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Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season with a Brain Injury by Charles Watson


Posted on December 21, 2019

Holidays are a stressful time for people with brain injury as survivors of TBI face more overstimulation than during normal days. This leads to additional brain fatigue and stress. Brain injury victims find it difficult to effectively manage stress as the brain’s wiring and circuitry do not work efficiently.

Injured brains do not know how to process all the information coming to them at once due to cognitive impairments. For instance, flashing lights, overcrowded places and loud family gatherings. The delayed responses leave the brain confused and tired. This is the reason behind the symptoms associated with brain injury, namely, headache, dizziness, amnesia, anxiety and depression.

Here are some simple things that you can follow to make the holidays less stressful for you or a loved one dealing with a brain injury.

  1. Keep hydrated: If you are out shopping, carry a water bottle with you to prevent from becoming dehydrated. Drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks can also lead to dehydration, hence should be avoided to alleviate overstimulation. 
  2. Decrease the amount of stimulation: If you can, avoid going to stores and instead shop online. Wear light tinted glasses to avoid glare and use earbuds or headphones to reduce the noise. Plan in advance and ask the hosts about what kind of party to expect. It is always better to be accompanied by a friend who can help you in crowds or anxiety-producing situations. Before going out, which is inevitable during the holiday season, do not watch television or listen to the radio in the car. 
  3. Take adequate rest: The hustle and bustle of the holidays can tire you down; hence rest is a must. Make your trips short, take a nap before or after a big outing. Get a good night’s sleep, rest is critical to help the brain to recover. Plan your day well in advance such that you manage one event or activity in a day rather than cramming all the errands in one day. Your brain will thank you. 
  4. Make a shopping list: Have a list of things ready and where you will go shopping for them. Organizing yourself can reduce the level of stress. Again if possible shop online or ask friends or family to help you with the shopping wherever possible. This way, you can keep the stress to a minimum and shopping enjoyable.
  5. Speak up, ask if you need help: Noisy parties, Christmas lights, family gatherings are all a part of holidays. To reduce stress, ask for help before you’ve reached your limits. Be it driving, shopping, and preparing meals or decorations, and so on. If you feel fatigued, do not hesitate to leave the party early or speak up and let someone know that you need to rest for a while. 

It may not be evident to others the effect overstimulation can have on a brain injury victim or the stress that it causes. If you happen to be a family member, caregiver or friend of a TBI survivor, you may be able to understand how stressful overstimulation can be. 

The holiday season is a time for joy, love, and peace. With proper planning, adequate rest, fatigue and stress can be avoided if not completely eliminated. Enjoy your holidays in a way that is comfortable and makes you happy.