by Linda W. Arms
With an injured brain, the holiday season can burden us with more fatigue, more stress and perhaps some sad emotions. We may remember how our lives used to be before our injuries but we have to move on and appreciate our lives today. We can look back with fond memories but we can also build new ones that don’t require us to overdo during the holidays.
We will be able to enjoy ourselves much more if we prepare ourselves for the holiday season. Here are some tips that work for me since my brain injury:
- Pace yourself – don’t commit to more than you can successfully handle. Don’t overdo the shopping, the cleaning, and the cooking or other activities. Give yourself a quiet day before going to that party or dinner. Take a nap or just lay down and rest. Do everything in moderation.
- Say “No” – sometimes it’s better to turn down large family get-together because of all the challenges of interacting, a lot of noise and making your way around all the people. And then, of course, we have to remember that when we overdo it one day we have to pay for it the next.
- Get organized in advance – Write things down to help you remember what you need to do. Why burden your brain by trying to keep it all in your head?
- Prioritize – only do what is important. There are probably things to do that you can put aside until after the holidays.
- Ask for help – with the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning or whatever else it is.
- Keep things simple – 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. The added decorations and lights can add to our fatigue because they are visually stimulating which the brain has to process and sometimes not very well.
- Eat properly throughout the day to nourish your brain so it can do a better job for you. Drink recommended amounts of water, our brains need it.
- Determine how to get where you have to go before you leave – I like doing this the day before so I can study the Google map and try to think about it for a while before I get on the street. I even do a “street view” in Google Maps so I can be familiar with the area I’m travelling to.
- Determine how much time you need to get there – Give yourself some extra time since stressing causes an additional load on our brain which we want to avoid. Write down what time you have to leave, what time you need to start getting ready. I have trouble with time and remembering the numbers. I write it down so I don’t have to re-think this 10 times before I go.
- Determine what you need to take with you and what you are going to wear – Doing this well ahead of time saves that last-minute pressure that makes it difficult to function if you have a brain injury.
- Determine, in advance, your way out of the social situation or other activity if things are not going well for you. You may need to find a ride home. You may need to leave early before the dinner is over. You may need to cancel before you even leave the house. It’s good to let others know that you may have a problem and that you just have to escape before you can’t function well enough to get yourself back home safely.
- If you’re going to a new place for dinner, study the menu on the Internet before you go. I found it very hard to focus on a new menu and figure out what to eat when I just couldn’t keep up with the busy restaurant environment and people at the table talking to me. It’s easier to decide in advance if possible.
- Try to get a table in a quiet, less busy part of the restaurant. I often get a table away from the hub-bub and I sit facing the wall so I don’t have to see the movement in the restaurant. I sometimes asked the waiter to turn down the music.
The idea is to save brain energy so you can have a good time. Enjoy!