How to Handle Overstimulating Holidays with a TBI

Holidays with a TBIIf you or a loved one has suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury), then the holidays can unfortunately be a time of stress and overwhelming sensations. When other people enjoy twinkling lights, TBI survivors feel overly-stimulated and anxious. While others are enjoying a Christmas shopping spree, TBI survivors are battling panic attacks as well as the crowds.

However, the holidays can be enjoyable for a TBI survivor if they are handled with care. Here are a few ways people with traumatic brain injuries can participate in holiday activities without feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

Do What Is Best for Your Health, Even If It Isn’t the Most Enjoyable Option

TBI survivors may have to duck out of late-night Christmas celebrations or leave New Year’s Eve parties early, and that’s perfectly fine. Their needs are different, and others will understand if they need to put their health first. Be polite if you need to excuse yourself, but do what’s right for your emotional and physical health.

Avoid Displays of Flashing Lights If Possible

Bright, changing lights can be a source of real stress for TBI survivors. If you can, ask people to turn off their flashing lights and avoid places where the decorations are too much to handle. Fireworks and other bright, startling things will probably cause a TBI survivor to feel uncomfortable, so ask around and find out if you’ll need to head out before the nighttime celebrations.

Bring Headphones Along Everywhere

Crowds, holiday music, bells, cars, and other distracting noises can cause TBI survivors to feel very anxious. By toting around a trusty pair of noise-cancelling headphones, the affected person can escape panic-inducing sounds quickly and subtly.

Establish a Safe Space and Avoid Crowds

No matter where you’re going, establish a place that is relaxing, quiet and comfortable. This could be an outside sitting area, an unoccupied room, or maybe even an isolated bathroom. When the festivities get to be a little too much for TBI survivors, they can retreat to their designated sanctuaries and calm themselves.  

Take Necessary Breaks Frequently

Napping, lying down or practicing some meditation can help ease the stress TBI survivors feel during holiday festivities. If you are dealing with a traumatic brain injury, remind yourself that you can take breaks from other people and activities as often as you need to.
Not sure how you’re going to handle the holidays with a traumatic brain injury? Get more advice via TryMunity, an online community of TBI survivors and supporters. The network of support can provide you with resources and encouragement, as well as lasting positive relationships. Visit to learn more.