What are your top tips for getting through Christm... - Headway

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What are your top tips for getting through Christmas after brain injury?


Many people find Christmas stressful, but for those living with the effects of a brain injury and their family members it presents a range of challenges.

We know it's early, but we'd like to put together an article about this for the next issue of Headway News, and we need your help.

Let us know what strategies and plans you use to get through Christmas below.

Thank you,


20 Replies

My first Christmas was a hospital dinner which I apparently demolished but have not the slightest recollection of.

Since then I've started buying cards, presents, cake and posh biscuits from Marks&Spencer, and anything else none-perishable, at the beginning of October.

It's not a special mission ; I just keep my eyes peeled for stuff that I used to buy in December amidst hoards of desperate Christmas shoppers. And I wrap presents and label them, as and when I feel like it.

After my BI my kids reversed our roles so I spend Christmas & Boxing days at their respective homes. But even when they spent Christmas at 'home' I did all I could to minimise the kitchen duties in order to keep stress levels down.

I started buying a turkey crown so there's no messing with legs, wings and bones ; just slicing tender meat and equally tasty ! And my stuffing was the 'Paxo' type, with added cooked onion & celery, which I prepared the night before ready for crisping in the oven the following day. I also peeled all the veg on Christmas eve. And my pudding was a bought one which took 3&1/2 mins in the microwave.

It can be pretty wearing with excited kids & their new toys for ANYone on the day but, being a lone parent, it was always acceptable when mine were young for mum to hog the couch after dinner and nod off for half an hour, occasionally peering out & saying 'Oh yes that's really good'.

Now, even at my daughter's, I'm allowed to hog their couch after dinner whilst my grandson keeps me from nodding off completely. But just resting, and it being ALLOWED is really important for me......................and at my sons I'm equally pampered !

I think if we can remind our families of our needs beforehand, and have contingency plans for respite if necessary, it's possible to come through the whole palaver relatively unscathed !

(Sorry, hadn't planned a whole essay !!) :o Cat x

Great idea!

If we all add something I'm sure we can print the article when it comes out and get more/different tips to try.

To get the ball rolling mine are.......

Circle the calendar or memo your phone to remind you to order meds to see you through until the new year.

Avoid the big family get togethers.

Present shop throughout the year.

Clear at least a few days for wrapping.

Same again for delivery.

As for food shopping I start adding a Christmas item each week to the shopping for the freezer.

We do see the extended family but in smaller groups and spread over the period.

It may sound a bit bah humbug but dump the twinkly lights and the motion activated "singing" decorations.

I'm sure there's more.

Look forward to the article.

Love n hugs


cat3 in reply to randomphantoms

Oh yes Random, keeping ahead of the prescription situation is probably no1 on the list ! :o xx

I should have said make sure the reminder is about 2 weeks before Christmas.

This gives you time to check what meds you have and be sure of having the new prescription in time.

If you experience any problems ordering meds early then explaining that you will run out or that you might be going to relatives can ease the process.

Love n hugs


Since I never was a fan of xmas anyway I'd probably not be best placed to reply with "conventional" tips.

Most of all I would simply say "do it your way".....don't need to keep it like traditional and fairytale Christmas. Make it manageable...eat pancakes ifthat's what you want, don't give presents if you can't afford them.....as for cards, I gave up years ago....such a waste of time, money and trees.....

Personally I prefer to avoid all the pushy, consumerist stress of it.....glad to be going away again. This yr

Gaia_rising in reply to moo196

I'm with you, it was never my thing, and the BI gave me a validated excuse not to sit watching the in-laws eat sprouts with their mouths open... Bracing myself for next door's nauseating blue-flashing outdoor lights going up on the first of December, making me think there's an ambulance outside all of the time.


For us it is more about our financal problems.However i agree with Cat keep stress to low level.My hubby daughter and i celabrate winter solstice on the 21st but the rest of our famlies do christmas,so that can add to the stress. A general "tip" would be keep it all as simple and cheap as you can and ask family if you are hosting to bring a contribution to the dinner. Last year i got everything we neede for food in Aldi for 75 pounds.My mum bought the turkey crown and i cooked the veg and made cauliflower cheese for me as iam veggie.

i spent it with my mum in law. she always liked to spend xmas in her own home.

one year my daughter, who lives in dubai, invited us over to spend xmas with her and her partner.....................and 19 people id never met. i mentioned this to my psychiatrist and he agreed and said i wasnt ready.

we went over, his mum came to the the apartment, what a patronising bitch.

needless to say my wife and i ended spending xmas day on our own

our last headway group, we had a lady come in and teach us relaxation exercises as part of mindfulness. for me it worked.

we had a group meal on the saturday and where we were sat was really noisy and i was getting very angry, i closed my eyes,breathed in and out slowly, counting to 10 as i did, plus a few other exercises, it really calms you.

give it a go,mention it to your day centre or group facilitator..........

Very careful planning for the Christmas holiday so as not to burn out and end up in a darkened room.

The run up before can be overload time so once again plan shopping. If I wrap and hide presents then remember to let someone else know where you put them.....yes I have found presents at easter time.

Basically try and plan and pace yourself.

The New Year is another battle ground of emotions of trying not to reflect to much and not look to far in the future.

Having said all this try and enjoy the festivities in what ever way you can.


I have lists. It's the only way Christmas happens. I also do as much in advance as I can. I already have a lot of the presents put away - less worry nearer the time and also many bought in a sale so money goes a bit further. Over the holiday I try and get a snooze most afternoons. I still haven't got it quite right yet and usually get a whopping migraine at some point but I try.

If you have to go to malls go Christmas eve a couple of hours before they shut very quiet no kids it's the only time I could cope with it, just my 14 yr old daughter and 22 yr old son to buy for, bargains galore also stops me from getting too confused what I brought and hiding it at home then forget it complety! only to find things in April lt

As for còoking dinner we now have to go out for Christmas, think your doing really well to discover veg, roast potatoes nearly done timer on oven goes off for turkey crown to realise it's not even in there arhhh!!


Retreat, retreat, retreat,it's the only way. Attempt to hibernate if at all possible. After all to fully escape the 'joys' of Christmas you really need to be thinking about slowing down your heart rate and sleeping through winter about now. Christmas decorations are already up in my local pub.

Sleep, for four months. Wake up in January when the whole depressing saga is done and dusted. My coping mechanism is to moan about every aspect of the dreadfully commercial time of year.

Yes, I love Christmas, like I love a festering wart on my nose.

After acquiring my BI the first Xmas I attempted to do the 'traditional' Xmas dinner but struggling big time with the process of cooking and forgot things and it all wasn't ready at the same time. And then of course my young son didn't want it because it's the one day of the year he gets to tuck into the sweets/chocolates in his stocking. There is just my son and I so no one to help or to go to. So by this point I have struggled so much with cooking it that I didn't want it either! The next two Xmas's I decided to avoid the Xmas day Traditional Roast dinner and we had pizza and nibbles laid out on Xmas day that we could graze on whenever we felt peckish. Then on Boxing Day we went to the Harvester Restaurant for a 'festive meal' which was the same as an Xmas meal with all the trimmings but ........ not with the inflated Xmas day prices. As my son was not full of goodies as on Xmas day he tucked in as I did too. We still got crackers to pull and hats to wear! And best of all I wasn't stressed and irritable from all the cooking problems associated with my bi, I didn't forget or burn anything or have to do any washing up! What my son found difficult was no friends able to come round and play etc. Sooooo ....... last Xmas I had an even better idea .......... we spent Xmas at Butlins with all meals inclusive and a 4 course Xmas dinner with the table decked out with inclusive crackers, party poppers, streamers, and a bottle of wine (bought that home unopened) etc. It was brill as my son had lots of other children to make friends with, lots of activities and shows to see etc. And yes I have booked again for this Xmas! I take a small fibro-optic Xmas tree, a couple of decs, Christmas sacks and our cards to each other. Plus of course the whole of Butlins is decorated.

As for the other preparations of presents etc I have to admit that unlike pre bi I now start buying things gradually and months in advance.

YAY! thats the answer dispense with boring roast we had rissioto one year. Or yes go out for it!

Many people find Christmas stressful but I say "Mellow out". Christmas shouldn't be stressful.

I am pretty lucky to be with me folks still really. My Mum does the cooking at Christmas and she did in the past find it stressful until slow cookers came about.

Slow cookers lower her stress level when it comes to cooking.

There is stress when it comes to getting all the presents and cards but again I am lucky to have a family who are more chilled.

We, or I ,don't bother getting surprise gifts for people cos half the time the surprise might be a let down or just plain mundane. You don't need to surprise people at Christmas.

I prefer to ask people what they want. Usually they say they don't know what they want so I just give them money in a card.

I don't know what I really want for Christmas so I'll probably end up getting money or some clothes, I'm happy with that. But what I would mostly want for Christmas is to have a good time, good food and good company.

Plan for the essentials... meds, ordinary food, (because you need to eat normal meals as well as festive fare), essential supplies like washing up liquid, toilet paper that sort of thing... and anything else is just dressing..

We have a box with a lid (more crate than shoe box) and we attach a copy of the Xmas list to the lid ....each week when we go shopping we buy a few non perishables, cross them off the list and put them in the box, that way we only need to buy the fresh stuff near the time and can limit the amount of time spent in crazy shopping mode....and we always hit the supermarket either early morning or in the middle of the night to avoid the crowds.

If you are hosting:

Make use of easy options for Xmas dinner...prep what you can in advance when you are less stressed and remember there is nothing wrong with frozen veg, roasties or Yorkshire pud - good old " Aunt Bessie" is not just for Xmas, "she" can be a lifesaver all year round ;) ...

If you are cooking then others need to know that dinner is ready when its ready ... If you are cooking for yourself then make whatever you fancy...there are no rules.

When someone offers to help, let them help - even taking away some of the simplest tasks means less stress.

Factor in escape time... even if it means hiding out in the bathroom for five minutes with your eyes closed just to get a break.

Maybe talk a walk... a short stroll in the fresh air can be a welcome break from the heat and chaos indoors....or shoo everyone else out for a walk and enjoy the peace and quiet

If you are a guest...

maybe find a small task that you can do to help out - it will make you feel good to contribute

If you are reaching meltdown stage thank your hosts, plead a headache/fake a migraine and head home - you and they will be glad you did and nobody minds a white lie if it avoids disaster.

If you plan to go out for dinner remember to book... there are very few places (if any at all) where you can simply walk in on Xmas day for dinner

Do it your own way, go out for a walk whenever you need to .

Buy ready prepared food if you can

Wrap AND lable the presents as you buy them. Unless you want a free for all on Christmas Day. It was a great laugh on Christmas Day opening gifts that could belong to any one of us.

You don't need to go mad at Christmas, it's only one day!

Even prior to BI I bought cards & gift wrap in the sales ready to pack away with the decorations ready for next year & I've always tried to buy gifts throughout the year (as I worked for a heating company & winter was our busiest time). Since BI I make a note of any purchases & where they're stored on the back of the calendar, I also write notes on the months of September & October to remind me we already have things in stock. I try to write Christmas cards in small batches in October, gift wrap presents in November ready for delivery before the start of December. If you need to order food then find out as soon as possible what the last order date is & write notes or add reminders on your phone to ensure you don't miss the cut off dates. My ideal is to post all cards in first week of December & to have delivered presents by then too, thus leaving the run up for us to put up decorations & buy food as required. Since BI my social circle has shrunk to just a handful of friends & family, so whilst this is sad it does make for an easier life. My husband & I sit and discuss together what needs to be & by when & this is added to the calendar along with countdown reminders so deadlines aren't missed. It sounds very structured but it does help. I used to love the atmosphere shopping for Christmas gifts & especially loved attending Christmas markets, sadly the crowds, noise & overwhelming environment mean attending such events is no longer possible. We have begun a new ritual of having a relaxing Christmas Eve with no pressures, plenty of hot drinks & snacks whilst watching A Christmas Carol film. For me Christmas survival means being realistic about taking rest & quiet time when I need to & accepting this is necessary for me & others around me.

One of the best gifts for someone with BI is to cut them loose from obligation, by this I mean the obligation of having to buy gifts, the obligation of expectation to attend social gatherings & the obligation to follow past traditions simply 'because it's tradition'.

Best wishes.


Take your partner or yourself to berlin for Christmas see the nice lights and trees and be happy that your 900 miles from all the stress well that's what I do bring back a few late gifts

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