Around this time of year people are always asking me what to do to reduce PTSD stress during the holidays. Like anything in the PTSD world, how you handle triggers, stress and symptoms will be totally unique to you, but there are some things that help everyone, including these four tips reposted from an article I once wrote:
1 – Incorporate alone time. In the hustle and bustle of holidays it’s helpful to carve out time when you can decompress. Decide in advance when that will be, and stick to it so that you have built in periods of downtime to regroup.
2 – Do what feels comfortable. Family and friends can really get going in a whirling dervish of plans and activities during the holiday season. It’s okay for you to say, “No!”. Pick and choose what you want to participate in and then draw the line. There’s nothing wrong with a little boundary setting during this time of year.
3 – Pace yourself. If you feel you’re getting too caught up and overcommitted on the party circuit, slow down. It’s better to unmake plans than go through with them and bring on a meltdown. When you feel yourself reaching your limit pull back.
4 – Maintain your privacy. Properly managing PTSD during the holidays doesn’t require you to explain PTSD to everyone you know. It’s all right to decline an invitation without giving a full explanation of why. Certainly, share your reasons with people you trust and love, but for others a simple, “No thank you,” is enough.
The trick in every aspect of life with PTSD is getting hip to the choose-your-own-adventure aspect of it. That is, you look at all your options and then choose which way you think is best best for you.
There’s an added benefit to not knowing what will work: You develop your ability to choose and self-create. The more you do these two things (and take the actions they require) the more you help to shift yourself from powerless to powerful; from your Survivor Self to The Real You. It’s in the nooks and crannies of this process that you rewire and retrain your brain on your quest to shed the past, connect to the present and move into a future that feels safe, secure and possible.