person sitting at a table with a well proportioned plate of food in front of them and an overflowing plate of food pushed away

Pace Yourself for the Holidays

“Pace yourself.” What a radical idea! It is almost unheard of in our society. We live in a time of technology and multi-tasking and unlimited production. Many of us are exhausted before we start fighting cancer. Cancer is just one more thing we wedge onto an already full plate and we try to power through.

Things have changed

We may be self-judgmental and think we have to get everything done so nobody worries. We may need to keep up appearances for a host of reasons. “This is the way I have always done things,” or “I can handle it, I always have.” The problem is, everything is not the same. We have changed. Our health and abilities have changed and that is okay. It is okay!

Be honest with yourself

We have to accept our new reality first. We have to sit down and have a frank talk with ourselves. This is a hard conversation and there may be a need to have it more than once or take some notes. Try to be honest with yourself. Try not including other people’s opinions or needs. This is not selfish. This is self-preservation. It is self-care and many of us have never experienced it. We are conditioned to take care of others, often at the expense of ourselves.

"I" statements and meditation practices

Experiment with “I” statements. Write them down and practice in front of a mirror if it helps. In a meditation session, I learn the following acronym and I hope it helps someone else as much as it has helped me.

Don't J.A.D.E.

The word to remember is “Jade” and the practice is, "Don’t J.A.D.E."


"I" statements

Your "I" statements may include:
I won’t be able to _________. Thank you
I can’t _________.
I need to take a break.
I need ____________. Thanks.
I need you to do ____________. Thank you.

You don't have to justify your needs

Notice that every one of the sentences starts with “I.” None of the statements have an apology attached, and they are all reasonable. Every statement is self-empowering. You do not have to explain or justify why you need an accommodation. You do not need to argue over your limits. Don’t defend your needs. They are your needs, and that is totally fine. Finally, try not explaining your needs. The people close to you know about your cancer and should be glad to see you taking care of yourself. The people who are not close enough to know about your cancer are not close enough to need an explanation.

Setting your limits

The first few times you set limits may feel awkward and selfish; this is a conditioned response and not based on truth or reality. Let your needs be known in a loving, kind, and resolute manner. The people who love you will accept your limits and may well be happy that you are allowing them to help more. Anyone who questions your limits can be dismissed with a smile and a change of subject.

Enjoy the season

The holidays are supposed to be a time of family and joy. The emotional nature of cancer can create its own stress and anxiety. Do your best to slow down and take care of yourself so you can enjoy the season with those you love. If something doesn’t get done, it is okay. If that something that you cannot do is important, someone else will do it, but if that does not happen and it goes undone, so be it. Everything will be fine and the holiday will go merrily along.

May your holidays be filled with love and laughter and peace and a heaping dose of self-care.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.