Handling PTSD and the Holidays
The holiday season is stressful for everyone, but it can be even worse for individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD and the holidays can bring on stress for multiple reasons. This time of year can be a reminder of past holidays when life seemed better. It can be stressful to be around family members who don’t understand what you’re going through or helped contribute to the traumatic event. For others, the loud noises and crowds can be a trigger or this time of year is near the anniversary of the past trauma.
PTSD could be caused by military service for some while others went through a traumatic experience during childhood. No two cases of PTSD are the same and triggers will vary by person, but there are ways to lessen the stress that comes around the holidays. Follow these tips to surviving the holidays with PTSD to make the season of joy a little more enjoyable.
Surviving the Holidays with PTSD
Handling PTSD on a normal basis can be a challenge, but managing PTSD and holidays can be unimaginable for some. While we can’t guarantee all these tips will help with surviving the holidays, we can guarantee they will make them a little more bearable.
Open up to others. You might not feel comfortable explaining how you’re feeling to your loved ones, but it will help all those involved. Help them understand what you’re going through and what things trigger you. If people know something could be damaging your progress, they can avoid the topic or events. Opening up allows your family members or friends better understand what you’re going through. This doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone in your life what is happening though. Choose one or two people you feel you can confide in. This support system can help explain to others what needs to be avoided and can help you get through rough times around family. If you don’t feel confident in opening up to family, find a support group to help you cope this season.
Take breaks. This time of year can pile on the stress for everyone and it is important to take time for yourself. For those suffering from PTSD, it is even more important to do things that help you refill your tank. Get enough sleep, work out, read a book, or just step into another room for a few minutes alone. Take breaks from family and crowds that might also trigger panic. If the time you’re spending with family causes you to fall back into a dark place, take a break from them. Remember you do not have to say yes to every family event. They’ll understand.
Limit alcohol intake. A number of people turn to alcohol to cope with their stress, and, at a time when alcohol is readily available at every party you attend, it’s important to remember to limit your intake. Alcohol can make symptoms of PTSD worse and cause you to ruin the progress you have made towards recovery. It might feel like the only way to overcome the feelings you’re having, but there are other ways.
Set Boundaries. Before the holidays start, set boundaries that will help you survive the holidays. These could be as simple as you’re going to take a ten-minute break for yourself daily. Some other ideas include only going to spend an hour at the holiday party or topics that aren’t allowed to be discussed at Christmas dinner. They might also be harder boundaries to set like individuals you won’t be visiting this season who cause you too much pain. It is important to set boundaries early so everyone knows where you stand and what to expect.
Reach out for professional support. The holidays can trigger emotions that are hard to handle. Sometimes the support of family and friends isn’t enough to get you through the rough times and you need professional care. If you’re feeling like the stress is becoming too much to handle on your own, reach out to a professional for help. If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD, learn more about the mental health services at The Phoenix.
Handling PTSD of a family member
When someone in your life is facing the struggle of a traumatic event, the desire to help can be great. But understanding what they’re going through and knowing how to help might not come as naturally. Below are a few tips to help a family member survive PTSD and holidays.
Learn what PTSD is. Asking a loved one who is working through a traumatic event to open up about their experience is often triggering and not the best approach to helping them. Seek professional help in understanding what exactly PTSD is and how you can talk to them without triggering trauma. Understanding what they are going through is an important step in helping overcome PTSD during the holidays and year-round.
Be Flexible. Don’t set high expectations for holiday events that may not happen. Be willing to rearrange or cancel holiday activities that might be detrimental to the progress your loved one is making in their recovery process. A key to surviving the holidays with PTSD is for loved ones taking breaks and that sometimes means skipping out on some family events. Don’t put pressure on them to make it, but instead, be accepting of their choice to do what’s best for their mental health.
Take time for yourself. Helping a family member or friend survive the holiday season can be just as taxing on your mental health as it is on theirs. Remember to take breaks for yourself during this season to refill your tank.
The holidays can be a difficult time for everyone. Use these tips to survive the holiday season with PTSD. If things become too much, don’t be afraid to reach out to The Phoenix for support.