Christmas can be an immensely stressful time when someone in your family has a sustained a brain injury. With potential ‘trigger points’ everywhere – a busy social calendar, family politics, complex meals to plan and prepare, present shopping to do, and an expectation to keep smiling – you and your family may find it difficult to cope with the additional pressures at Christmas.
There will be times when emotions are much more heightened than others, and when the sense of change can feel greater. Christmas – the season which often celebrates outside of a ‘normal’ routine – is most certainly one of these times.
It doesn’t matter whether your family member sustained their brain injury a few weeks, months or years ago, you may struggle to cope together at Christmas.
We have pulled together some of our top tips for managing stress and supporting loved ones, which we hope the whole family will find useful.
Help to put things in place in good time before the big day (food shopping, present buying and wrapping) and allow for breaks throughout the Christmas period, including spacing out visits.
Use lists to highlight things that need to take place throughout the holiday period, including important reminders such as ordering and taking medication.
Everyone in the family will have different ways of coping. Give children (and yourself) permission to look forward to and enjoy Christmas. Be kind to yourself and if things become too much, find a way to take time out. Someone struggling with fatigue might want a nap, or a quiet space away from noise until they are ready to re-join. Having a signal to alert that someone in the family needs some time out – such as picking up a designated teddy or book – would allow for a visible sign to watch out for.
Make space to remember the person ‘pre-brain injury’ is missing and it’s natural to miss their old roles within the family. You may find that talking provides the base to start new traditions that you didn’t do beforehand.
Remember to look after yourself, if things become a bit too much, you could always find a way to take a breather. Make plans but also give yourself permission to change your mind. Keep things simple. Give yourself permission to not be ok and, equally, to have fun and smile.
Our team can offer more advice, information, resources, and support to help you support a brain injury survivor.
Friends of Headway Individual membership Join/Renew