It’s that time of year again, when the holidays roll around and what’s already tough to deal with — becomes so much tougher! PTSD symptoms can make even the happiest family difficult to be around during the holidays. Today, seven tips about how to make it through.
1 – Stay in the moment; don’t think ahead. Sometimes, just the thought of Thanksgiving dinner, around all those happy people who didn’t understand my state of mind, was enough to bring on a surge of anxiety days and even weeks ahead. Keep yourself present TODAY rather than upping the anxiety ante by imagining what some future day will be like. (Actually, this is a good practice year round!)
2 – Strategize your holidays. Decide in advance who you want to see, and who you don’t; what you will do, and what you won’t; where you will go and where you won’t. Plan out your activities so that you spend the most time with people who are good for you and minimize contact with everyone else.
3 – Have an escape plan. You can’t always anticipate how you’re going to feel and who’s going to say or do what affects you. Have a backup plan so that if you need to make a quick getaway you have an out.
4 – 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.
5 – 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.
6 – 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.
7 – 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.
And one bonus tip: Do what feels right to you. In every moment follow your intuition. Your own inner voice knows what you need, and how and when. Listen to it.