It’s that time of year again! Christmas carols are belting from every store speaker, inflatable Christmas characters have taken over lawns and front porches, strings of lights are madly twinkling and the media hype is busily increasing expectations and credit card debt. Parties are being planned, cards are being sent, and everyone seems to be on high alert. Yes, holiday turmoil is in the crisp Christmas air…
For some, the Christmas holidays are an enjoyable time filled with loved ones, peace, joy and comfort. Others may prefer to go dashing through the snow to escape the overwhelm, loneliness, sense of unworthiness, abandonment and self doubt. Unfortunately, emotional wounds that have not been addressed or healed tend to rear their ugly heads during the most “jolly” holiday of the year.
So, how do you find emotional balance and personal fulfillment in a season that typically triggers you to no end? Here are a few strategies and suggestions:
1) Take time for self care and carve out some space for yourself. There’s a lot of pressure at this time of year. Keep stress at a manageable level. Exercise promotes the production of mood elevating hormones called endorphins so get out there and raise your heart rate! Eat healthy foods and enjoy the pleasures of Christmas treats using the old rule of moderation.
2) Supportive friends and relatives make us feel we can be ourselves. As family parties can bring on all sorts of triggers designate a support person, such as your spouse or sibling, and discuss what may come up for you at the event. Talk about red flags and how they might come to your assistance when internal chaos is threatening to overwhelm you.
3) People often tend to stuff their feelings and pretend everything is ok. Arrange a daily check-in with your spouse or close friend to discuss things that are bothering you. Use open communication to explore and recognize your feelings, mood shifts, reactions, and what makes you susceptible. Sometimes events as little as the weather, family, visitors, disruptions in routine, and chores can set people off. What can you do to prepare?
4) Have a plan for those days where you’re expecting to be triggered such as Christmas day, family visits and holiday parties. Sometimes pre-scheduling short stays are helpful and having preconceived conversation topics on hand can also be useful.
5) Keep your expectations in check. Keep daily goals manageable and be gentle on yourself and your loved ones when things aren’t going well.
6) Abstain from drinking alcohol or keep it to a minimum. Alcohol is a depressant and can magnify times of sadness and effect our reactions to stress.
7) In those moments when you can feel the pressure building take a moment to stop and breathe. Ground yourself and reach out to your support person.
8) Try out alternatives to family traditions such as outings outside the family home. You may find there will be more holiday cheer and less holiday trigger outside of the typical environment.
9) Change it up! Create your own social event with friends you haven’t seen in awhile and be the host or hostess instead of the guest. Or, do something totally different such as travelling to a destination on your bucket list!
10) Be of service to someone else. Christmas is a time of giving and reconciliation. Helping others can increase feelings of self-worth, usefulness, connection, and inner peace.
There is a 15% increase in people seeking support during the holiday season. If you are experiencing symptoms including a lost appetite, no sleep, hopelessness, and despair, you may benefit in seeking a professional.
And remember, high expectations for special days may lead to hurt and disappointment. Days such as Christmas day, New Years Day, or that big annual party are just days on the calendar. They only hold the importance that you give it.
My hope for you all is that you not only survive the holidays but thrive in them. I wish you all a very merry “trigger-less” Christmas!