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Tips for Reducing Stress and Having More Fun During the Holidays

December 1, 2023

By Amber Kaiser

The holiday season is in full swing and I can’t believe we only have 4 full weeks left in 2023! With so many different cultures and ethnicities living here in the United States, as a whole, we celebrate a wide variety of holidays, religious events, and government days throughout the year. In this article, I’m mainly referring to the traditional Christmas holiday season. Although I associate myself as more of a spiritual person, I still enjoy the love, fun, decorations and cooler weather of the Christmas season which is celebrated all throughout the U.S. I also understand we are always in different places in our lives, and people can often associate stress with the holidays for many reasons. 

Here, I share a few tips and inspiration on how to keep the holidays fun and as stress free as possible for you, especially if you or someone you know lives with epilepsy. Stress and lack of sleep are common triggers for seizures, which can be more difficult to manage during the holidays.

Traveling with epilepsy during the holidays

Are you traveling during Christmastime, and do you travel alone or with family? Either way, it helps to start packing a few days before and making a list that you can check off to make sure you don’t forget anything, especially your seizure medications or AEDs (antiepileptic drugs) and any important medical devices. Do you already know what the plans are when you get where you’re going? Are you looking forward to being where you’re visiting? That can make a big difference in your overall experience and stress levels. Stress can cause seizures so if it’s a potentially stressful environment, keep the visit as short as possible and remember to bring items that can help you sleep like safe, over the counter sleep medications, CBD oil, and even your own pillow. Consider bringing a book, your Kindle or other electronic reading device and put together a holiday music list on Amazon, Spotify or Pandora that you love listening to. iHeart radio also has some fun holiday music stations. If you are traveling by plane, make sure you get to the airport in plenty of time, and rest or listen to music while you are in the air. Also, make sure when you are flying with epilepsy medication that it is easily accessible especially if you need to take it while you are on the plane. In fact, I always make sure to pack my AED in my carry-on. Try to maintain your sleep and be open to a new routine throughout your trip—it’s always less stressful to “go with the flow” while traveling especially during the holiday season!

Creating peaceful and fun times together 

For some of us, the holidays may be one of the few times we see family, so making sure it is a peaceful interaction is always the best way to keep your stress levels low and reduce the possibility of any seizures triggered by stress. If you have a difficult time with some family, I recommend keeping the visit short and trying to make the conversation light. Hopefully, most of us just enjoy the time we have together and catching up! It can also be a fun time to watch holiday movies, play games and just chill together. You could also make it a fun time to cook which leads to my next point. . .

Cooking holiday meals

Do you cook? Do you enjoy cooking? Do your family or friends like cooking? Are there any dishes you can make together or recipes you want to bring to share? Or, do you prefer ordering? Whatever the case, I hope you and your family agree on something! I’ve actually found that ordering can make things a lot easier and less stressful and there are so many options no matter your diet. Most grocery stores offer holiday meal plans and even some restaurants. Just make sure you order a few weeks in advance! There are also restaurants open on Christmas day and that can be an option for those who don’t cook and want to get out. I know people who own restaurants and I’ve heard being open on Christmas has usually been one of their busiest days of the year!

Giving gifts

Are you still thinking about what to get for your loved ones this year? Sometimes it helps just to ask them if there is anything they are wanting or needing. Another idea I heard from one of my friends this year—you could do a gift theme each year and give your family and friends different gifts within that same theme like books, games, candles, decorations, etc. It could also help if you are on a budget. Making a dessert or dish to share is also always a wonderful idea! And, often, each of us is simply grateful to be in each other’s company especially if we are traveling and don’t live near each other.

Helping others

I would guess that if you haven’t already, there may be a time (especially like during COVID) when you have to spend a holiday alone. Speaking from experience, it can be hard because we are used to being around family or friends during the holidays. Getting together is what the holidays are about for most of us, but it can be difficult due to various circumstances and especially if your family doesn’t live near each other. If you are spending the holiday alone, I understand it can feel disheartening and lonely especially if you’ve been used to being around family or friends during Christmastime. 

I suggest making an effort to call a friend or family member you always enjoy talking with, connect with your circles on social media and go outside if you can! In fact, if you work and the industry you work in is open during the holidays (ex: hospitals, certain retailers, grocery stores, etc.), you can also request to work on the holiday if you feel like you want to keep yourself busy instead. Some places also pay more for working on the holiday! If you are someone who volunteers, you may also find volunteer opportunities during the holidays at various nonprofits and homeless shelters. Many years ago, I remember doing some volunteer work helping to feed people, and I even did food delivery with a friend which we called “ding dong ditch” where we brought nonperishable food to some houses, rang their doorbells and quickly left the meals at their doors.

Relaxing during the holidays

Do you work and have paid vacation during the holidays, do you have to take unpaid time off, or do you save vacation hours throughout the year so you have some vacation time when you want? Whichever way it is, seizures caused by stress can be common in people with epilepsy, so I hope you have time to relax and chill over the holidays! Make it a point to rest and be around people you love to spend time with. Prepare in advance and check off your list so you aren’t forgetting anything, and if you can’t see people in person, try to do a video chat. Whatever your plans are, I pray it’s a fun, safe and seizure-free time for you! Sending many good wishes your way for the 2024 New Year ahead as well!

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