Dealing with the Holidays

Dealing with the Holidays

Posted by AskNurseLinda on Dec 24, 2017 7:58 pm

We are right in the midst of the holidays, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza and New Year’s Eve celebrations. No matter which holidays you celebrate, this is a time of year when people gather and enjoy the season. With that issues can develop. Expectations can be high, expecting the time of your life but reality can be quite disappointing.

For many people the seasonal festivities can be a letdown. Expectations lead us to believe that when families and friends gather, everyone has a wonderful time. After all, we see this over and over on television programs. People talk about the excitement of seeing family and friends, gift giving and wonderful conversations catching up with people not often seen.

This is just not the case for everyone. Often times, there are reasons why we don’t see these people frequently. Just because you are related by family ties does not mean that you are personally compatible. Some people will expect more from you than you have to give. Some people get out of control with alcohol or other drugs. Political chatter can end a party, end friendships and end relationships. This is a time of year when you have expectations of delightful times but in reality, you need to tread very carefully.

For individuals with paralysis, this time of year can be trying. First, you might be invited to some activities that may not be in your ability to attend. People may gather at a location that is not accessible to those who use assistive devices. Quaint locations, older buildings, locations in the city, even private homes might not be amenable to those who are differently abled in mobility. You will want to check ahead to see if the party location is accessible to you. If not, you can suggest a different spot.

Sometimes, individuals with paralysis will purchase portable ramps. These consist of two tracks that can be laid on steps to allow each side of a wheelchair to roll up and down. The use of these take a bit of effort to get placed just right, but can allow access for you to get in and out of a building. Some public locations will have ramps or other access for wheelchairs and scooters that might not be visible but making arrangements ahead of time will give you the opportunity to see if you are willing to access the alternate route.

If you are attending a sporting event, there are seats available for individuals who use mobility assistive devices. Be sure to check to see if your group will be seated in or around this area. I know of one man who went to a sporting event with friends. He checked and found out that he would have an accessible seat for his wheelchair. When he arrived, he found that his seat was indeed accessible but everyone else sat in a different section across the arena. He was heartbroken as was I just hearing about it. A few people walked over to say hello but mostly, he spent his time watching the game alone. The insensitivity was unbelievable. He did not think they were being insensitive. Knowing the people, he knew they thought they were being kind to get him a special seat but people do not often think through every idea.

Attending an event is one aspect of mobility, another factor is the weather. This time of year can be a challenge with rain, snow and ice. You might decide the challenge of getting out and about is too overwhelming but do not let that stop you from enjoying the holiday. Have friends over. Organize an event with someone at a location that has good accessibility in inclement weather. Warm your vehicle prior to going out to avoid that snap of cold and certainly dress for the weather. Even though you might not feel the cold, your body will still react to it and complications of cold weather will still affect you.

Family expectations can be especially difficult. In my family when we ‘go home’ for the holidays, everyone immediately picks up their role in the family from their high school days. We have a good laugh about it. Even though we have all grown up, have jobs and different expectations in our own family units, we hop right back to earlier days and what expectations used to be. In some ways, it is sort of familiar and comfortable as everyone knows what they are supposed to do. Our partners love it because they are the ‘guests’ and are basically required to do nothing but enjoy.

When we go to an event at other family member’s homes, the roles and expectations are not clear. We do not have a good chuckle about what should be done or how to participate. If you ask if you can help, the response is that it is not necessary. However, if you do not help, you might be criticized because of your unwillingness to assist. You feel you have offered but the expectation is not to offer but just to do. This mixed message has created some hard feelings that has not resolved for years. It may seem silly to some but this is the reality of family life. Mixed expectations can lead to long standing difficulties that take time and effort to resolve.

Substance abuse is an issue in many families. Although some in the family will anticipate that ‘Uncle Joe’ will have a little too much to drink, other family members will be unwilling to forgive such behavior over and over again. Add drug addictions to the mix and the situation can become even more complicated.  If children are present, the situation can become volatile. If you find you are in this situation, you can decline the invitation or go to the event for just a short while, leaving before things get out of hand. You have to be aware of your feelings. If the situation happens every year, think ahead about how you plan to handle your exit.

Unfortunately, sometimes situations can get out of hand at either family events or parties with friends. Actual physical altercations can occur. You will need to think about what you will do in these situations. It is sad to say but it is not unusual for anyone to be faced with physical assault today. A general plan of how to protect yourself is always in order. This should be leaving the situation before it erupts into trouble for yourself or others.

Leaving is the protection your need from verbal or physical abuse should it arise. Getting into a verbal battle is not to anyone’s benefit. Things can quickly escalate. If you find you are getting into an altercation, or people around you are becoming too rowdy, make your exit. It is not worth the mental and physical complications to get involved with this sort of behavior. Leaving can be a personal challenge as you will want to get your opinion heard but no one will be listening at this point so protect yourself by removing yourself. This will be one of the bravest choice of your life.

Surprisingly, another difficulty in the holiday blitz is overeating. There is always a lot of food and drink at parties and events that is so very tempting. People often overlook the calories in alcoholic beverages, cocoa, cider, and other calorie laden drinks. Overeating and over drinking leads to weight gain, which is difficult to reduce for everyone but especially after paralysis. Overeating can lead to increases in your blood sugar, another hazard for all individuals but especially for those with mobility issues.

Overeating and overdrinking can affect your mental wellbeing. Raising your blood sugar will give you a very temporary feeling of happiness but will follow with a crash in your blood sugar which can make people very melancholy. That increase in your blood sugar will raise your hunger later, even into the next day as your body will want that little spike again. People who over eat one day will find themselves very hungry the next day as your body will want that sugar rush again.

Maintaining an even blood sugar level is important for your physical and mental health. If you are at a party and are delighting in the delectable goodies, decide to have a taste and stop. You might need to set your mind to this prior to going to the party to reach success. This is an extremely challenging time of year to avoid overeating. The average gain of ten pounds it not so easy to remove.

The holidays can be a challenge in mobility, accessibility and even in eating and drinking. Family issues and false expectations can lead to difficulties in matching to reality. Taking time to reflect about what has happened in your relationships in the past and matching them to reality is often an unpleasant experience. However, once you accept the true reflection of situations, you will be able to plan to meet the challenges of the season, making good choices for your own health and happiness. Nurse Linda

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