Sunday, December 6, 2020

Surviving and Thriving Through the Holidays


The following is an article originally posted on the now discontinued website called StrokeNet. They published a monthly newsletter. Their articles are still very useful today. With the permission of their then editor, Lin Wisman, I am able to repost them on my site. 

Lin Mouat, the author, contributed this article to the StrokeNet Newsletter.
Surviving and Thriving Through the Holidays
By Lin Mouat

I love everything about preparing for the holidays - from card sending to goody cooking, wrapping gifts, and my special favorite, decorating our home and tree. I'm just a kid when it comes to the magic of lights displays, community festivities and holiday music.

However, three years ago, two strokes changed the way I experience the holidays. In the beginning I honestly believed I could still do all of the things I used to do for the season but I soon found out that I am not the person I used to be.

That first post-stroke holiday was very bitter-sweet. Nothing was the same and many of the traditions I had so treasured fell by the wayside. But at least I was alive. I can't pretend that these changes were easy. Depression seemed to meet me at every turn and it took all of my strength to not give in to it completely.

Adapting what works for each stroke survivor is unique but the following are a few helpful things I've learned over the past three years.

• Keep expectations realistic. Make a plan (daily, weekly, etc) that fits your energy and prioritize. What I can get done on paper greatly exceeds the physical reality. Keeping your expectations is vital.

• Schedule tasks for the period of time when you function best. Since I am not a morning person but I function best in the morning, it takes careful planning in order to honor these conflicting truths.

• Simplify. For example, for holiday entertaining you can give each guest one or more items to bring. Many large grocery stores offer fully prepared meals, complete with all of the trimmings. All you do is reheat the food, sit back, and enjoy.

The first time we tried this, I was sure the food couldn't be as good as home cooked. And I was right, it wasn't "as good" but it was good enough and was a good trade for a stress free holiday meal.

• Resting. I have heard it called preemptive resting, which is a good way for stroke survivors to look at rest. Taking frequent rests, lets your body continue healing and rest allows you to accomplish more. Scheduling those rest periods into the day makes resting a more natural part of our lives. This preemptive resting is especially important as you negotiate the holidays.

• Pacing. In order to pace yourself during the holidays, you may need to say "no" to some of the requests you once accepted. Pacing is a key element of surviving the holidays.

• Allow extra time for tasks. Some of the things you have done without a lot of thought will suddenly seem daunting. Take your time, try to relax and accept the challenge of doing things differently.

My mother had a withered arm due to childhood polio and I don't remember anything she couldn't do. She taught me something that has been very important to me since my strokes. "You can do anything anyone else can do, you just have to find a different way to do it."

• Accept help. When someone offers me help, I often brush it off with "No thanks, I can do it." Most of us are used to being independent and in the wake of our strokes, our need to feel independent is especially dear. However, accepting help means more energy for the next task on your list. And it also offers the other person the opportunity to give the gift of helping.

Additional tips for making the holiday easier:

• Use the motorized carts that most grocery stores keep available,

• Shop during off hours, avoiding the busy times. Early mornings and evenings are usually less hectic.

• Take your list shopping with you and stick to it.

• For your gift shopping, shop by catalog or on the Internet. If grocery shopping is too taxing, groceries can often be ordered on the Internet, too. Check local stores for their delivery services. This leaves you with energy to concentrate on other things.

• To simplify gift wrapping, use gift bags.

• Have a cookie exchanging party. Each guest brings one or two dozen kinds of cookies, bringing enough for each guest to have at least one dozen.

• Use pre-printed Christmas cards. If possible, make address labels.

• For your gift shopping, if possible, shop on the Internet. If grocery shopping is too taxing, utilize delivery services. This leaves you with energy to concentrate on other things.

• Keep a stack of magazines and catalogs for your guests to peruse while you complete your dinner preparations.

During the past three years, I have found out that different does not necessarily mean bad. Different is simply different.

Copyright @December 2007
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.

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