Managing Holiday Stress and Triggers
by Shannon Anderson, Crisis Counselor
The holidays can be a delightful time of year, filled with close friends and family, good food, and warm smiles. For trauma survivors, the holidays can be all of these things and also a bittersweet reminder of past traumas endured. We as a society like to paint the holidays as a carefree, effortless time of year, but the truth is they are stressful. Survivors of trauma may notice this stress to a higher degree. But there is hope! The holidays can be enjoyed and cherished, and implementing the strategies found below may help manage holiday stress and triggers:
1) Identify what triggers you personally
Trauma survivors may have different places, sounds, foods, smells, people, and situations associated with the holidays that may bring up unpleasant memories. The first step towards overcoming triggers is identifying what is associated with trauma for you. For example, you may notice that the smell of peppermint takes you back to an unpleasant memory or a particular area of town makes you uneasy. Take a minute to evaluate what for you may be triggering around the holidays. Next, prepare yourself to either a) have a plan when these triggers arise of b) limit your exposure to these triggers. A plan may include positive self-talk, calming breathing exercises, calling a friend, stepping away for a minute, or grounding yourself by paying attention to your 5 senses. Limiting exposure may be as simple as avoiding triggers altogether, or if that’s not possible, taking triggers on in bite-sized, manageable pieces.
2) Enforce boundaries with problematic personalities
The holidays may involve interacting with people you would rather not spend time with. First and foremost, feel empowered to set boundaries around:
a) whether you choose to spend time with problematic people and
b) how much time you choose to spend.
3) Feel free to say no
Stress decreases one’s capacity to handle challenges, and the stress of holidays is no exception. Trauma survivors in particular may find the extra effort put in around the holidays more taxing. With this is mind, there may be times this holiday season when “no” is the best way to take care of yourself.
4) Take space to enjoy yourself
The holidays can be a season of joy and renewal. Whatever that looks like for you, whether staying in with a cup of cocoa or hitting every holiday party you’re invited to, take time and space to soak up what you enjoy about this season.
5) Spend time around life-giving people
While trauma is not a chosen experience, choosing who we surround ourselves with afterward is. Spend time with people who support and cherish you, whether friends, family, coworkers or somewhere in between.
If the stress of the Holidays proves to be too much. FACES is available for walk-in crisis counseling appointments. Wishing you well this holiday season!