Holiday Survival Kit - Trauma-Focused, Thanksgiving Style
The end of the year can be an exciting time for people, but it can also bring a lot of emotions. With Daylight Savings Time affecting people's mental health to the increased contact with extended family, there can be a lot of triggers present. Not only can this make us feel activated, but this time of year can also make us feel really lonely. With the pressure and expectation to be around family, it can feel shameful if we are not surrounded by a lot of people for the holidays. And don't forget the triggers for disordered eating as well - the impact that the unwelcome comments from family or self-expectations can have on our self-worth. This is all to say that this time of year is hard. Let's talk about what we can do to prepare meaningfully to help ourselves cope with and survive the holiday season.
If you feel...then...
Let's take this in the direction of a hypothesis. Below you'll find some examples of common holiday-related activating events. You'll also find some helpful skills, activities, or coping mechanisms to survive that triggering moment. While these might be helpful as a band-aid solution, I always encourage people to talk through the underlying trauma or activating event with a professional. These skills can help at the moment, but will not help process the actual reason you are feeling the way you are.
If I feel self-conscious or upset about a family member's comments, then I can set firm boundaries and remind myself that these comments say more about them than me. I choose who I talk to and the topics that are off-limits. I share when comments are hurtful. I remind myself that others don't define my worth, I do.
If I feel triggered by the presence of an unsafe person, then go to or connect with someone who feels safe. This person could be established before or it's a person that validates, empathizes, and loves me. Also, use grounding techniques if you start to dissociate or feel yourself going into fight, flight, or fawn mode (https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-article/grounding-techniques-article) .
If I feel lonely, then try to connect with others in a creative, accessible way. Shower myself in self-love such as divulging in my own love language. Reach out to other people who may feel lonely as well - Google search support or meet-up groups.
If I feel pressured to like the holidays when I don't, then work to honor your feelings. Know that you don't have to feel happy during this time and it's valid if you don't. Know that this time of the year may be good for others, but for you, it might be really hard. Show yourself self-compassion and love.