We’ve put together top tips to help you get through the festive season after brain injury.
Christmas is a time when families and friends come together to eat, drink, and be merry – or so we’re led to believe. In reality, however, a busy social calendar, family politics, complex meals to plan and prepare, present shopping to do, and an expectation to keep smiling can mean ‘tis not always the season to be jolly!
This is particularly the case when you combine these common stressors with brain injury effects such as fatigue, difficulty with planning, memory problems, and intolerance to noise. For some, the very thought of Christmas can result in nightmares!
So how do people with a brain injury plan for a stress-free Christmas?
Forward planning seems to be the key, helping to put things in place before the big day:
“Beforehand, let your family know you will need lots of breaks throughout the Christmas period.”
“Circle the calendar or memo your phone to remind you to order meds to see you through until the new year. Present shop throughout the year. Clear at least a few days for wrapping, same again for delivery. As for food shopping, I start adding a Christmas item each week to the shopping for the freezer.”
“I have lists. It’s the only way Christmas happens. I also do as much in advance as I can.”
“The run up before can be overload time so once again plan shopping. I wrap and hide presents – but I have to remember to let someone else know where I’ve put them…yes I have found presents at Easter time.”
On the day itself, fatigue plays a part for many. It’s really important to be aware of what triggers your fatigue and don’t be afraid to put yourself first, taking time out if necessary.
“Try not to do everything, accept help, ask for it if needed, try and space out the visits so not everyone all at once or, if not possible, take regular breaks, hour naps or lie down.”
“Don’t be afraid to say ‘I’m going to have a rest now’ then join back in when you are ready!!!,” and I forget has a great idea for refreshing yourself on the big day: “Maybe take a walk…a short stroll in the fresh air can be a welcome break from the heat and chaos indoors…or shoo everyone else out for a walk and enjoy the peace and quiet!”
“I started buying a turkey crown so there’s no messing with legs, wings and bones, just slicing tender meat and equally tasty!” she said. “And my stuffing was the ‘Paxo’ type, which I prepared the night before ready for crisping in the oven the following day. I also peeled all the veg on Christmas Eve. And my pudding was a bought one which took 3&1/2 mins in the microwave.”
Doing What Suits You Best
You shouldn’t feel pressured to do things a certain way.
“Most of all I would simply say ‘do it your way’…you don’t need to keep it like a traditional and fairytale Christmas. Make it manageable…eat pancakes if that’s what you want, don’t give presents if you can’t afford them.”
“A general tip would be keep it all as simple and cheap as you can and, if you are hosting, ask family to bring a contribution to the dinner.”
“Mellow out. Christmas shouldn’t be stressful…What I would mostly want for Christmas is to have a good time, good food and good company.”