperative to our healing to take time and rest.

    • Protect your skin.

    With skin cancers continually on the rise, it’s not surprising that sunscreen usage is even more important these days! Make sure your sunscreen is as natural as possible (i.e., no cancer-causing chemicals!), as it only takes about 20 seconds for anything applied to your skin to reach your bloodstream! Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website for a list of best sunscreens to use this summer.

    • Eat local!

    Seasonal fruits and veggies will nourish your body and spirit this summer! Visit your local farmer’s market, or gather up some friends and go blueberry-picking at places like Wild Hill Farm, or look for the “Locally grown” signs in your favorite grocery store to support sustainable growers  in your area! When you buy produce in-season, you are saving money and eating the freshest, most nutrient-dense, immune-boosting foods.

    • Enjoy the little things.

    Practice gratitude. No matter where you’re at this summer – whether life looks exactly like you want it, or you’re facing an uphill battle right now – every day is a new day to be thankful for the little blessings. It’s not always easy to see the bright side, but the more you practice being grateful for the small things, there’s something beautiful that happens inside of you. When you can see beyond your current circumstances and see a glimmer of light, it’s life-giving and strengthening.

    No matter the season, your health should always be a top priority. Whether you’re starting from scratch or you’re already working on living a healthy lifestyle, it’s always easier when you have support and encouragement! At 13thirty Cancer Connect, we’re here to support you in your whole wellness journey through connections with each other, our 13thirty Fit! programs, yoga and massage, activities and events that bring us together (like our 2017 Bandana Bolt!) and helping adolescents and young adults (AYAs) impacted by cancer live their very best lives – today! Check out our events page and follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!) to stay up-to-date on how to get connected!

     

    About the Author

    Sabrina Gauer is our Communications Coordinator and Wellness Coach here at 13thirty Cancer Connect! Follow her blog and Instagram for more tips and encouragement for whole health and wellness living!