Sunday, December 4, 2016

Suggestions for a Simpler Post-Stroke Holiday

The following article was written with stroke survivors and caregivers in mind. However, many people who lead otherwise normal lives have trouble coping with the month of December. There are many reasons why this happens. If you need help coping, I have a book recommendation for you:

"The 12 ways of Surviving the Holidays by Monica vest Wheeler - A quick and thought-provoking guide on how to make it through the busiest and most demanding time of the year, 'the holidays.' The traditional holiday season of Christmas isn't easy for everyone. It can create a wave of good and uncomfortable emotions and circumstances.

This conversational ebook is a perfect gift to yourself or a loved one or friend as it focuses on stepping away from guilt, how to forget the perfect holiday, coping with grief and loss, and so much more!"

It is one I bought myself last year and I intend to read it every year around this time. It was written and published by Monica Vest Wheeler who is a professional photographer and writer who has written other books on issues involving damage to the brain. Monica is also an active volunteer with Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp. 

I bought the digital version of her book for $1.99 on titled "The 12 ways of Surviving the Holidays". It can be read on any device with the Kindle app which can be downloaded free.
The following article was written and published on the StrokeNet Newsletter web site by Deb Theriault. Deb is a Senior Contributing Writer and Information Resources Administrator at Strokenet:

"Many stroke survivors have found ways to make all kinds of activities easier. Deb shares some of her ideas to make the holiday season easier. It is not necessary to replicate what has been done for decades or even generations!" - Strokenet

You may contact Deb at

Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp is not affiliated with StrokeNet, but they have many interesting and useful articles that I like to share with you readers, with permission from the StrokeNet staff, of course. 

By Deb Theriault

Stroke makes everything more difficult: activities of daily living, running errands, working, home maintenance, and just about everything else from A-to-Z. So it’s no wonder that the biggest holiday season of the year creates special challenges for stroke survivors and their caregivers. Like everyone else, they want to find ways to enjoy the holidays, and to create wonderful holiday memories. But, how can a survivor or their caregiver do this when in “post-stroke mode?”

I’d like to share a few things that I’ve learned about creating a simpler holiday season. Hopefully, one of these will help you to get more out of your own holiday.

Holiday traditions can be “remodeled.” It pays to revisit your holiday traditions now and then, and post-stroke is a good time. Some traditions are just too “high-maintenance” for an energy-sapped stroke survivor, or a time-strapped caregiver.

After I had my last stroke, I had to decide which “holiday rituals” would be the most deserving of my time and limited energy. This was difficult to do, from an emotional standpoint, however it made my holiday more meaningful that year. Since then, I’ve made it a point to revisit my old traditions each holiday season.

Tip: Hold on to the most meaningful traditions and rituals, while pruning out those that no longer “speak” to you. You can also simplify existing traditions, or create new ones, as necessary.

Be honest with yourself about your likes and dislikes, but don’t let guilt be your guide. Instead, identify those traditions that make you feel the happiest, and let the remainder go.

Simple, inexpensive decorations can be beautiful. I used to love to decorate for the holidays. I still do, but it can consume too much of my energy. So, instead of putting lots of “eye candy” everywhere in my home, I highlight one area to decorate in several of the rooms (the living room gets a little more attention, since it’s where our Christmas tree resides). 

Sometimes I only decorate two or three areas in the entire house (for example, the foyer and living room or the mantle, entranceway and dining room sideboard). In fact, just placing large holiday bows in a few high profile areas is enough to set a holiday tone.

Tip: I’ve found that floral and fruit craft “picks” are a real time-saver for holiday decorating. Picks can be purchased at just about any craft store, such as Michael’s, JoAnn’s, or Pat Catan’s. Pre-stroke, I used to meticulously decorate our Christmas tree with many ornaments and embellishments, but now I rely on decorative picks in different colors and “themes”. It’s surprising how easily, and quickly, you can pull together a lovely holiday tree (as well as holiday arrangements and wreaths) by just using picks.

It’s ok to let others do the “lion’s share” of holiday cooking and baking. Family members may expect you to carry on your family’s cooking tradition by preparing many of your family’s special foods. But, unless you really have the time and energy to do this, consider passing this responsibility on to others.

Tip: If you can, have photocopies made of your family’s recipes and pass them on to younger members of your family, so that they can continue the family cooking tradition. I’ve even heard of people making “scrapbooks” of their family’s recipes, complete with copies of pictures that span several generations. (This makes a nice gift.)

“Well body” relatives make great holiday dinner hosts. I “look healthy” so my family thinks that I can still do everything, but, alas, I cannot. I may be able to manage one more holiday dinner, but soon I’ll have to face reality. Running these festivities gets harder with each passing year, and being in post-stroke mode is just speeding up the inevitable. 

Tip: Tell your family that you’d love to host the annual holiday dinner but that you need to take a break. Think about it: you’ve done your share of work over the years. Now it’s time to hand the hosting responsibilities over to others. Even if you think you can pull it off, let others do the work, and just kick back and enjoy their efforts. 

If you do decide to host a holiday meal, have your local supermarket prepare your turkey, ham, or other entree, plus the dessert(s), so that you only have to deal with side dishes. Even better, make the meal “pot luck.” Give others the opportunity to shine by having them share their own special dish.

It doesn’t take a lot to create the best holiday memories. I used to let the holidays slip by without doing something “just for fun.” But after my last stroke, I realized that I need to punctuate the holiday season by participating in at least one memorable activity. 

Tip: Elaine St. James, author of “Simplify Your Christmas”, suggests recreating beloved memories from your childhood. Just think back to what you loved most about Christmas when you were young and then recreate it (you can apply this to any holiday). 

St. James says there’s a good chance those special memories were more about simplepleasures like the smell of a fresh cut holiday tree, looking at holiday lights or spending quality time with your family. Most of these types of memories can be recreated pretty easily, so give it a try. Even if it’s an “abbreviated” version of what you used to do before your stroke, or before you became a caregiver, set aside the time and energy to do one simple, fun thing that says “holiday” to you.

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