ABH Maryland

How To Best Handle Holiday Trauma Triggers


How To Best Handle Holiday Trauma Triggers

  • Mental Health

The holiday season is often filled with family festivities and fun — but for some, it can mean stress and potential triggers. The most wonderful time of the year can also be painful reminders of past trauma and those affected by mental illness.

How can you go beyond just surviving the holiday season and enjoy it to the fullest, despite potential holiday triggers?

How Do You Identify Trauma Triggers?

Trauma triggers are anything that reminds you of what happened before, during, or after a past traumatic experience. Triggers can be brought on by anything from seeing someone who abused you to smelling smoke after a house fire.

Holidays are also marked with festivities that often involve food and alcohol. For anyone struggling with eating disorders or substance abuse, the heightened focus on food and drinks during the holiday season can be overwhelming. For some, unfortunately, it can even trigger a relapse.

Many people dealing with depression and grief can see the holidays as lonely days without their loved ones. On the flip side, many people who have dealt with family abuse and trauma can be forced to interact their abusers during holiday dinners.

Some emotional symptoms of triggers include overreactions, unexplained changes in mood, dissociation, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, flashbacks, hypomania, and anger.

How to Cope with Holiday Stress

No matter how hard we try to avoid stress it is part of our daily life. Here are a few tips to avoid holiday trauma triggers:

friends christmas holidays
  • Make a plan. Whether you are hosting the family or traveling for the holiday, a general plan with rough time estimates and departure times can be helpful. Start with your event time, and work backward. Give yourself plenty of extra time for traffic, delayed recipes, and any bumps you may encounter.
  • Feel free to say no. Responsibilities are unavoidable, but you do not have to do everything. If you are an introvert, saying no to a second Christmas party in the same weekend may be in your best interest. For those with family trauma, seeing some relatives can be especially triggering. Declining invitations to events that could be upsetting, no matter the reason, is an important holiday self-care tactic.
  • Know your coping mechanisms. Let’s be real — the holidays are stressful, and there is no way to avoid it completely. Knowing how to address your feelings and get yourself back on track is half the battle. Whether it’s fidget toys, daily exercise, guided meditation, or just your trusted support system, be ready to pull from your self-care arsenal.
  • Don’t focus on presents. One of the leading holiday triggers is money, from paying for a holiday feast to getting everyone the perfect gift. Use your skills to make things you can, or spread holiday shopping out over the entire year to make budgeting for presents easier.
  • Go with the flow. At the end of the day, the focus should be on celebrating with family and friends, not how perfect your pie looks. If something goes wrong, like a failed recipe or an unexpected seat added to the table, find a quiet place where you can take a few breaths. Try breathing in for a count of 4 breaths, holding for 1 count, and exhaling for 2 counts. This technique is proven to help reset the brain amid stress and anxiety.
  • Talk to someone. Knowing other people are in the same boat can be incredibly comforting. You don’t need to put all your feelings in your social media posts, but having a close group of a few loved ones to vent to and seek support from can keep you grounded through the chaos.

Contact Us Today

The holiday season revolves around giving back— and that also means giving to yourself, too. Through the parties, dinners, and celebrations, set healthy boundaries to protect yourself and be patient with yourself along the way.

Get ahead of the holiday stress before the season even starts! Contact us to set up an appointment at any of our five locations or via telehealth.

When you think of the well-being of a child, you first think of basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are met, however, it’s crucial for a child to have emotional and social wellness as well. In this article, we will explore the impact social wellness has on the overall health of a child and great ways for children to garner social support in their lives.

It comes as no surprise that as human beings, we all need connection with others, no matter what stage of life we are in. In fact, having social support is a social determinant of health (SDOH) that significantly impacts the health of an individual. After spending the last few years in and out of isolation due to the Covid-19 outbreak, social support is more important now than ever before. Having social support means having family members and friends you can talk to and seek advice from when life feels challenging and overwhelming. Knowing you’re not alone in your life journey, especially as a child, creates a sense of belonging and empowerment throughout one’s life.

4 Types of Social Support

Emotional Support. This type of support lets you know that people care about you and have empathy for your experiences. Emotional support often looks like people checking in on you to let you know they’re thinking of you, and that they are there if you need anything. As a parent, make sure your child knows you can be a sounding board for them. If you have family members who can also show up for your children in this way, even better!

Practical Help. This type of support is when people give you something tangible or offer a service to help you out. This could be in the form of money, making food when you are sick, or helping to pack when moving. Having family and friends show up in this way shows your child what it looks like to be present for people you love.

Sharing Points of View. This type of support can often come in the form of affirmations and encouragement. For example, pointing out your child’s strengths to them and reminding them they can do anything they put their mind to. It can also look like sharing another perspective if they are being hard on themselves. For example, if they are angry with themselves after receiving a bad grade on a test, you can help them see it as a learning experience and a way for them to grow.

Sharing Information. This type of support is when someone shares what they’ve learned from their own life experiences. For example, if another parent has a child who struggles with socializing, they can share some tips and tricks they’ve learned to help their child find and create social support.

The Importance of Social Groups and Extended Support

Children who are connected to their family, friends, and people in their community have opportunities to learn how to speak, share, and get along with others. When your child feels connected to people in your neighborhood, it often allows them to feel physically safe which can alleviate stress and worry. Simply riding bikes, going on walks, and saying hello to neighbors with your kids can create this sense of security for them.

In addition to engaging with your neighbors, getting involved in local organizations can also create social support for your child. Signing up for a sports team, musical theater, art class or summer camp are all great ways to help your child meet new friends and learn important social skills that can carry them through their lives.

Tips for Helping Kids Make Community Connections:

Spend time outside in your neighborhood playing on the playground, going to a local farmer’s market, or scheduling a playdate with neighborhood kids.

Show your kids that connection is a two-way street. If your neighbors or friends go out of town, offer to get their mail, or water their plants and take your child with you when you go. This will show your child how you show up for people you care about.

Make sure you make time for socializing with friends as well. Your child looks to you first and foremost for how they should act and live their own life.

Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone and do something they may be scared to do. As a parent, it’s your job to push them into something social for their own well-being at times.