​Coping with Holiday Stress When You Live or Care for Someone with Paralysis

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on December 07, 2020 # COVID-19, Lifestyle

By guest blogger Lauren Presutti

The holiday season is upon us. Some of us may be looking forward to the bright lights, gift-giving, cookie baking, family traditions, and time with loved ones. But it’s also okay if this is not “the most wonderful time of the year” for you. Many people feel differently and find themselves overwhelmed during the holiday season. Living with paralysis or being a caregiver to someone with paralysis presents unique challenges during this time of year.holiday decor

Will the gathering be accessible? How can I manage my holiday to-do-list while keeping up with medical appointments and physical therapy? What is a wheelchair-friendly gifts? What does a caregiver need help with during this time? There can be a lot of social pressure to be joyful, exposure to germs (COVID-19 this holiday season must be taken seriously!), feelings of grieving losses during this time, amplified feelings of loneliness, family dysfunction caused by misunderstandings, and more.

If you find yourself struggling during this holiday season, there are things you can do to safeguard against added stress.

Remember You Don’t Need to Do Everything

We often feel pressured to follow holiday traditions and go along with what others are doing to celebrate this time of year, but the truth is that you don’t need to take part in activities that you find exhausting. For both individuals recently diagnosed with paralysis and their caregivers, you already have a tremendous amount on your plate. Maybe you need a break this year. Give yourself permission to step away from the added chaos of the holiday season and remember that it’s okay to make decisions that benefit you even if others are disappointed.

Keep Expectations in Check

For many people, you might only reconnect with extended relatives during the holiday season. If you have gone through significant changes during the past year relating to your paralysis experiences, you may encounter some relatives who have questions about your condition and who may not understand your circumstances right away. It’s important to keep your expectations of other people in check. If we expect others to understand us automatically, we will likely grow frustrated with them and build up resentment.

Focus on Your Coping Skills

Anytime we are faced with added stress, it is critical to focus on our coping skills. A starting point might be acknowledging that we are experiencing some anxiety or depression. Are you feeling down because you feel left out of inaccessible holiday activities, like ice-skating or reaching the very top of the Christmas tree from your wheelchair? Are there ways to modify these activities? Perhaps you want to get a smaller tree that you can fully decorate yourself with easy access. Are you feeling anxious because everyone around you seems cheerful, and you can’t seem to reciprocate? Be gentle with yourself by making time for self-care.

Use Your Resources

Despite your best efforts, if you find yourself still feeling sad, anxious, or depressed during this holiday season, reach out to resources for help. It is a hard time to be facing difficulties alone. When you live with paralysis or care for someone with paralysis, you may already be feeling isolated in some ways if you don’t have others in your life going through the same thing. During the holiday season, this isolation can feel amplified. To safeguard against these feelings, check out what resources are available. Maybe find a therapist who takes your insurance, connect with a church community, or join a support group during this time.

Remember the Holidays Are Temporary

It can be helpful to remember the holidays are temporary, emotions are temporary, and things will resume to normal soon enough. You may want to think about what you plan to accomplish in the new year. Are there things coming up in 2021 that you can look forward to? Try spending some time planning activities for January and February to distract yourself away from the holiday season.

Above all, don’t let other people make you feel like a Grinch for perceiving the holiday season as unpleasant. Your feelings are valid, and it is important to acknowledge that holidays are not enjoyable for everyone. In most cases, holiday-related stress can be lessened by figuring out what matters most to us and focusing on those things instead, rather than the traditional holiday chaos.

To learn about River Oaks Psychology, visit www.riveroakspsychology.com and follow River Oaks Psychology on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.