Surviving Christmas through unhappy memories
Surviving the Christmas holidays can bring up unhappy memories for many people. Christmas time can be very difficult for many people, particularly those who have experienced difficult childhoods, trauma histories, alcohol issues, and/or financial hardship, and abuse within their families. The thought of Christmas and being with family at this time, can quite easily trigger old […]
Surviving the Christmas holidays can bring up unhappy memories for many people. Christmas time can be very difficult for many people, particularly those who have experienced difficult childhoods, trauma histories, alcohol issues, and/or financial hardship, and abuse within their families. The thought of Christmas and being with family at this time, can quite easily trigger old memories, flashbacks, and put added stress and strain onto already high expectations of how ‘Christmas should be’.
Plan activities that you would like to do. No one says that you have to spend this time with family if this is too difficult for you. Give yourself permission to create new memories. Focus on your emotional and physical health. Notice when things are feeling overwhelming, and do something that you enjoy. Read a book, watch your favourite movie, spend time with a friend, take a holiday, go for a walk. Reflect on all of the things you have achieved this year.
If you have to take holidays at this time of year, how will you fill in the time? Make a list of things you would like to do. Make the list as ambitious as you like. Look at the list and notice how the list fits with your values. What is one thing or step you can take towards something on your list?
Make a playlist
At this time of year, there are Christmas songs being played everywhere! You may not like the music. Make your own playlist of music you like to hear. Sing along and/or dance along. Singing supports the happy hormones to move through your body. Dancing is also a great way to get the good energy moving. As the saying goes, “dance and sing like no-one’s watching.”
Notice your breath
If you feel that you are being triggered or having flashbacks, notice yourself breathing. This is not necessarily about deep breathing, but just noticing your normal breath. Notice your chest moving on its own as you breathe in and exhale out. Look around the room and notice five things in the room that are blue for example. Listen for five things outside of the room. If you can hear traffic, notice if you can pick out the different sounds of the different vehicles. If you can hear birdsong, notice how many different birds you can identify.
You may or may not buy gifts for people you care about at this time. If you are buying gifts, reflect on the gift you would like to receive. Explore how you can be caring of yourself. What gift can you get for yourself? Yes, put yourself on the Christmas present list! Wrap up the gift to yourself as if you were caringly and lovingly wrapping it for your best friend. Be kind and compassionate to yourself. You may not have had kindness when you were younger, but you can give it to yourself as an adult. Acknowledge your feelings. Make a point of opening your gift to yourself before you see any family members. This may be a difficult experience. Remember if this was your friend, how would you treat them?
If you do decide to be with family over the Christmas period, remember the list you have planned for the day after, or the evening after you see them. Breathe and stay in the present moment. Remember the strategies you have such as grounding exercises (noticing five sounds, five sights, five things you can touch, notice the taste of your food, and notice the good smells of the food). Acknowledge that you may get triggered into ‘old stories’, and that is normal. By staying present, you can notice the ‘old stories’ but not get caught up in them. Set a boundary for the time limit you will be with the family.
If you feel that the information has triggered memories or events, or you would like further support in developing coping strategies, please feel free to contact me on 0403 848 398, or book online via www.papillonwellness.com.au