Living With PTSD During The Holidays

Living with PTSD during the holiday season is not an easy task. Here are a few helpful steps that may help. Remember always get professional counseling whenever needed.

Living With PTSD During The Holidays

Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can sometimes make life difficult to navigate, particularly during stressful events. Associated symptoms such as flashbacks, intrusive memories, anxiety, and depression can all have a significant impact on daily life. However, when special events roll around, it can become even harder to manage your symptoms.

The holidays are particularly challenging for many people living with PTSD. The holiday festivities may trigger flashbacks or negative memories as well as increase anxiety and discomfort. Furthermore, with the heightened risk of addiction among people with PTSD, the commonly available alcoholic beverages can also pose a dilemma. If you’re living with PTSD and are worried about handling the upcoming holiday season, here are a few ways you can manage your symptoms.

Be Aware of Your Triggers

The first step to handling the symptoms of PTSD is to identify your triggers. Pay attention to what situations or occurrences aggravate your symptoms. If you’re unaware of the types of situations that can trigger a negative reaction, you will struggle to find effective coping strategies. A trigger can be anything from a sight or sound to familiar scents or locations. If your trauma occurred during the holidays, the season itself might be one of your triggers.

Cultivate Coping Strategies

If you recognize a trigger or feel negative symptoms coming on, it is important that you have at least a handful of coping strategies. Deep breathing, removing yourself from the situation, muscle relaxation techniques, and grounding are all commonly used and effective strategies. Grounding refers to the act of pulling yourself out of a bad memory or flashback by reconnecting with the world around you.

Bring Your Dog

Dogs have been shown to be a great source of comfort to their owners. Many dogs are able to sense their handler’s distress and react accordingly. Your dog can be the perfect grounding tool as well as a wonderful source of stress reduction.

If your PTSD is making it difficult to get through day-to-day activities, you might want to consider getting a PTSD service dog. Service dogs for people with PTSD are trained to perform a number of helpful tasks such as waking you from nightmares, pulling you out of flashbacks, and comforting you during anxiety attacks. They can also keep crowds (or well-meaning relatives) at bay in the event of a panic attack or flashback. The hectic holiday season could be the perfect time to find your new canine partner.

Come to Terms with Leaving Early

Sometimes, holiday festivities can simply be too much regardless of your coping tactics. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you must recognize and be okay with your need to excuse yourself to get out of uncomfortable situations. Forcing yourself through an event that triggers your PTSD does much more harm than good. Keep in mind that your mental health is more important than any small disappointment your departure may cause, and your friends and family will understand your need to take care of your health.

Have a Confidant

If you are attending a holiday celebration, it is prudent to confide in a person who can be trusted with intimate knowledge of your condition. People who do not understand PTSD can often cause harm unintentionally, and attending an event full of people like this can increase your stress and anxiety levels.

Speak with one or several people who will also be present at specific events and make them aware of your condition, what you may need from them, and how to recognize when you need help. The safety net these confidants provide can be an invaluable tool at a holiday party.

Handling the symptoms of PTSD during the holiday season can be difficult. But with the right tools and preparations, you too can enjoy the holidays alongside your friends and family. Of course, every case of PTSD is different and what works for one person’s symptoms may not be as effective for you. Take some time to test out different coping techniques and find what works best for you. Once armed with the knowledge you need, you can get through most holiday celebrations with ease.

Provided by David Wilcox,