Surviving the Holidays when you have PTSD

People who are living with PTSD or severe trauma struggle with certain anniversaries. And for some, the holidays can be a nightmare. It’s overwhelming, especially if the trauma is linked to an event that happened around the holidays.

A soldier could have lost friends around Christmas. A sexual abuse survivor could have been assaulted at a family gathering. However, it’s important to remember that the incident doesn’t have to happen around the holidays to be triggering.

Christmas is overwhelming for everyone. There are a lot of people, a lot of responsibilities, and a lot of pressure to be “full of Christmas cheer”. The holidays are also a time to display a sense of belonging and community. No wonder the holidays can be so triggering, this is the perfect concoction to throw anyone suffering from trauma into a full out spiral.

Not everyone understands what you’re going through, and that can make you feel alone. And family members don’t always have the patience and compassion needed to make this holiday feel a little less intimidating.

Holidays are hard, and we get that. So how can you, someone with severe trauma or even PTSD, survive the holidays?

Know Your Triggers

Understand your triggers. Are big crowds suffocating? Do lights and a loud atmosphere send you into an episode? This is important. If you can recognize your triggers, you can set yourself up for a less stressful holiday by avoiding the big events or family gatherings that trigger your symptoms of PTSD or severe trauma.

More importantly, communicate with those who you feel comfortable talking to. Have a supporting family member involved so if you feel overwhelmed, you can talk to this person. You can come up with a game plan, perhaps a plan to make eye contact when you begin to feel triggered. The first step to having your family understand your trauma is by talking about your trauma, but don’t push yourself to those you do not feel comfortable with.

Don’t Give In To The Holiday Pressure

We get it, the pressure to continuously sport a giant smile around Christmas to infect those around you with Christmas Spirit is real. Even for those without severe trauma or PTSD, the holidays can be bombarding.

So don’t feel pressured, take some of that weight off your shoulders. Remind yourself that you don’t have to feel any sort of way, you’re allowed to be honest about how you feel. PTSD can result in a lot of negative emotions, and being honest about what you’re feeling is an important part of surviving with PTSD.

The holidays can be difficult, but it does not have to be a nightmare. Take this time to prioritize you and what makes you feel better, do the things that put your mind at ease even with the hustle and bustle of Christmas cheer. You might find a new way to enjoy yourself despite the battles you have faced.