Survival Tips for Handling Holiday Triggers
For many of us, October through December can be difficult months to get through. Death, separation, divorce, illness, family trauma, job loss, or moving to a new location result in great losses that can the holidays difficult. Therefore, here are a few practical tips:
PREPARE – The ambush of emotions can attack at any time; prepare beforehand and have a plan.
Schedule some self-care into your holidays, but also have have the phone number of your counselor,
pastor, church, close friend or a hotline already taped to your phone. Make the commitment to call
someone if negative thoughts get fierce.
SOCIALIZE – Don’t hibernate. Insecure feelings may tempt you to isolate, but force yourself to go
out even if it’s only for a short time. Invite a friend to see a movie, have dinner, or even help you
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS – Movies and songs paint an unrealistic picture of the
holidays. Forget perfection and focus on what is meaningful to you and your family.
DON’T ANESTHETIZE – the pain with drugs or alcohol – Numbing emotional distress with
chemicals creates more depression.
GET UP AND MOVE – Take care of your physical well-being. Healthy foods will give you
strength; fattening and sugar-filled foods can worsen your depression. Exercise produces natural
SHOP – online if going to the store is too stressful.
LIGHT – Get some sunshine. Winter can take its toll on your emotions by the loss of sun you
TRIMMING – If old ornaments or trimmings cause too much pain, don’t hang them this year. Put
them aside for another time.
SET BOUNDARIES – Explain to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year,
and what you aren’t. Don’t let others guilt you into taking on more than you can handle.
AVOID FAMILY CONFLICT – If you know there are going to be conflicts, prepare a neutral
response, such as, "Let's talk about that another time," or, "I can see how you would feel that way."
Then escape to the restroom, offer to help in the kitchen, or go hang out with the kids.
SCHEDULE SOME SLEEP – Holiday activities easily can interfere with your sleep schedule. But
studies have shown there is a link between sleep loss and depression, so you need to be extra careful
about cutting back on sleep to get everything done.
ACCEPT – the difficulty of this time of year and any loss that you have experienced. Remind
yourself that it’s a season and it will pass.