The holiday season may be joyous occasion for some people, but what is not always talked about is how the holiday season can also be a reminder of previous traumas (emotional, physical, sexual), how it may bring a lot of tension due to family disconnect, or be a reminder of someone or something that you have loss. Sometimes feeling forced to participate in family events is challenging and can bring up a lot of guilt and pain.
During this season, finding ways to cope in a healthy way and knowing how to keep yourself safe is key! 

Here are some things you can do to take care of yourself as you cope during the holiday season.

Identifying Triggers

​Know what your triggers are! If you are going to someone’s house that reminds you of the trauma, then know it’s okay to not go or take someone you trust and feel safe around to go with you. Whether that person is your partner, other family members or friends, having a support system physically present with you will help you manage the anxiety and stress that comes from the trigger.
 

Stress responses:

When you are triggered, know what your responses are.

Are you more likely to shut down and sit quietly in the corner? Are you more likely to snap at others and become irritated? Do you get tired? Do you get a headache? Does your mind race with negative self-talk?

Knowing what your body and mind do in response to triggers is how you know how to manage and know that you are doing something that is helpful for you! Everyone is different and experimenting with different coping skills to manage these responses is something that will take some time.

Coping mechanisms:

  • Don’t ignore the feeling you are experiencing but also don’t let it completely take control of your life. Taking charge and finding ways to manage the stress responses in a healthy way is how you will keep yourself safe.
  • For instance, if you are angry and upset, don’t try to just numb the feeling by drinking alcohol or storm out of the house and drive home in rage. These are obviously not healthy ways to respond. Instead, set a boundary, say “I need to be excused, I don’t feel comfortable” and walk away and breathe or cry. Remember, you are an adult and you have control of your own life and reactions.
  • If needed, cry! Sometimes crying is very much needed, don’t be afraid of it.
  • Minimize conversations with people who were abusive in the past or who are a trigger for you. Maybe it’s someone who has complete opposite beliefs and values from you and every time you speak, there is an argument or debate. It’s okay to avoid that conversation and minimize the interaction.
  • Get involved with other activities going on around the house. Whether that is playing a game, sharing some laughs, helping in the kitchen, or watching a movie. Keeping yourself busy and engaging in something fun for the time that you are together, is also helpful.
​​If you have experienced a trauma in your life that makes the holiday season and other special occasions difficult to handle, I encourage you to reach out and speak with someone to help you manage your triggers and stress responses. There is no need to go through moments like this in your life and feel pain, anguish, stress, and anxiety. There is a way to deal with this and know you are not alone.

By: Priscilla Rodriguez, M.S., LMFT

I work with many couples and individuals how have experienced some type of trauma in their upbringing or may have experienced some tension between family members. Understanding where this stems from and how to cope is your key to feeling comfortable during the holiday season. I specialize in working with couples and individuals to restore their relationships by utilizing research-based therapy techniques. Feel free to look at the online services offered through Modern Wellness Counseling and check out the client portal to conveniently schedule your next appointment.

Priscilla Rodriguez, M.S., LMFT (she/her/hers)

Priscilla specializes in working with couples and individuals who want to strengthen their relationship with themselves and with others. Priscilla utilizes research based techniques to help clients implement healthy coping skills and communication skills. Learn more on how you can enhance your relationship today.

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