Coping with PTSD During the Holidays: Some Tips
If you are wondering why you have difficulty surrounding holidays and/or anniversaries of traumatic dates – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. These dates can creep up on us and without realizing it often weeks or more before, the trauma reaction side effects appear and intensified. Our conscious minds do not necessarily assist us in connecting these dots but our subconscious most certainly does remember. Cell memory wins…
Sometimes during the holidays a sense of control is forfeited as the holiday plans suddenly spring up around you. This lack of control can actually make PTSD symptoms (like anxiety) worse. To get back some of this control, plan the holiday that you want instead of something that Martha Stewart insists you should want. Go to the events that really appeal to you and plan experiences that don’t trigger you such as putting decorations on a tree at home with family rather than going to huge party. Set up new traditions that don’t trigger PTSD symptoms.
2. So many families avoid talking about a loved one’s PTSD but I would recommend just the opposite. Sit down with your loved ones and talk about what might be triggering during the holidays and what could happen, and what is okay for you and what isn’t. Then everyone is on the same page and understands that you’re not being antisocial or rude by excusing yourself but, rather, you’re taking care of yourself.
3. When it is not possible and or the event signifies one that you must participate in, try to stay in the moment practice grounding techniques and other modalities that you have found helpful.
4. Try not to think ahead, sometimes even the thought of being around people who don’t understand your state of mind, is enough to bring on a surge of anxiety. Know it is perfectly normal not to want to be around anyone at all.
5. Strategize ~ Decide in advance who you want to see if you do and who you don’t, what you will do and what you won’t. Plan out your activities so you spend the most time with people who are good for you and minimize contact with everyone else.
6. Have an escape plan ~ you can’t always anticipate how you’re going to feel and who’s going to say or do what affects you. Have a backup plan so that if you need to make a quick getaway you have an out.
7. Take Time out ~ It is important to plan in advance or be prepared to take down times to decompress. It’s best to decide in advance how that will work best.
8. Do What feels most comfortable ~ It’s ok for you to say “NO” pick and choose what you want to participate in and then draw the line. Setting boundaries in respect to others expectations is very important.
9. Pace yourself ~ If you feel overwhelmed, slow down. It’s better to break plans than to follow through with them when you feel you are walking into a situation you don’t want to be in. When you feel you are reaching your limit pull back and don’t feel guilty about it. Accept that you can’t do everything all at once. However, better to pace yourself and attend part of it then to push too hard and end up missing everything.
10. Listening to your needs is an on going process. Your body really does whisper first before screaming at you. If you feel uncomfortable with someone or in a situation, LISTEN TO THAT FEELING. Your spidey sense went off and is trying to warn you.
11. Maintain your privacy ~ Properly managing PTSD during anniversaries of traumatic events or holidays does not require you to explain this trauma response or the cause or justify your feelings to everyone you know. It’s alright to decline an invitation without giving a full explanation as to why. Certainly share your reason with people you trust and love, but for others a simple, “NO” thank you,” is enough.
12. Do what feels right for you In every moment follow your intuition. Your own inner voice knows what you need, and how and when listen to it. Be kind to yourself and keep your own inner voice in check, healing takes time and this challenging survivor path you are on is not easy, we know this.
13. Never let the fear of what other people think stop you from being yourself.
If at all possible do whatever you can to find a reason to laugh it is incredible medicine, be kind to yourself and know you are loved.
Reminder – You can light up a pitch black room with one tiny candle but you can’t do the opposite.
This column s not a substitute for medical advice.