For most people, the holiday season is full of love, peace, and goodwill. For people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it may seem more full of guilt, depression, isolation, and triggers. There are a number of reasons why the holidays are a more stressful time of year for those battling PTSD. These include increased crowds, survivor’s guilt, and/or anxiety over interacting the right way. Regardless of the reason, many people with PTSD feel unable to properly enjoy the holidays. This in turn heightens their depression and potential to react poorly within social situations. These are some ways to survive the holidays with PTSD.
However, acknowledging the difficulties associated with the holiday season is the first step that a person with PTSD can take towards overcoming them. Unfortunately, PTSD will not magically heal during the holiday season, but it can be properly managed so that the season can be more enjoyable. The following is a list of helpful tips to help those with PTSD cope with the challenges of the festive holiday season. This holiday season- give yourself the present of acceptance and stop burying feelings of guilt and despair under the surface.
Catch Up On Your Z’s
This may seem too easy to work, but being well-rested can make a huge different. It can be the difference between having an emotional breakdown and managing to hold yourself together as the holidays move forward. Sleep plays a large role in your emotional state and ability to regulate moods.
Getting enough rest (and downtime) between events is an excellent way to ensure that you are able to properly cope throughout the holiday season. If a hectic social calendar makes it impossible to get a full night’s rest before a large event, at least attempt to get a nap in before to help calm your brain and nerves.
Opt for Alcohol-Free
Alcohol and the holidays seem to flow seamlessly together and it is easy to drink at almost any and all social occasions. From eggnog to wine to beer to cocktails with friends, it is easy to overindulge during the holiday season for any person. However, as a person with PTSD this is not something you want to mistakenly do.
It can mean instead of dealing with just a headache, you may have to deal with an emotional avalanche. Alcohol can heighten PTSD triggers and/or feelings of guilt or grief that accompany the holidays. There is no need to throw gas into the fire, skip the alcohol, and shift your focus inwards to help you survive the holidays with PTSD.
Give Yourself Grace
A lot of people with PTSD dwell on their ability to properly enjoy events and parties. This creates intense feelings of guilt and insecurity because they feel they are not properly measuring up to others’ expectations. This holiday season, give yourself the same grace you would extend to others. Recognize that sometimes you may need to leave an event early or sit an event out. It is perfectly acceptable to take some time for yourself.
Discuss the possibility of leaving early with hosts prior to the event. Having of an out can help you relax enough to enjoy yourself. Sometimes just having the option is enough to help people with PTSD cope with an initially uncomfortable situation.
Designate a Support Network
Sometimes you just need to lean on someone to make it through an event or the entire holiday season. That is okay. Before attending any event or family gathering talk to a friend or family member in attendance and create a support network. If you don’t trust anyone at a work event, bring a friend that you can lean on and trust if you suddenly encounter a PTSD trigger. They can also watch for signs of anxiety and help you cope appropriately. It’s important to have a strong support group to help feel comfortable. It’s also important to set boundaries with family and friends.
Survive the Holidays with PTSD
The holidays are stressful for everyone. Whether or not you have PTSD there are a lot of big emotions that surround the holidays. With the added stresses of this year, a lot of situations can easily cause you to combust internally. Take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and find joy where you can. Keep in mind that your number one priority should be your mental health. Mold your plans around preserving your stability instead of meeting others’ expectations.