The holiday season can be the worst time of the year for people suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As described by the VA, “PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”
Depression and feelings of loneliness can make it difficult for PTSD sufferers to assimilate into happy and joyous holiday celebrations.
People who have suffered from a traumatic event can have a hard time being around groups of people or in places that bring up bad memories. It’s difficult to focus on celebrating when thinking about what you have lost. There are techniques you can use to help make it through the holidays better than you thought possible.
Plan Ahead for Difficult Situations
Learn to identify what you will need to handle certain situations. Make an escape plan for instances like crowded holiday parties, such as a phone call from a friend at a designated time, or a code word pre-planned with your spouse for when you should leave. Deep breathing techniques, meditation, or going outside can also help if you just need some time to reset. Steer clear of alcohol and drugs- these will only make stressful situations worse.
Practice patience with loved ones who may not understand exactly what you are going through, but probably have good intentions. Your support system is very crucial when dealing with PTSD. You may not want to, but talk openly with close family and friends about your problems. PTSD is not only difficult for you, but can be stressful for those closest to you. Build better relationships by letting them help and understand what you are going through. Those relationships can be the key to better emotions on your road to recovery.
Make the Holidays Your Own
You do not have to go to every family or holiday event you are invited to. Only attend parties with people you feel comfortable and safe with. Take someone with you that you trust to be there for support if needed.
Create new holiday traditions that won’t bring on PTSD symptoms, and make new ones with your family and friends. Plan trips or outings to new places and find new hobbies or different things to enjoy about the holiday season.
Your loved ones need to be on the same page as you in order for your recovery to work. It is necessary for you to talk to them about your symptoms, what your plan is to cope with them, and how they can be there to support you. When you trust those around you and strengthen those relationships, recovery will be easier together.
Care about Your Well-Being
PTSD may be looming large, but one way to control it is to not let it overshadow your health. Work on keeping your mind and body healthy by eating nutritiously, getting exercise, and sleeping well. Doing this will boost your mood, energy, and make you more confident. If your body feels stronger, you can begin focusing on more positive emotions.
Seeking ways to contribute to your community and to others in need can make the holidays happier for you. Run errands for elderly neighbors, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or find other ways to help out in your local area. Giving back to others can give you a sense of purpose and help you see that there is more to be grateful for during the holidays.
If things get too rough and you need some guidance or help to make it through the holidays, schedule more counselling sessions to get help when needed. Look into the positive effects of a PTSD service dog. Check out the government resources for help finding a therapist, assistance for family and friends, and to find the Veterans Crisis Line and Suicide Helpline.
With a little planning and a lot of self-love, you can make this holiday season a more joyous one.