16 tips for surviving the holidays with a brain injury

tips surviving holidays brain injury

The days are getting shorter, the leaves fall of the trees and the weather has turned colder. Yep, winter is coming. Which also means that the holiday season is upon us.

I always looked forward to Christmas. The decorations, the lights, watching Christmas movies and all the Christmas traditions. Looked yes, as having a brain injury affects everything. Christmas is no longer just a cosy and happy holiday. It has become a form of top-class sport.

Holidays simply require a lot of energy. Not only as you have to deviate from your schedule, but also due to all the lights, the songs you’ll hear everywhere and all the crowds. This makes December a challenging month, to say the least.

That being said, I hope that this year things will be slightly better than before. Since a proper preparation is half the battle, I decided to list of all the lessons I’ve learned in the past four years. Hopefully, I can learn from my mistakes and maybe even inspire others (and because I just love making lists :)).

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Tips for surviving the holidays with a brain injury


Just thinking about everything that’s coming at you, can be overwhelming. Also you will have to make some difficult choices.

  1. List all the celebrations and corresponding activities that you could do and that require extra energy.
  2. Decide which of these you really want to do.
  3. Be honest with yourself. Is doing all of these things, combined with your daily ‘normal’ tasks, really achievable? Which adjustments can you make, to make it easier for yourself?
  4. Plan your breaks or quiet moments and stick to your plan. Use a timer or ask someone to give you a signal when you need to take a break.


Next up is preparation. How you can prepare yourself when you’re planning to attend a festivity with others, such as a family dinner.

  1. Make sure that you’re rested whenever you are going somewhere or doing something.
  2. Make sure you always have a survival kit with you, in case you get overloaded. (Mine holds ear plugs, sleeping mask, paracetamol, small candy (for the sugar and distraction), mp3, menthol stick (for a panic attack) and water).
  3. Make sure you feel comfortable in whatever you’re planning to wear.
  4. Prepare your reactions to the questions or comments you’re likely to get. Like ‘how are you?’, ‘what are you doing these days?’ or ‘have you recovered yet?’. This allows me to stick to my prepared answer rather than getting flustered and stumbling a reply.


If you have a tradition of exchanging gift, don’t make it too hard on yourself.

  1. Stores can be an assault on your senses, especially this time of year. If you really have to go to the store, prepare yourself. Otherwise choose to order your items online.
  2. Follow the DIY route. It’s quite simple to make gifts yourself. You can find loads of ideas and step-by-step plans online. Simply enter ‘DIY Christmas gifts’ in a search engine and find something that you like.
  3. Rather than giving a physical something, you can also give an experience. Make a special coupon or invitation, inviting them to do an activity together with you.

The festivities themselves

This is where I almost always fail, as I ‘forget’ to stick to my plan when I’m enjoying myself.

  1. Whenever the candles are lit, the Christmas lights or music are turned on, ask if it can be turned off, if you’re sensitive to light or sound.
  2. Don’t stay in the (living) room with all the people. Find a quieter place to have a conversation.
  3. Stick to your planned breaks. And remember: when you leave and still feel like you have some energy left, you did a good job!

Be kind to yourself

Especially in the beginning, I was constantly comparing to before my injury. Which only made me more disappointed. Be aware that things have changed and adjust your expectations.

  1. Try to enjoy and be grateful for the small things. Seeing each other, receiving a thoughtful card or a successful meal. Don’t forget to focus on all the things that you can do.
  2. Of course you can always start a new tradition! Find something new, something that you can do and that you can look forward to. For me New Year’s Eve is the worst evening of the year. Which is why my new tradition is making sure that I’m somewhere quiet on vacation for that day. 🙂

Be kind, girl with heart

I hope there was something in here that you could use! Do you have any tips to add? Are you looking forward to the holidays? Which holiday is your favourite/worst and why?

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