While the holiday season can be full of joyous times with family and friends, apprehension and anxiety can also accompany this time of year for individuals who are living with chronic vestibular disorders and post-concussive symptoms. With many fun things associated with the season being symptom triggers for many people, the holiday season can be filled with extra stress. Some extra planning and self-awareness can help alleviate this stress and allow everyone to enjoy the holiday season together! Here are some tips to help you enjoy your holidays while managing your symptoms:
Should you have to travel to visit relatives or friends, there are a few things you can do to enjoy the journey. If you are traveling by car, sit where you can look in the direction that you are traveling. It sometimes also helps to have air/heat blowing on your skin or have a window opened. This helps to provide additional sensory input to the brain about the direction you are moving. These tips also work in a bus or train. Many people will find it beneficial to sit closer to the front of the vehicle to limit the amount of visual distractions in front of them from other passengers moving around. Should you be traveling by airplane, bring gum, water or candy to suck on to help maintain the pressure in your ears.
No matter which way you travel, be sure to have all of your “tools” accessible to you. These may include sunglasses, a hat, rescue meds, water, ear plugs, a blanket and travel pillow, and whatever else you rely on when your symptoms increase.
One of the best parts of the holiday season is gathering with family and friends, many of whom we do not get to see often during the year. If your family is like mine, however, these events can be long and loud with lots of laughter and people talking. Add in the holiday decorations, including blinking lights, and you have lots of visual stimulation, loud noises, and potentially a table full of food that can trigger symptoms.
To get through these challenges and enjoy your holidays, first remember that it is ok to say “no” and decline an invitation. If you do attend an event, bring a dish or beverage to share that you know will not trigger your symptoms. If needed, find a quieter space in a busy room to sit and gather with your loved ones. Strategically position yourself with your back to the crowd and the flashing lights. Again, bring all of your emergency supplies such as rescue meds and ear plugs. If you would feel more comfortable, let the host of the event know that you may have to excuse yourself early should your symptoms begin to increase. And, these gatherings might be a great time to educate your family and friends about your vestibular disorder or prolonged concussion symptoms.
Most importantly, find ways to enjoy the holiday season! Even start new traditions that are comfortable for you!