Christmas time and PTSD – How to cope?

Jennifer Hill
By Jennifer Hill
A licensed Family and Marriage Therapist and certified EMDR Specialist. She has dual Masters Degrees in Special Education and Mental Health Counseling, and specialises in working with adolescents. She currently serves as the Clinical Counseling Supervisor for the Pregnancy Resource Center in Vista, CA and her private practice. View more at JenniferHillCounseling.com

Many people are not the same after undergoing a trauma. Despite the efforts and expectations of people around you trying to normalise every situation, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can change the way you react and behave.

Holiday season is a time of cheer and enjoyment, but for many suffering from PTSD, this can be a stressful and depressing period. It is the time of year when loved ones and families get-together and celebrate each other’s company, but this time can also present stressful situations like meeting new people, talking in uncomfortable spots, and feeling like you have to behave in a certain manner.

For people suffering with PTSD Christmas can be especially tough to cope with. Survivors sometimes feel the need to put on a smiley mask covering up how they might be truly feeling deep down, which increases the pressure of having to act ‘normal’. If one fails to do so, the result can be tears, rage, shame, guilt, fear, and panic.

Looking for ways to cope up with your PTSD this holiday season? Read on for some tips that will help you endure this time of the year without too much additional stress:

  1. Choose What You’ll Do

Create a sense of control and balance by choosing what you want to do and when you want to do it. Rather than encountering an uncomfortable situation by surprise, you can decide on the events you’re willing to attend and the length of time.

  1. Create an Exit Strategy

Things can always deviate from your planned path and when that happens, panic can easily take control over your actions. To keep your mind at ease, come up with an escape plan where you can escape whenever you feel overwhelmed or want some time to yourself. Put yourself and your wellbeing first.

  1. It’s not your job to keep everyone else happy

If you want to manage your PTSD effectively during the holidays, then keeping a limit on attending events and conversing with people is necessary. You cannot keep everyone happy, so say no to those events that you’re not that excited to attend, or can derail you from the path of healing.

  1. Be Realistic

You cannot attend every social event during the Christmas season – no one can! If you think, you’re getting too caught up in the party circuit, slow down and unmake some plans. Pull back when you think you’ve reached your limit and put yourself first. Self-compassion is key here. Love yourself enough to take care of you.

  1. Get Some Alone Time

Spending time alone can be important for people with or without PTSD. When you have a busy schedule ahead, plan some time that will allow you spend time with yourself and will fill you with fresh energy to take on the day.

  1. Don’t Think Ahead

Sometimes thinking ahead about a social event can bring additional anxiety to your mind. Try to stay in the moment and avoid looking ahead of your position. Avoid anxiety and panic by stopping, breathing deeply and by doing what you can to stay in the present moment, which will also be a great practice all year round.

The Christmas season can cause all of us to feel our emotions in a stronger more intense and heightened way. It can sometime feel overwhelming, and for those suffering with PTSD it can be even tougher. To cope up with all of this and enjoy the season with your loved ones, these tips can help you grab onto the beautiful things in life and make your world a happier place at this time of the year.

If you need help please call Samaritans on their free confidential 24/7 helpline on 116-123, email jo@samaritans.org or see yourmentalhealth.ie for a national directory of support services.

For more information on Jennifer’s work go to JenniferHillCounseling.com

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