Tis' the season. We all know what this time of year means – gifts, shopping, crowds, and parties. There is a lot of hustle and bustle, chaos and stress. For those of us without a brain injury, this time of year can be extremely difficult and painful. Knowing that there are so many things to do and so many places to go – with high expectations – it can be a recipe for a meltdown, even for the best of us.

Now add in a brain that does not do well when there is stress and expectations, noise and pressure.

How do you make it through this time of year with a brain injury added to the mix?

Keep the Peace

There is nothing more important during this time of rushing and loud noises than ensuring that people with brain injuries have enough down time away from the chaos. Crowds, groups of people, noise (even happy holiday noises like music and carols) all drain out energy that the brain needs to process information. As the brain loses energy, the ability to concentrate, recall information and process details becomes less precise, and the ability to control emotions becomes difficult.

Pace Yourself

There is a lot of temptation for many families living with someone with a brain injury to forgo any holiday parties or events because of the risk of fatigue and emotional upset. Although there is always a risk of emotional difficulties, setting the stage before an event with plenty of rest, a plan for the event with breaks if possible, and knowing the signs of fatigue are all ways that will help everyone have a good time.

Sometimes it is just time to go home

Even the best laid plans can come crashing down around you. Planning, organizing and preparing can not account for some of the things that happen that we have no control over: screaming children, flat tires, burned food or a family fight. Each of these has the potential to bring an angry outburst, a headache, or the desire to flee – and sometimes, as a family, we need to understand that we may just have to accept that the party is over.

Plan ahead

Try to make plans that will be fun for family and friends, but will give individuals living with a brain injury the best chance of enjoying themselves. Reduce the amount of guests to smaller groups if possible; keep music down low, and ask friends and family to keep conversations at lower volumes. If the party is in the evening, allow the individual to have some rest time in the afternoon before the event to recharge that brain battery, and if they need a break or to rest, have an available room that they could lie down, or a place they can go to get away for a short period of time if needed.

Understand that sometimes all of the planning in the world can not make the perfect holiday party, but by using some of the strategies above you can improve the chances that individuals living with a brain injury can enjoy the festivals with everyone else. Many individuals feel isolated due to their injury, and if family and friends are aware of some of the triggers that can impact someone, they can plan their events with support available.

Happy Holidays everyone.