Our top nine pictures from Instagram for 2019 are….
(Editor’s note: BEST’s own Gloria Kraegel penned an article on different ways to navigate the holiday season while taking care of our ourselves. We’d love to hear the creative ways that you manage this time of year. Send your thoughts to me, Kim Thompson, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you! KT).
Navigating the Holidays
By Gloria Kraegel, BEST Executive Director
It’s that time of year when those of us with a brain injury are challenged, more than any other time of year, to figure out gift giving, deal with increased lights and sound, navigate social events, work on our social skills, and so much more.
It’s exhausting, and yet we want to enjoy the spirit of the season with friends and family.
How do we balance all of this with our own needs?
The first thing I would recommend is to find a way to advocate for ourselves by asking for help, saying no to some things so we can enjoy other things, and to keep things simple.
Ask for help: Everyone needs help no matter what time of year it is. We might need help with shopping, even on the internet. Perhaps we want to bring a simple dish to a family holiday dinner and can ask someone to help us prepare it. Whatever it is, identify who in our circle of support would be the best person to ask for help. Not only that, if someone offers to help, let them.
Saying no: Saying no is a healthy way to save energy this time of year. Actually, learning to politely say no is a good practice any time of year. We don’t have to accept every invitation, allow every visitor, engage with everyone at an event. If the lights are too bright, ask to turn them down. If the music is too loud, ask to turn it down. Remember that we engage with others best when the stimulus is low.
Keep things simple: All the decorations, rearranging furniture for that large tree, and everything else a lot of us think are necessary for the holidays really isn’t. A smaller tree, simple decorations, and less lights all help to reduce stimulus, thereby reducing overload and creating a quieter holiday we can fully enjoy.
Eat well: That doesn’t mean eat a lot, or to eat everything offered to us. Eat smaller portions of healthy food. We know that our food choices affect our brains and cognitive abilities. Too much caffeine and sugar are unhealthy. Nuts, fruits, and vegetables provide the nutrients our brains need to function at its best.
Sleep well: Often after a brain injury we find it hard to sleep regular hours. This can be especially true during the holidays when we may have more to do or be a part of. It’s important to keep a regular sleep schedule (and personal quiet time) to help us get the most out of our holiday activities.
Plan: Finally, and this always helps me get through the holidays; have an idea of the things you want to do in advance of doing anything. Plan which events are most important to you and that you would enjoy the most. Attend those and say no to the rest of the invitations. Have what you want to wear to these events already picked out and put together in the closet. This way you don’t have to worry about what’s clean or ironed, or which sweater goes with what pants.
These aren’t the only ways to reduce stress and navigate the holidays. If you have tips that work for you, please share them with us and have a safe, peaceful, enjoyable holiday season.
(Editor’s note: Isaac Peterson shares his tips and strategies for dealing with stress, something we could all use. Thank you, Isaac! KT)
Nobody needs me to tell them how hard it is to live with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but I do it all the time anyway.
But I don’t think I’ve written yet about one of the major side effects of having a TBI; the stress that can come along with it. I’m not going to write about stress itself—you already know enough about that.
No, what I’m going to do here is write a little about ways to combat and prevent stress. It’s not possible to completely get rid of stress, but there are ways to manage it. Did I ever mention that, along with all the other stuff I’ve done, I also used to teach stress management?
Here are some stress management and prevention tips I used to teach.
Know your limitations and don’t be a control freak. Get used to the fact that you can’t change the world. Don’t waste time trying to be in control; some things are just beyond your control. Learn what those things are and accept them–don’t get stressed trying to change things you can’t control.
Learn how to say no. While it’s great to be the kind of person who keeps commitments to others, it’s also a good thing to be able sometimes to not commit. Be careful not to make commitments that you know will cause you stress. Don’t commit to something you really don’t intend to do, or in a move to just to get the other person to shut up and go away. That will only lead you both into a stressful situation when you don’t live up to your commitment.
If you absolutely have to make a commitment but can’t follow through for some reason, the following is a great way to head off some stress.
Remember that most commitments can be renegotiated. If something comes up that gets in the way of your being able to honor the commitment, go to the other person right away, explain the situation and see if that person is open to tweaking the commitment a bit. It will be less stressful on you both.
Avoid stressful situations and people who cause you stress as much as possible. Sometimes we can’t avoid stressful situations, like in the workplace. Same with people who cause us stress. To the extent that it’s possible to avoid unnecessary stress, don’t be afraid to go that route.
One thing you might try is looking back at other times you’ve been stressed out in that same situation or with that person; you might find that something you say or do without thinking is the cause of the tension. Realize that all of the stressful situations you find yourself in all have one thing in common: you were there.
This will sound like a cliché, but always be honest in your dealings. If you are always truthful you avoid the stress that goes along with struggling to remember what lie you told before so you don’t trip over your own feet. That’s not even to mention the stress when all the lies you’ve told catch up with you.
Keep things in perspective. Try to adopt a big picture kind of outlook: with all the things wrong in the world, ask yourself if it’s such a big deal in the long run that you got cut off in traffic or similar relatively trivial situations? One thing I learned that’s helped me avoid stress is to ask myself, will I be upset about this a year from now? If it’s not worth staying upset, it’s probably not worth being upset to begin with. Let it go. People say life is too short. My opinion is that life is too long to get bent out of shape about every little thing. Why look for situations to get stressed over?
Learn how to forgive and don’t hold on to old hurts. This gets back to the big picture thing. If you’re done wrong by somebody else, if they really mean anything to you, learn to forgive and move on. Think of times when you yourself have messed up. Sometimes you can defuse stressful situations by apologizing even if you know you weren’t wrong. While you’re practicing being forgiving, don’t forget to learn how to forgive yourself. Carrying guilt is not productive and only adds to your stress level. Nobody’s perfect and that includes you and me. Don’t look for excuses to beat yourself up—just resolve to do better next time and move on.
Manage your time. Early every day think of the things you need to do that day and make a schedule. Set aside enough time to complete one task before you need to move on to the next one. Know how much time it takes to complete one thing and give yourself enough time to do it. Don’t over commit; always give yourself some breathing room. Also, avoid stress by not procrastinating.
Relax as often as possible. Learn how to meditate if you don’t know how. Lying down with your eyes closed and mentally counting backwards from 100 can be helpful, or giving yourself a timeout to take deep breaths can help relieve stress. Reading a book is a fantastic stress reliever; I don’t remember where I read it, but a half hour of reading can be as beneficial as a half hour of yoga. Taking long walks in the woods can also be relaxing.
Keep a journal. Every day, list all the things that caused you stress that day. Seeing those things written out will help you stay more aware of the causes of your stress and give you a leg up on avoiding those situations or managing them. Every time you’ve made it through, or avoided a cause of stress, note it in your journal.
Live a healthier life through diet, exercise and getting enough sleep. What more can I really say about this one? Keeping your body in good shape will also improve your mental and emotional well-being and make it harder for stress to get a foothold.
Have fun. Stay positive. Every day is a new day. Do something fun every day, or at least find ways to make your every day routine more fun. One of the best things you can ever do for yourself and those around you is to keep positive as much as you are able.You will like yourself better, and your life will become a bit easier, with less stress. Having fun is one good way to keep positive. People will like being around you more and you will like yourself better. And by all means feel free to find your own ways to avoid stress.
These tips individually are small steps in managing or avoiding stress. All the little stressors in your life combine and turn into full blown stress. Stress is essentially your body being on high alert and having constant stress is a major blow to your body, mind, emotions and spirit.
It’s not possible to completely eliminate stress from your life, and in fact, stress in small doses can be useful, as in athletic competition. You can use that kind of stress to your advantage in certain situations—what you want to prevent and avoid is long-term full-blown stress.
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at email@example.com.
(Editor’s Note: Are self-help books worth it? BEST blog contributor, Marysa Rogozynski, looks through a new lens to gain a different perspective. Enjoy! KT)
Okay, so maybe that’s not quite your take on self-help books, but they tend to get a bad reputation.
Recently, I decided that picking up and reading a book again would be a great idea. So often I get caught up in work or life, that I forget to take a break. I was trying to figure out what books I wanted to start with, and I decided that I would explore the realm of self-help books.
To be honest, I started reading a book called, Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out Of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop because I thought that I was no longer good enough after my horrible break-up. It probably wasn’t the best idea at the time since it was a tell you how it is type book, but re-reading with a clearer mind, I would recommend it (you’ll find more of my favorites at the end of this post).
Anyway, back to my main point; self-help books have a bad reputation.
When I started writing this post, I have currently read approximately ten self-help books. These books have ranged in all sorts of topics, and none of them was part of the for Dummies collection.
By no means am I an expert on this topic, but I wanted to share my perspective on the realm of self-help books and how they can be more of a benefit than a detriment.
One thing that I hope to accomplish from this post is to debunk the preconceived notions about self-help books, and share how they might benefit you!
I promise that you might be surprised by what you learn from them.
Disclaimer: self-help books aren’t for everyone. I can honestly say that I was skeptical about picking up my first self-help book, but after I finished it, I was hooked.
There are two main reasons for this.
Reason #1 People’s Experiences
When you are reading a book labeled as a self-help book, you are taking a look into another person’s experiences. Based on these experiences, you are given the opportunity to apply them or help put your own experiences into perspective. For example, I picked up a book about trying new things and the next thing I know, I am inspired to tackle a personal health goal of mine from a different point of view. Instead of doing traditional weights and cardio, I challenged myself to 30 day yoga program. This is something that I would never have considered before reading that book. I am currently 15 days in and can honestly say it is a healthier form of exercise for me at this time.
If you pick up a well-written self-help book, it is going to be more than just the step-by-step instructions on how to make your life better. Instead, you are going to find guidelines that you get to mold into a plan that works best for you. You have been given the personal experiences of the author on what has worked and what has not, plus your own experiences, and you’ve gained further insight into the situation. You get to morph it into what you need, not what someone else says will give you the perfect life.
Reason #2 The Escape
When you are reading a book, regardless of if it is a romance, fantasy, or science-fiction, do you ever find yourself getting lost in that book? Do you ever find yourself living through the words on the page to avoid some of your reality? Do you put yourself into the place of the main character because you connect with their story?
Want to know something funny? You can do the same thing with self-help books. The only difference is, instead of getting stuck in someone else’s reality, you get stuck in your own.
That may not sound ideal, but hear me out. You picked up that particular book because you were looking for something that you might be missing in your life or want to improve. Sometimes, by reading these books, you can fill in the blanks, and write a new chapter of your own story.
You begin to look at your life in a wide range of perspectives, and you escape from what was happening to what could be happening. It’s not an exact science, but it’s a different experience from what then you had, which can sometimes be unsettling. Sometimes the first step in the right direction is a little uncomfortable.
I can tell you from my experiences; it’s worth taking the first step. Pick up that book!
Have I convinced you yet?
Self-help books, as implied by its name, are meant to help you. Whether it’s learning a new recipe, getting lost in the fairy tale of someone else’s life, or learning how to be more confident, in a sense, any book can be a self-help book. It’s just a matter of what your perspective is, what you want (or need) it to get out of the experience.
As I started my self-help book reading journey, I realized something. I hate the genre title of self-help. I was reading books on topics from brain injury to personal finance to self-confidence.
Instead of self-help books, I have decided to call them informational diaries. So maybe that isn’t the most catchy name, but this genre of books deserves to have a positive reputation.
What do you think? Do you want to try one out?
Think about this: What’s something that you wanted to take a chance to make a change in your life?
Take that chance! Give it a shot! You never know what you might discover!
Here are some of my favorites. What are yours?
Marysa Rogozynski grew up in Ontario, Canada until her family moved to the United States. After the move, she completed high school in Montana, going on to earn her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology at the University of Jamestown, where she also sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury playing collegiate sports. Currently, she is finishing her Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology at Eastern Washington University. She enjoys traveling, going to the movies, baking, and playing with her cats.