It is you know – it is okay to be different.

It is Thanksgiving, and for many people that brings great joy and happiness when gathering together with friends and family.  Having time to cook all day, watch football, eat, play and be merry is what many families get to do today.

For families that live with someone with a brain injury, any holiday can be a recipe for disaster – any day that breaks the routine of life that is put together purposely to ensure structure and normalcy can cause panic and worry. Days like today can cause extreme stress for caregivers that have to decide if trying to have a regular holiday like very one else is worth the stress – why have a day that could erupt into a meltdown.

Sometimes people just need to hear that it is okay – okay to be different from everyone else.  Knowing that a day filled with noise, changes in routine, delayed meals, and too any people could be a disaster is a GOOD thing.  It means that you understand that there are limits to tolerance of things, and that you can try to plan around those triggers to have a successful holiday.

  1. It is okay to have a meal at the time you would normally eat – don’t feel pressured to change the time of eating if it will cause your loved one to feel distressed.
  2. If lots of people and noise cause brain fatigue, reduce the number of people at your meal, or keep the time together short.  Balancing time spent together vs. noise of people is important – if needed, break up time hanging out in the kitchen with some quiet in another room.
  3. Don’t feel that you have to accept every invitation to visit.  Going from place to place to visit multiple people in one day is hard on anyone.  If you have multiple invitations for Thanksgiving meals, let everyone know that it might be best to limit dinner to just one place.
  4. Sometimes plans will change at the last minute – headaches, brain fatigue, irritability or exhaustion can happen even before the day begins.  When this happens, don’t be afraid to change the plans for the day. Things happen, and rather than try to push through the day and make things worse, trying again tomorrow may be a better choice.
  5. Always feel free to say no – no to another 30 minutes, no to another visit, no to more people wanting to come over. Knowing where to set limits can create enough stability to ensure that the day stays fun for everyone.

Do not be afraid to protect the structure that is in place to make days successful and fun.  The goal of Thanksgiving is to “give thanks”, not create a day of anger and irritability that ends with a ruined meal and sadness. Setting boundaries, planning ahead, and being different may all help in getting to the end of this day, and being THANKFUL for another day together as a family.

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