How To Enjoy The Holidays When You Have PTSD by David Wilcox
Friday, December 9th, 2016 @ 1:22PM
Photo via Pixabay by Snufkin
Living with PTSD can be stressful and difficult, to say the least, but when the holidays roll around many sufferers find it harder to cope with than usual. The stress of family get-togethers, shopping, and the possibility of an influx of bad memories can make this time of year a dreaded one. It’s important to have an arsenal of coping mechanisms and to know how to prevent slides into depression or triggers that will cause nightmares or sleepless nights. Here are a few ways to do just that.
It’s okay to say no
Often, family members and loved ones don’t understand what it means to live with PTSD. They may have good intentions, but their lack of understanding can lead to uncomfortable situations. Remember to be patient with family or caregivers, and that it’s okay to say no to an invitation if you feel an event won’t be good for you. Gently remind them that you wouldn’t feel comfortable at a party with a large crowd of people you don’t know well, or if you’ve battled substance abuse in the past, let them know that a party with an open bar wouldn’t be the ideal situation for you to be in.
If you know you’ll be able to find a better deal in the store rather than online, check business hours and go shopping during off times. Weekday mornings are excellent times to shop because the stores are less crowded; or, if it’s a 24-hour store, try going late at night. You might have to dodge employees who are stocking the shelves, but it will likely be much calmer than trying to go during the day.
Learn to manage social anxiety
This is sometimes easier said than done, but if you get anxious around large groups of people, it will be helpful for you to learn to cope rather than avoiding the situation altogether. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and taking a time-out can all help you center yourself and calm down when things around you seem chaotic.
Get in control
If the thought of going to a holiday party makes you anxious, think about planning your own party. Being in control of the situation might help you feel less stressed, and you’ll be able to enjoy the festivities instead of feeling the urge to leave. Or, you might choose to spend the holiday baking cookies with a few family members rather than being around a big group of people.
Taking good care of yourself will ensure that you feel physically and mentally up to the task of getting through the holidays. Eat well, get enough rest, and exercise every day, even if it’s only for 20 or 30 minutes. Getting your heart rate up will elevate your mood and help you feel a sense of achievement.
If the holidays have you feeling low, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Friends, family members, a trusted colleague, or a support group are all great systems of support. Internalizing your feelings of stress or depression can only lead to trouble, so connect with someone and allow yourself to unburden those feelings.