The Virtual Vine Blog

Insights and information about concussion health and a smarter recovery. Plus timely tips for your everyday well-being – from food and exercise, to meditation and mindfulness.

 Tags: Concussion


After two years of unusual holiday celebrations, this year’s festivities might be closer to normal. 

But families coming together to share a full day of food and catching up with one another might be causing apprehension for those recovering from a concussion. 

Especially in the early stages of concussion recovery, it can be difficult to regulate your cognitive fatigue. That means small tasks or social interactions can be overstimulating and cause pain.

Those who are very recently concussed should consult their doctor on a treatment plan but general recommendations advise you to severely limit your regular activities for mental and physical rest – any kind of stimulating environment, like a family holiday gathering, could inflame your symptoms. 

However, if you’ve been working on your recovery from a concussion and have been able to return to most of your regular activities, this blog post will cover a few ways you can take care of your brain health this holiday.

(We still strongly encourage you to consult your doctor for any advice on enjoying the festivities this year without risking a flare-up of your symptoms.)

1. Socializing

It’s important not to feel isolated during your concussion recovery so socializing isn’t a bad thing – just remember to check in with yourself. If you need a break, take it.

Being social, especially in a room potentially full of many different people can require a lot of energy. You may find yourself feeling tired quickly or overstimulated. 

It may help to have a set schedule for the day so you know when people will be arriving and leaving, this would allow you to split the time into intervals and take regular breaks. A schedule could also help you avoid burning out on social interaction: either guests know they must leave by a certain time or understand you need to leave after a certain number of hours.

Alternatively, come up with signals or a phrase that lets your close family members know you need to take a break.

By addressing this need proactively and having a mutual understanding, you can reduce feelings of guilt for needing to leave the social space or asking others to leave. 

If this is your first large social interaction since your concussion, be prepared that things might feel a bit different. You may experience:

  • Feeling uncomfortable or hyperaware
  • Interrupting conversations
  • Losing focus or forgetting what someone has said
  • Misunderstanding words, tone, or facial expressions

Any task that requires you to process information in large quantities could feel taxing to your brain. This is normal, it’s just important to pace yourself. 

Note any symptoms that arise and what situations caused them so you can bring them up with the doctor monitoring your recovery.

2. Rest

Our tips for socializing suggest you might need to rest over the course of the day or take frequent breaks. We wanted to give you more detail of what that rest could look like.

Remember, it’s completely valid to need rest on a busy holiday like this, the most important thing is to take care of your brain. You’re not missing out and you won’t be disrupting anything – the people who love you will completely understand!

  • Create a quiet space that you can retreat to when you need to take a break. Designate a private room or area of the house where you can go relax, close the door, and take a breath. Ideally, this is somewhere you can feel calm and is removed from the noise of the celebrations.
  • Take regular breaks so you reduce the risk of burning out on social interaction and exceeding your cognitive load. If you begin to notice any mild symptoms, head to your quiet space and take an extra-long break.
  • Rest the day before and after without any intense social interaction or cognitively strenuous activities so you don’t head into the holidays feeling mentally tired or socially drained.

During your breaks, avoid screen time because you’re trying to give your brain a rest from processing information and our phones provide a steady stream of stimulation and require quick changes of attention. 

Try meditating, listening to some soft music, or sitting outside and taking in some fresh air.

3. Exercise

A 2019 study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that moderate physical activity within the first week of a mild concussion can aid recovery and lessen your chance of developing post-concussive syndrome (if you participated in very regular physical activity pre-concussion).

Following the advice of your doctor, you should be in the clear to join a holiday family walk or light hike. Moderate, non-contact exercise is completely fine as long as it isn’t raising your heart rate to a level where symptoms start to flare up.

But use your common sense. Skip the family full-contact football game or any other traditions that would risk another concussion or jolt your head or body.


Certain foods won’t cure post-concussive syndrome. But consuming brain-healthy foods gives you the nutrients you need for your best shot at recovery. 

The holiday season is infamous for amazing food – so enjoy yourself! Take a look at the list of brain-healthy foods below if you want to know a little more about what you might be reaching for at the table.

Here’s a brief guide to brain-healthy foods for concussion (for more information on this topic, check out my previous blog Dr. Matthew Kennedy's Top Five Foods for Brain Health):

  • Nuts: Vitamin E and DHA support your cognitive function, deficiencies in DHA have been associated with deficits in learning capabilities. Walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts have some of the highest concentrations of DHA in nuts.
  • Berries: Feel good eating some berry pie or cranberry sauce this holiday season! Most berries are high in flavonoid antioxidants like quercetin and anthocyanin which can reduce inflammation in the brain and body, protect against cognitive decline, and help improve communication between brain cells.
  • Leafy Greens: Don’t skip out on the greens, pile them up! Kale, spinach, collard greens, cabbage, and lettuce are just a few of all the greens you could choose from for a healthy dose of antioxidants and vitamin K. Just one cup of greens a day has been associated with slowing cognitive decline. Further study indicated phylloquinone, lutein, and folate are the brain boosters behind these results.

Any food that has anti-inflammatory properties also goes on the list, primarily those that contain zinc and magnesium. 

Try to avoid sugary drinks as well as high-fat and heavily processed meats – this doesn’t mean you need to switch out your turkey for fish but consider making an adjustment for the long-term.


Make sure you drink enough water! Staying hydrated plays a significant role in concussion recovery and managing concussion symptoms.  

Hydration heavily impacts sleep, brain activity, cognition, and mood. It’s also critical for preventing infections, organ function, nutrient transportation, body regulation, lubricated joints, and keeping cells healthy.

Remember, the brain is a whopping 73% water. Keeping yourself hydrated is being kind to your healing brain while also helping you to stay alert and focused.

Add a hydration app to your phone that will remind you to drink water, keep a water bottle next to you throughout the day (especially on a hike or walk), or switch out any festive drinks for a glass of water so anytime you take a sip with your meal you’re hydrating.

Does alcohol affect concussion recovery?

Skip alcohol this holiday, especially if you’re recovering from a very recent concussion. Studies have shown alcohol impedes recovery and can worsen cognitive and emotional symptoms. Plus, it’ll dehydrate you!


This season might be a bit daunting for your loved one. To help them through the day, you may have to adjust your own social patterns or the environment.

When socializing:

  • Give them more time to process and respond in conversation
  • Limit the information you communicate at a time
  • If they appear fatigued or overwhelmed, end the conversation and remind them that now could be a good time to take a break


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