by Linda W. Arms, November 5, 2013
We are now in the middle of the holiday season which can challenge those of us with an injured brain. It is a time when so much more is expected of us than most other times of the year. We along with our loved ones, friends and caregivers should all remember that it’s best to simplify so we can enjoy things more. It’s been nearly 9 years since my brain injury and I’m doing much better but I have to remind myself to keep things simple instead of doing all the things I “should” do, or the things I did before my injury.
This season brings so many more demands on our brain. We have to do a lot of extra things such as buying gifts, putting up decorations, doing more cooking and interacting with more people at social events. We have to maneuver around very busy stores, and the entire holiday hubbub on the roads and parking lots. The holidays can also be an emotional time because we might think back to our past selves when we could do so much more. We might feel our loss even more and feel that familiar grief.
Brain injury survivors and caregivers should take extra care during this time for rest, finding quiet spaces and doing less of what is expected during the holidays. Those of us with a brain injury probably are much more settled and can enjoy this time better if we don’t have ALL those decorations, especially flashing or moving lights all around us. They are overwhelming for our poor brains to process and contribute to sensory overload. Plus its a lot of work to put up so many decorations and take them back down. I put up just a few decorations and I can feel a strange anxiety of having those extra things to look at as I process my surroundings.
You also need to learn to say no to some things. I’ve turned down large family get-togethers in these past years because of all the challenges of interacting, a lot of noise and making your way through the groups of people. And then, of course, we have to remember that when we over-do-it one day we have to pay for it the next.
Ask for help. Instead of doing most of the cooking for a special meal, make it pot luck. Everyone contributes a dish or two. Instead of running to a lot of stores for gifts, buy online. Reduce the amount of gift giving. Many people are happy to opt out of gift exchanges or to cut back from earlier years.
Simplify the decorations, the gift giving, the meals and everything else that is part of the holiday season. Find ways to enjoy the holidays with quieter moments. Keep it simple and you’ll enjoy it more. And remember More is Not Better