The holidays are a happy time for many people, but it’s quite the opposite for others. This season can be particularly difficult for anyone dealing with any type of trauma.
It’s a sentimental time, so it’s rough on people who have lost loved ones. And it’s a time of indulgence, so it can be a trigger for anyone in addiction recovery. And for those struggling with depression or anxiety can expect the pressures of the holidays to worsen symptoms.
But regardless of what you’ve been through or are currently struggling with, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can overcome triggers and learn to mitigate stress during the holiday season.
Follow these tips to help you navigate all the potential emotional landmines this holiday season.
Know your triggers
You probably already have a list of your personal triggers in your mind. If you’re missing someone, you may be dreading the first family gathering without them. If you’re struggling with alcohol, you may get anxious about the Christmas family toast.
Put your triggers down on paper. Whether it’s a person, place or thing, write down exactly what triggers you and why.
This may not take away the pain, but it will help bring some of those bad feelings to the surface. If you’re going to be around your trigger, it can’t be the first time you’re dealing with it. Allow yourself to grieve, freak out or get angry in the comfort of your own home before you’re faced with a trigger out in the real world.
Decide what you’ll do
Everyone handles things differently, and depending on your situation, you may find it best to avoid your trigger altogether. This is a personal choice that you’re making for your own emotional or physical wellbeing. Just be sure you aren’t hiding from life. There’s a fine line, and if you’re unsure whether you can handle it, try talking to a counselor or a friend you can confide in.
Surround yourself with support
If you’re worried about something specific this holiday season, don’t bottle up your woes. Your friends and family would be happy to help you through this tough time, but they have to know what’s going on first.
For example, if you have a history of alcohol abuse, being around yuletide cocktails may stress you out. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places you can hide from alcohol in this society. So you’re going to have to face this problem. But let your friends know what you’re worried about and how they can provide support. It may mean sipping mocktails with you at a party or understanding why you want to leave early.
If you’re struggling with addiction, you’ll also want a peer support group to help you through this time. Attend group meetings and connect with sober supports who understand your specific struggles.
The same advice can hold true for any trigger or source of anxiety. When people know how you feel, it will be easier for them to provide support.
Find healthy outlets for stress
Too many people turn to alcohol to relieve stress, especially during the holidays. But alcohol can actually worsen your symptoms of anxiety over time. Instead, find a healthy outlet for your stress to help you through this time. Here are a few things you can do to help minimize the impact of stress in your life.
- Meditate – Meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which can have a positive impact on anxiety. If you’re going to try meditation to relieve stress, make it a daily practice. Start with a 5-minute meditation every day and work your way up in 5-minute increments until you reach 30 minutes.
- Exercise – When you exercise, your body releases endorphins to mitigate the effects of physical stress, but this can have a positive impact on your mental stress as well. Commit to light exercise for at least 30-minutes every day to keep stress levels low around the holidays.
- Laugh it up – Laughter really is the best medicine. It’s impossible to feel sad or stressed when your body is actively laughing. But this isn’t the LOL-type of laughter where you don’t even crack a smile. In order to get the best benefits, you’ll need a deep belly laugh. These are the kind of laughs you’ll get from spending time with your best friend or going to a comedy club.
The holidays can be stressful and emotionally intense, but they only come around once a year. Tell yourself it’s temporary and try to find the fun in the season (whatever that looks like to you).
Make sure you have a solid support system and let them know exactly what’s going on. They can only help you if you let them in.
And if you’re ever having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, be sure to call a hotline right away. Your mental health and wellbeing are too important to leave to chance.