Dec 12, 2016

Making It Through the Holidays After a Traumatic Past

By Guest Blogger - Jennifer Scott


Photo via Pixabay by Ralfor

Everyone is supposed to be full of good cheer and happiness during the holiday season.  Decorations and twinkling lights signify a time of giving and festivities, and as you are just stepping into adulthood, shouldn’t you be ready to jump into the celebrations?  As a trauma survivor, it can be hard to forget events of the past and truly enjoy the holidays when they arrive.  
Traumatic events have shaped your sense of security and ability to feel joy during the holiday season.  It takes time for you to recover from those events and break down walls you may have built to keep you safe.  It is possible to find ways to cope, move forward with your life, and eventually enjoy the holidays.  
You Are an Adult
The trauma you have suffered may have occurred in part due to an adult not being around to help you or take proper care of you before or after the event.  Try to remember that now you are an adult and can care of and love yourself.  Think about who you are today and who you want to be.  You have the power in your life and can make important choices that are good for your well-being.  
The holidays are busy with parties and family get-togethers, but you can make choices not to be around people who are dismissive of your past trauma or in places that may remind you of it.  Remembering that you are of legal age and can leave a situation that is stressful can be a freeing experience.  Alternatively, small doses of difficult situations will boost confidence and independence.  
Connect with Others
Traumatic events make people want to withdraw and isolate themselves from others.  Most of the time being alone makes things worse, especially during the holidays.  Making an effort to maintain some relationships with trusted family members or friends can help you recover.  Talking about the trauma is not necessary if you are not comfortable with that yet.  Connecting about other life issues and interests can help you feel like part of a bigger picture in which you are necessary and wanted.  
Join a support group for trauma survivors or talk with a clergy member, counselor, or therapist.  Do not be afraid to seek help.  Talking with others who have shared similar experiences or know how to help you cope with those experiences will reduce stress, anxiety, and loneliness.  
Make a Holiday Game Plan
Keep your expectations realistic.  The holidays do not mean automatic happiness and perfect family celebrations.  Think about what holiday traditions you want to continue and new ones that you’d like to bring into your life to make you happy.  The things you value about the season can be completely different than the next person.  Focus on what you would like to do with people you would be happy to be with.  
If you decide to attend holiday parties, plan for ways to cope with memories by actively diverting your attention.  You can go help the host in the kitchen, get involved in a board game with friends or family, or watch a funny holiday movie.  You can even take a trusted friend with you to actively engage in conversation and party festivities with.
Avoid drinking and drugs, as these tend to exaggerate emotions and anxiety.  Plan to get your own drinks and food, or bring your own to avoid being handed things during the party.
Take Care of You
Staying healthy during the holidays increases your ability to handle stress and helps keep emotions in check.  Avoid too much junk food and eat more frequent, small meals to keep blood sugar levels even and curb mood swings.  Get plenty of sleep and try to stay on a set sleep schedule.  Lack of sleep can stress your body and make you more susceptible to getting sick.  
The holidays can be hectic, but schedule time for exercise and relaxation.  Exercise will give you energy to face the day, boost your confidence, and help you sleep better.  Whether it’s going to a gym, running or biking outside, or resuming a favorite sport, try to fit it into your holidays and your life.  
Don’t forget your mental and emotional well-being.  Avoid speaking negatively about yourself, and bolster your confidence by finding all the positives.  Look around and enjoy the things that make the holidays beautiful to you.  You made it this far, you are stepping into adulthood, and you are in charge of your life.