The hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings joy and fun as we take time to gather with family and friends. Along with that, for many people, comes an added sense of stress as we shop, cook, clean and travel. In addition to the normal stressors that come along with the holiday season, these same situations at times create unique challenges for individuals with chronic vestibular, concussion and headache disorders.
Irregular schedules that accompany the holidays can present a problem for people with chronic invisible illnesses. Changing work schedules, late night family gatherings, traveling and getting up early for holiday celebrations can significantly interfere with a sleep schedule. A lack of sleep closely correlates with increased dizziness and headache symptoms. It is important, therefore, to do your best to maintain a consistent bed time and wake time. This may mean missing out on part of the social activities that come with the holiday season, but it may also mean that you continue to feel good throughout the holidays as well!
The holidays are also good from distracting us from our normal routines. Exercises are a part of daily life for everyone with a chronic invisible illness. Whether following instructions from a physical therapist or regular workouts at the gym, it can become difficult to squeeze in those workouts during the season. It is important to make your exercise a continued priority. If you do not take care of yourself and maintain consistency with the exercises, you risk a flare up of symptoms. This would ruin your fun for hours, days or longer. That’s not worth the risk! In the same mindset, it is important to continue to take moments of time for yourself. Stowing away to a quiet room for some relaxation techniques may be just what you need to get through a loud family dinner. And your family will understand!
The holiday season brings with it many of our favorite meals and treats, and maybe even an extra cocktail with coworkers or friends. It is important to be mindful of your symptom triggers while enjoying these extra treats. Different foods and drinks can trigger dizziness and headache symptoms. So, stay away from those symptom triggers no matter how loudly they call your name. Chocolate, wine, nuts, nitrates and MSG can be big culprits in causing symptom flares, so continue to stick with what works for you.
Another fun aspect of the holidays are the decorations, music, and hustle and bustle in the stores. For many, this is fun. For those with invisible illnesses, however, the flashing lights, loud noises, and crowds might make leaving the house a formidable challenge. Loud sounds, busy visual environments and flashing lights are known triggers of migraine and multiple vestibular syndromes. These situations can also be overwhelming post-concussion. Avoiding these situations completely can actually increase your sensitivity to them in some cases. Conversely, too much time in these situations may also flare symptoms. When busy and loud places become overwhelming for your symptoms, it is perfectly acceptable to take a moment to find a quiet corner or room. Give your symptoms time to calm down. Then go back and enjoy! If you know you will have no place to escape, keeping tools like ear plugs with you may be helpful.
Lastly, be honest with your loved ones about how you are feeling. We bet they want you to be able to enjoy the holidays with them and will help you out along the way. If you notice a change in symptoms or are having difficulty with symptoms, give your healthcare provider a call. There may be something more that can be done to help!
As always, we at the Balance + Concussion Center are more than happy to answer your questions and thoughts! Feel free to contact us any time.