The holiday season is upon us! During this time many people have expectations of joy, celebration, and togetherness. Others may dread these coming days. Not all people who dread the holidays have a history of trauma; however, what we know to be very true and most humbling, is that for many individuals who have experienced trauma, and more specifically, complex PTSD, this time of year can trigger difficult emotions and memories. In this blog post, I’m going to explore the intersection of the holiday season and trauma healing, offering insights, coping strategies, and self-care tips to help navigate this challenging time with resilience and compassion.
Acknowledging the Challenges:
Take a moment and offer yourself permission to acknowledge the unique challenges that the holiday season may pose for you or others you know and care for. If you have safe people you can talk to, share your triggers and range of emotions that may arise, such as feelings of isolation, grief, or anxiety.
Offer yourself grace if you experience polarized feelings simultaneously. This could mean feeling both excited and hopeful, while also lonely and anxious. This is common and you are not alone. This makes you human.
Acknowledge your triggers that you may be experiencing and offer yourself space to validate why you may be experiencing these triggers at this heightened time of year. You may not fully know all of your triggers, but please know, that’s ok, we are not expected to know all of our triggers when we are on this self-discovery journey. However, just starting to acknowledge and name the challenges you experience is the beginning process of uncovering your triggers to then begin healing and caring for them.
Explore the concept and practice of self-compassion and its role in trauma healing during the holidays. Practice techniques for self-compassion, such as positive self-talk, mindfulness, and gentle self-care activities.
Encourage and offer yourself words of patience and kindness and recognize the progress you’ve made in your healing journey just from beginning to read blogs like this one!
Take a look at our blogs on practicing self-compassion and mindfulness on our website.
Recognize the significance of setting thoughtful boundaries during the holiday season, especially in social situations.
Practice communicating your needs out loud to yourself in a mirror. Then practice communicating your simple needs with close safe people. Finally, try to effectively communicate your needs with friends and family, emphasizing the importance of addressing your own well-being.
A hint I often share with clients is to let others know upfront that you are trying new effective and clear ways of communicating. This may be hard and humbling, however I believe that being forthcoming by naming how challenging it is to be honest and to prioritize your needs is often the best path to being heard.
Meaningful Rituals for Healing:
Consider introducing meaningful rituals into the holiday season for yourself to promote healing. This could include personalized rituals that honor and acknowledge the journey of healing you are on, such as journaling, creating a gratitude list, writing a list of positive beliefs or affirmations that you like and want to embody, or engaging in activities that bring a sense of calm, safety, and comfort.
During the holiday season, I encourage you to reach out, connect with trusted people, or mental health professionals. Book a session with your therapist. Take a look at the resources below, and remember, you are not alone in your struggles.
Explore ways to approach holiday celebrations differently and mindfully. This could involve choosing events and activities that align with your personal values, practicing mindfulness techniques to stay present in the moment, and finding joy in simple pleasures.
The power of practicing alternative ways to care for yourself is a slow and steady process, and we know change is hard and humbling. However, creating new ways to care for ourselves builds us up and can foster a sense of hope and greater self-compassion. The need to receive care and feel nurtured is a strong need within us all, and practicing the acts of offering care and self-nurture is so valuable for your healing journey. This time of year can feel dark, cold, lonely and saddening, and it can also be a time of opportunity for further self-discovery and growth. Prioritizing your well-being offers a gift that will stay and grow alongside you that will evolve into greater acceptance and compassion for yourself as well as for others.
Wishing you great care during this time of year from the Healing Space Therapy Crew!
Centre for Clinical Interventions. (n.d.). Building Self Compassion. https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/-/media/CCI/Consumer-Modules/Building-Self-Compassion/Building-Self-Compassion---01---Understanding-Self-Compassion.pdf