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Trauma Recovery During The Holidays

One of the most important ways we have to be during the holiday season is to be realistic. Holidays are promoted with the utmost idealism about the picture perfect celebration accompanied by the picture perfect feelings and ways of being. Living as a person in recovery from trauma and potentially addictions, or related mental health issues, means understanding that picture perfect simply isn’t reality. Trauma has the potential of shattering every single thought we had regarding reality and challenges us to take a long journey toward piecing our reality back together and gently, compassionately, weaving together the fabric of a new way of living. That new way of living in trauma recovery means living realisitically, letting go of the expectations of perfection, and having an immense amount of empathy for ourselves and others in realizing the very realistic impact of surviving trauma. Living as a survivor of trauma does not mean being out of control of recovery and having to anticipate triggers, meltdowns, anxiety, depression, and the oppressive reactions to trauma we might have at every turn. However, living in trauma recovery does mean having to understand that our triggers and reactions may come up at what even seem like the most inopportune times, like a holiday celebration.

Keep in mind that being in trauma recovery ultimately means being in trauma compassion, trauma understanding, trauma empathy and trauma action. Making it through the holiday season is easier to do if we have empathy and compassion toward all of ourselves- our past selves who experienced trauma, our selves who worked through our trauma, and our current selves living in trauma recovery. We have to maintain our understanding of our triggers, our environment, our self-care needs, and our right to our recovery, as well. With our understanding of what it takes to live in peace and serenity, we can take the actions necessary to maintaining that peace and serenity through the holiday season.

Know Your Triggers

Our biggest mistake during the holiday season might be thinking that our triggers take a holiday when there’s a holiday around. We might wake up with the idealistic hope that since it is Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Hannukkah, or any other celebration, there is no way that we will be affected by our trauma triggers. Immediately, we create an expectation that there has to be something better about this day than other days and that the something better we are imagining is enough to overpower our response to triggers. More importantly to note, we immediately create the expectation that we have to be happy on this day because happiness is expected because of the holiday. Even more importantly, by creating the expectation of having to be a certain way that is not how we are when we are reacting or responding to our trauma triggers, we are very problematically telling ourselves that how we act when we are reacting to triggers is not okay and not a normal part of life. Instantaneously, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves, deny, negate, and oppress our natural feelings, and unknowingly saturate ourselves with shame and stigma by telling our trauma- our real life experiences- “Not today”.

Simply put, our triggers, and our traumatic experiences which created those triggers, don’t take a holiday. Triggers and trauma don’t have to be the focus or “ruin” a holiday either. However, they don’t just go away because of some special celebration on some special day of the year. Our pasts are always behind us and our trauma is always living within us, but under more and more manageability as we grow in our trauma recovery.

Through our trauma recovery we have learned that knowing and respecting our triggers is of quintessential importance for our day to day functions. Whether we have gone through a treatment program of some kind or are working closely with a trauma specialized therapist, we have more than likely become familiar with our specific triggers, where they come from, how we react to them, and what we can do to get through them when they start to threaten our serenity.

Preparing For The Holidays

As the holidays are upon us, we should be focusing on our not trying to ignore or forget our triggers, but make peace with them and prepare to cope with them in a compassionate way. If we are triggered by certain family members who we know will be attending a celebration, we can strategize how to be at peace with their presence, how to set healthy and well-enforced boundaries, and how to allow ourselves the difficult but privileged decision of choosing alternative holiday celebrations if we do not feel safe around certain people. If we struggle with disordered eating, we can work with our therapist and nutritionist to create a flexible, healthy meal plan for the day, which includes not “saving up” to “binge” on a holiday feast. If we struggle with addiction or alcoholism and know that alcohol will be present at a holiday party, we make sure to attend a recovery support meeting, bring our own beverages, and feel confident in telling people ‘No thank you’ when they offer us a drink.

Overall, our preparation for the holidays as trauma survivors means preparing to take care of ourselves in every way possible by creating sanctuaries of calm, grounded mindfulness in our mind, body, and spirit. We’ll discuss this more in our upcoming Alumni blogs this winter.

When you graduate trauma treatment, the rubber meets the road, as it is said. To live successfully in recovery from trauma, addictions, or related mental health issues, we need the care and professionalism of an experienced, specialized staff who provide us excellence in treatment. Our alumni learn how to thrive in their lives not in spite of trauma, but because of it. We’re always here to welcome those in need of help at The Guest House Ocala. Call us today for information and resources: 1-855-483-7800