I write today about the passage of time after brain trauma.
Since acquiring a brain injury as a result of a stroke in 1997, some thoughts have helped with my recovery:
I never gave up.
But other thoughts have hindered it.
Immediately following a brain injury, a diagnosis – be it a concussion, stroke, combat trauma, or PTSD – can be a word that both the brain injured person, and the people who care for that person, can use to start to recover.
For the people who care for the brain injured person, a diagnosis can provide a research tool or an avenue for questions so recovery can proceed.
For the person with the brain injury, a diagnosis can provide a much needed answer and recovery options.
But with the passage of time, that original diagnosis can become a label, which may hinder recovery.
With the passage of time, caregivers might wonder if they have missed something, that could move recovery in a different direction.
With the passage of time, the person with the brain trauma might start to accept the fact that, ‘this is as good as I am going to get.’
Which is why thoughts like these have helped me recover, with the passage of time:
At times I played the role of caregiver for myself and trusted my recovery options
I’ve been down and out, pulled myself up and made it to the other side
The brain trauma will always be part of my life, but it will not rule my life.
Jean Oostrom is the creator of New Brain Living as a place where people with brain injuries and the people who care for them can find answers. New Brain Living started out as a project to make some sense of her own brain injury in 1997, and now is making a difference for many brain injured people and the people who care for them.
Jean has coined herself “the voice for the brain injured person” and provides information “from the brain injured point of view” so people can find answers as they “learn to live with their new brains” after all types of brain trauma.
Let’s make this holiday season unforgettable, heart wrenchingly beautiful, and full of connection.
Another holiday season is upon us it and in it’s in our power to make it the most memorable one yet. We have a choice to make. We can end the holidays exhausted, stretched to our limits from running around, and in need of a true break. Or, we can choose to be mindful and allow ourselves to truly spread holiday cheer, finding fulfillment in all we do.
So let’s choose fulfillment. Let’s choose love. To love ourselves, everyone we meet and to truly be grateful. We want connection. We want to rediscover the depths of important relationships and maybe even build some new ones. We want to feel renewed, energized, satisfied and happy. Let’s gift ourselves this holiday season by taking action and making these wants a reality.
A holiday season touched by greatness is one that’s executed with intention. Put intention behind your actions with these four mindfulness tips that will help you get the most out of your time. How can mindfulness help? Mindfulness helps us be more present and aware through our activities. It helps us slow down to make sure we don’t miss the beauty of what is right in front of us. It shines a light on how we are feeling, helps us to stop acting automatically and start taking deliberate action.
To help you get the most out of these mindfulness tips, first I’ll explain how to do the mindfulness activity and then I’ll tell you why it matters.
Having a solid ‘why’ is a key to making changes.
Tip #1: Mindful Breathing
How: Pause throughout your day to take three to five deep breaths. Really watch and feel your breath. Feel the air flow in your noise, noticing its cool touch. Feel it move through your body, down into your belly. Feel your abdomen rise with each in breath. Feel your belly lower as you exhale through your mouth, noticing how the air is warm as it leaves your body. Watch this cycle three to five times, paying attention to how the breath feels in your body.
Notice the changing sensations. This whole process takes no more than a minute.
Why: Watching our breath is an incredible way to feel the stress and tension melt away. It is extremely calming and brings our attention to the most basic need in our life – breathing. It helps us appreciate being alive. It slows the mind, even just for a minute. This practice can revolutionize our holidays. Whenever we feel the stress rising, we can gift ourselves this minute to help us regain control over our thoughts and emotions. This simple minute gives us the opportunity to remember the joy that’s rightfully ours over the holidays. We’ll be ready to spread the cheer with these mini minute meditations.
Tip #2: Mindful Listening
How: Give the person you are talking to your full attention. Instead of thinking what to say next, stop and really listen. Pay attention to their tone, emotions, and thoughts. Watch their gestures. Ask meaningful questions.
Why: Meaningful conversations build meaningful relationships. Holidays are a time for family and friends. While visiting with the people we care about we risk falling into the trap of having the same surface conversation over and over. We get ready to share our side of ‘what’s new’ or are running over a response while we half listen. Active, mindful listening gives us an opportunity to fully hear what others have to say. Our responses become deeper, our connection grows because everyone loves to truly feel heard. Whether a conversation is short or long, mindful listening makes each one more meaningful. The more we practice this technique the easier it becomes and the more we learn about our loved ones as questions we once never thought to ask start to flow. Dive deep, truly connect.
Tip #3: Mindful Eating
How: From the moment you grab your empty plate pay attention. How does the food smell in the room around you? Survey the choices that you have in front of you.
What do you actually want to eat and how much is the right amount for you? Mindfully portion out your food knowing you can always go back for more. Before you start eating take a second to look at your plate, feeling grateful, recognizing all of the work that went into getting that food to your plate (people who cooked the food, farmers, stores, nature). Eat and chew consciously. Enjoy and really taste every bite. Listen to your body and give it more food when it wants more, less when it wants less.
Why: During the holidays we have a tendency to overeat in ways that make us feel sluggish and sometimes even bad about ourselves. This holiday season let’s bring mindfulness to our eating habits. We can still enjoy all of our holiday food, indulging in ways we may not normally do but do so consciously. Paying attention to the food we are eating can bring us so much joy as tastes, smells, and textures of food are heightened. We can walk away from the table feeling good about what we’ve eaten, knowing that each bite was a memorable experience. Eating mindfully helps us build a healthy connection with food and supports us in nourishing our bodies for optimal health.
Tip #4: Mindful Appreciation
How: Set an intention at the start of your day that you will make a point to notice and truly appreciate the good, big and small, throughout your day. Be mindful as you go move through your day, giving a smile to all the things that often get taken for granted or go unnoticed. Before bed, set one minute aside to mindfully appreciate 5 or more things in your life (from the day or your life in general).
For example: I appreciate that the cashier at the grocery store gave me a big smile this afternoon.
Why: Paying attention throughout the day helps us really start to notice how much there is to be grateful for. The nighttime appreciation practice helps us go to bed on a strong note, priming us to wake up in a more appreciative state. This will supercharge our holiday cheer, making sure we don’t miss the beauty that is right in front of us. Mindful appreciation as a habit can change the way we see the world!
The Impact of Mindfulness over the Holidays:
When we put these practices together, the holiday season shines with meaningful moments. Mindful breathing helps us stay centered and take precious time for ourselves. Mindful listening helps us connect with everyone we meet on a deeper level. Mindful eating helps us feel nourished and helps us stay healthy. Mindful appreciation helps us feel blessed for all we have.
These mindfulness tips are great all year around.
Test them out during the holidays and watch love radiate and shine through your world!
Lauren’s passion in life is helping people discover the true joy of self-love. She is a Reiki Master, Holistic Nutritionist (CNP) and Life Coach. She is the Head Mindfulness Coach for Cocoon Health and Fitness, an organization with a mission to awaken the power of self-love through fitness, nutrition, and mindful living by creating awareness and connection to the whole self, body, mind and spirit. Learn more at cocoonhealth.ca. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
Over the past ten years I have struggled with enjoying my favourite holiday season, Christmas, so I know the struggle is real.
This year as I sat down to think about how best to get through this time of the year without feeling overwhelmed I had an ‘aha’ moment. What I realized is many of the stresses were also there before my ABI. You know, decorating just right, cooking the best turkey dinner, picking out the right gift, squeezing in all the holiday festivities, and let’s not forget scoring the right outfit and heels for each party.
What makes it feel more stressful is my energy reserves, or better said the lack of. So this year, I’m taking Christmas back to basics and I have to tell you, I’m feeling a lot merrier.
Here are my 5 Tips to Help you put Merry Back in Christmas:
Decorating – Keep it Simple:
If you enjoy having a Christmas tree, but become overwhelmed and exhausted just thinking about decorating it and the thought of having to take it down in just a few short weeks, try a small table top tree.
You can find real table top trees at most grocery stores, Christmas tree lots or pick up an artificial one that often is already decorated, which can be dusted off year after year. You get your Christmas tree and no there is no struggling with big strings of lights, that I swear spring to life in storage doing the Tango and become tangled beyond hope.
I also keep décor throughout the house pretty simple, adding a poinsettia here and there and I also love Christmas cactus which adds a touch of colour during the holidays. And at the end of the holiday season take down is even more simplified.
The Signature Gift
Over the years Christmas has become so commercialized that you feel extreme pressure to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list (and take out a small mortgage in the process). Take a step back and remember that the original “Christmas is a time for giving” was about being practical, giving to those less fortunate, it was about the thought and not the cost of an item. I’ve started to think that our grandmothers had the right idea – with socks, pjs, and things of the like – practical. I have a friend who every Christmas gifts me a bag of my fav coffee beans, some cookies, tea, chocolates and a small gift that made her think of me (one year it was a t-shirt), each time I enjoy part of the gift, I think of her and smile.
A signature gift is something that you become known for giving, such as a book, pjs, home baked goodies, bubble bath, sweater, etc. Once you decide on what your signature gift will be, you adjust it to each recipient’s interest. For example if it’s a book, you choose one on the recipient’s particular interest. One of my signature gifts to give to friends is a journal. Yes, you can have more than one signature gift, for one friend I always gift her something for the kitchen, she loves to cook with her family.
I have saved myself countless hours of stress and anxiety and physical and emotional energy since adopting a signature gift method of giving.
There can be a lot of pressure to gift EVERYONE you know, what I have come to realize is that you don’t have to buy a gift for everyone you know. A good ole fashion Christmas cards is a great way to wish someone a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday Season.
Budget – Make a List and Check it Twice
Whether it comes to gifts, entertaining, celebrating on the town with friends or decorating your home, it is important to know what your budget comfort is. Once you have determined your budget, allocate a portion to each area and track your spending and most important stick to your budget.
Having a budget does not mean you have to miss out it just means you need to prioritize and be a little creative. If you have more people on your gift list than budget, consider reducing the amount per person. Are there people on your gift list that really are more like acquaintances and should be moved to the card list?
If things are tight but you really were looking forward to hosting Christmas dinner go pot luck, the people you would be sharing a meal with are coming to spend time together and will understand and be more than happy to bring a dish or wine, if asked. A lean budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on going out with friends, instead of joining everyone for dinner, opt to join them later for dessert.
Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, so enlist the help of your guests by asking them to bring something for the meal. If budget allows, you can purchase a prepped or fully cooked meal from places such as your local market, hotels, or restaurant. I used a prepped meal that was all ready to go into oven from Whole Foods, one Thanksgiving, and it was really good.
If a pot luck Christmas meal still seems overwhelming but you still want to entertain, opt for alternatives, such as hosting a hot chocolate, cocktail, afternoon tea, brunch, or a board game Christmas gathering.
Remember the real meaning of Christmas
As the hustle and bustle of the season whirls around your head, remind yourself that being surrounded by people who truly care about you is what is important. And also remember friends are often extended family who we choose for ourselves. Don’t feel pressured to over spend both in money and your physical and emotional energy bank.
These are some ways I have put Merry back in my Christmas, I would love for you to share some of the ways you have found work for you.
Celia is an ABI survivor who is dedicated to helping others move forward in their journey and live the life they dream of. She is the founder of the internationally read blog High Heeled Life – inspiration for living a luxurious and balanced life; featured author in Soulful Relationships part of the best-selling series Adventures in Manifesting; a Peer Mentor with BIST; a regular speaker for Canadian Blood Services – Speakers Bureau; Self-care advocate; Lifestyle writer/blogger. In 2016 Celia launched the website Resilientista to inspire women to put themselves in their day, practice self-care on the daily and live their version of a High Heeled Life. Learn more about Celia and be inspired: visit http://www.HighHeeledLife.com or http://www.Resilientista.com
This is a non- bake bar that is fast, looks great and so pretty for Christmas!This is an incredible rich candy-like dessert. A small piece goes a long, delicious way. For a more intricate icing, drizzle melted red currant jelly in straight lines over the icing and with the point of a knife draw straight through the lines to make a pretty design.
Place about 8 oz (250 g) of shortbread cookies in food processor to make the crumbs.
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50 mL) whipping cream
3/4 cup (175 mL) chopped white chocolate
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) shortbread cookie crumbs ( I use PC shortbread cookies)
The holidays are a tough time for everyone, and this is especially true for brain injury survivors who are often dealing with issues such as chronic fatigue, pain and cognitive fatigue.
Here are some tips I’ve come up since acquiring my brain injury a few years ago on how to get through two of the more challenging parts of the season: holiday dinner and shopping.
Surviving the Holiday Dinner
Please let your host, or a trusted family member know about any concerns you may have, such as if you require a break during the event. Do not let the idea of being a ‘burden’ take over, as family and friends should be more than happy to help out.
Find grounding techniques that help you deal with your anxiety or pain levels, such as drinking lots of water and deep breathing when necessary. These little activities can make a big difference and help you sort your thoughts when things get overwhelming.
Don’t forget to take your medications with you in case you need them.
Malls tend to get very overcrowded, and the increase in light displays and music does not help!
In order to deal with the crowd, you can take a friend with you and have a list of the stores you want to visit, along with where they are located in the mall. That way, you have both support and direction during this process. Having direction while shopping helps you navigate through the crowd and noise by putting it in the back of your mind.
You’re essentially making it secondary to your goal. You can also wear sunglasses or a brimmed hat to help with the light, and earphones or earplugs to reduce noise. If you would prefer to skip the mall altogether, you can shop for your gifts online, but time’s running out for that option quickly.
Again, have a list of the things you need and where you can buy them, and have a friend help you shop online. Happy shopping!
Saba Rizvi was in her second year of medical school when she sustained her Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). She has navigated her way through her TBI with the support of her family and friends, as well as from her knowledge of psychology and medicine. Saba has previously written blog posts for BIST and is currently a peer-mentor at the Brain Injury Association of Peel-Halton (BIAPH). She also promotes positive mental health via her artwork, and curated posts & articles. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.