BY: DAWNE McKAY
Christmas can be a challenging time for all of us but it can be extremely difficult for many collision survivors, or others, who are recovering from a brain injury. Everything is supposed to be happy with plenty of family and togetherness, but what if you are a survivor of a car crash or another recent brain injury? As survivors, we need to acknowledge that the holidays will be different this year.
Here are some helpful tips to support you during this festive period:
1. Say yes to help!
There will people who will want to help and may offer their support. Take them up on their offers. If family members or friends aren’t offering, ask. If you have always been independent like me, I found this very hard to do, but it is so important. Asking others to help with cooking, shopping or decorating can be a big relief and can help take away some of your stress.
2. Decide where you want to spend the holidays.
You may want to change the location especially if you travel out of town every year to celebrate with family. Ask your family members to come see you or suggest a Skype or Facetime chat if you are unable to celebrate with them this year.
3. Remember that not everyone will be feeling the same way as you.
Be honest. Tell people what you want or what you do not want to do for the holidays. Let them know what will make you uncomfortable, such as a drive to visit a relative. Make it clear that some things aren’t easy for you.
4. Don’t send holiday cards if you are not up to the task.
Finding addresses and writing cards can take a lot of energy and could cause unnecessary fatigue. Your family and friends will understand if they do not receive a card from you this year.
5. Make a Holiday list and check it twice.
Yes another list! Surviving a collision and recovering from a brain injury makes it harder for us to concentrate and remember things. Once you complete a task on your list make sure to check it off as you go. Put your list in a safe spot. I always have my list on the front of my fridge so I can always find it and have easy access to it.
If you are stressed about getting to the mall or walking around with the crowds, cut back on gifts or shop online.
6. Skip (or minimize) the decorations if it is too much for you this year.
You don’t have to have the perfect tree, perfectly wrapped gifts, and perfect table. Accept that this year may not be perfect and that it is okay. Ask someone for help. Remember that your family and friends are there to help and they will understand.
7. Remember that crying is okay.
The holidays can be overwhelming even for someone that is not recovering from a collision. If you have a house full of guests, excuse yourself if you feel a cry-fest coming on and take some time to yourself. Find a quiet spot to de-compose. Holidays can be hectic so “alone” time is necessary especially if you are recovering.
8. Watch the food
Food can make us feel better in the short term. Don’t deprive yourself, but be careful that you do not let food become your holiday comfort especially if you are sedentary. You already have enough going on with your recovery without having to deal with a bad stomach from overeating or a sudden weight gain.
9. Watch your intake of alcohol.
Alcohol can become a fast friend when we are feeling anxious, stressed or simply overwhelmed. You may already be taking prescription medication for your injuries and those two substances are not a good mix.
10. Splurge on a gift for you if you can.
Make it small and simple. I always treat myself to a beautiful Christmas Bouquet at Christmas and place them in an area where I can always see them. When I find myself overwhelmed or frustrated, I gaze upon those lovely flowers and it helps lessen my anxiety even if its just for a few minutes.
11. Take a social media diet
Limit your use on social media during the holidays especially if you are feeling frustrated, sad or lonely. Your eyes need to rest!
12. Stick to a proper bedtime
Try your best to go to bed the same time every night. An hour before bed, start winding down your activities so you can set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. Think of this as your time to power down: focus on relaxing your body and mind.
13. If you’re still in hospital
If you are in the hospital recovering from a crash this Christmas, it is only natural that you may be missing your family and friends not to mention all the wonderful food and festivities. Remind your family members and friends to visit you only if you feel up to it. If they cannot visit, ask them to call you at a certain time so you do not feel alone or left out. Ask a family member or friend to bring you something from home that is festive to bring some Christmas joy to your room.
Dawne McKay is a survivor of a horrific car crash and is the Founder of the online support group MVA Support & Recovery which allows survivors of collisions from all over the globe to come together to support each other as they navigate their road to recovery. Dawne is also the Founder of “Sharing Our Recovery” which is a quarterly newsletter filled with informative up-to-date articles from organizations, groups and businesses relating to Motor Vehicle Collisions. In 2018, her advocacy continued as she became a “Crash Survivor Blogger.” You can find her writing about her own personal experiences during recovery which includes advice and tips for survivor on our Crash Survivor Blog.