While we probably aren't thinking about things like Halloween, Thanksgiving (if you're in America), Christmas, or even New Year, the fact is they're only three months away. For those of us who have PTSD the holidays add an additional layer of stress to that which we already deal with on a daily basis. This is why...
Whether it be the fall weather, the Christmas music, or the smells that accompany the season, most people look forward to celebrating the holidays as they draw near. However, holidays are traumatic when you've suffered from childhood abuse or domestic violence in years past, during those times. Instead of the warm, cozy feelings most people experience during these times, when you have PTSD from such traumas, you're bound not to feel this way. So, how do you prepare yourself to experience happiness throughout this time this year?
It's important to be informed about your trauma. This means being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in your life so that you can fully integrate their signs and symptoms into all that you do. Throughout the holidays season this is more challenging than at other times of the year because we find ourselves frequently reminded that this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Although some people may feel this way about the holidays, oftentimes for those who have PTSD the season is full of triggers - things like songs, scents, and rituals. Besides these triggers, there are also many other things you must contend with, including:
- The pressure and stress to conform to particular social and familial expectations can oftentimes make you feel self-conscious. At other times being unable to engage or participate can leaving you feeling guilty or ashamed.
- The increased presence of alcohol
- More interactions with family and friends - even those who may have abused us in the past are oftentimes in our presence throughout this time
- Loss, loneliness, and shame are powerful triggers too
Knowing what may trigger you before you head into a situation will help you take steps to prepare yourself before it happens.
Once you realize what it is about the holidays that are triggering you, it's possible for you to have some semblance of control over what appear to be unpredictable feelings of depression and stress. Knowing that these feelings are normal and giving yourself grace when you experience them is important. To help yourself here, there are some things that you can do, including:
Talk to Your Family
If you have a spouse and/or children, remember that they are your support system. Whether you choose to seek out family therapy, or simply sit down to make a plan together, communication is key. Be sure to let your kids know that any lack of enthusiasm or participation is not their fault.
Create a Plan for Holiday Parties
It's important to understand how stressful social gatherings can be for people with PTSD. Once you do, you'll see why you should create a structured plan for these times. This plan should include:
- Take breaks to step away and get some quiet solace for yourself.
- Give yourself permission to leave before you typically would. Make sure you have an exit plan in place in case this is necessary.
Remember, loving yourself through the difficult times is vital here.
Make Sure You get Plenty of Rest
While this may seem extremely simplistic, it's important to understand that getting plenty of rest really does make a difference. This is especially once the holiday season is in ful swing and your social calendar becomes overloaded. On those days when you don't get enough sleep at night, make sure you take a nap. Don't stray too far away from your regular sleep schedule though.
Avoid Crowds When Possible
Crowds bring about additional stress. Unfortunately, the holidays bring out even bigger crowds. If you know that one of your triggers is crowds, you should try to do as much of your Christmas shopping as early in the season as possible. Try to do it on the weekdays, instead of doing it on the weekends too since most people will be at work then.
Skip the Alcohol
Although holiday parties are full of alcohol, it's highly recommended that people with PTSD opt for some alcohol-free eggnog instead. This is because when you drink too much alcohol it becomes harder for you to cope with stress and memories from your trauma. When you get drunk you make other PTSD symptoms worse (e.g. feeling numb, having no emotions). Alcohol also adds additional unpredictability to situations that are already stressful.
Beyond dealing with your triggers, it's also important to make sure that you're taking care of your PTSD. Like any other health issue, PTSD doesn't just magically disappear because the holiday season is here. Instead, there are some things that you must do, including:
Make sure that you're working with a counselor or a life coach. By being proactive here you're able to work with someone who can help you understand and change how you think about your trauma and its aftermath. Ultimately, the goal here is to help you understand how your thoughts about trauma make your PTSD symptoms worse so that you can identify toxic thoughts and feelings and re-train your brain to create positive ones instead.
Work on Creating new Traditions
When you find that your old traditions aren’t working for you anymore, don’t force yourself to continue with them. Instead, take time to create new routines and traditions. This can be a great way to re-purpose family time, turning it into something that works for you and your family.
Besides putting these tips into practice, it's important to remember that there isn't anything wrong with you. It's just that these traditions are no longer working for you. Find something that works for you and enjoy the holidays this year.
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This was very helpful. I teach 3rd grade, and it's helpful to be mindful about what my students and their families might be dealing with.ReplyDelete
I never thought about this but it does make sense that even the children are touched here.Delete
The month of December is always hard for me because I had several family members die during the month. I have to step back sometimes and focus on my immediate family.ReplyDelete
That would make the holidays particularly hard. Hang in there and remember to always do what's best for you and your family, putting your needs first.Delete
I have done the last minute thing for the holidays, and that added stress helps no one. Planning ahead makes things so much smoother, and it is not hard to do!ReplyDelete
You're so right about the added stress and now really is the time to start making those plans. Before we know it, the holidays will be here soon enough.Delete
I really enjoyed reading this post. It’s so important to plan early.ReplyDelete
And that early is never too early...Delete
I can't believe it's already half way through the year. Every year I tell myself I will be prepared for the holidays early and it doesn't happen. LOL hopefully this year.ReplyDelete
I know what you mean because I do the same thing lol I don't know where this year has gone.Delete
This is a good article. Preparing early holidays is very important.ReplyDelete
Definitely... It helps remove the stress so they're more enjoyable.Delete
I need to start preparing earlier this year, because I am due with number 3 a few weeks later! Can't hurt to plan ahead. Thanks for all the tips.ReplyDelete
Congratulations! I hope you have a great holiday season leading up to your new bundle of joy.Delete
We love creating new traditions and I am the one that always plan ahead. Great tipsReplyDelete
I definitely need to work on some new traditions this year since my daughter and I are living in different homes.Delete
Holidays are definitely stressful. Between all the preparation, how busy it is, and dealing with family stuff, it can be rough. Thank you for the tips.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you understand and hope you find the tips helpful.Delete
I have worked with troubled youth for years at an outreach and understand this all too well. For some, it's not all kicks and giggles and it's a huge struggle to get through the holidays.ReplyDelete
There's a lot of pain attached to the holidays for many of us. Kudos to you for trying to help the youth through it though.Delete
Thanks for these tips, yes holidays are stressful, hope this year it will be at least get better.ReplyDelete
I don't think things are going to change but hopefully our ability to adapt improves.Delete
I’ve never thought about the holidays in this way, so this was so eye opening for me! Definitely important to be sensitive to Poole who might have a harder time!ReplyDelete
Thanks for being willing to understand.Delete
Such a great post! I am so glad that you addressed the holiday stress from the angle of mental health. I honestly hate the holidays and would probably ignore them and skip them completely if I didn't have children who love the holidays. Ugh. It is a very stressful and uncomfortable time of year for me. Thanks for sharing and linking up with me.ReplyDelete