This time of year, many of us are working on our holiday plans. However, for survivors of violence, these plans can be fraught with anxiety, triggers, and may even include one’s perpetrator(s). Here are some tips to reduce stress and promote self care this holiday season:
Have an escape route. If you are able, travel to gatherings alone or with someone who understands that you may need to leave early or quickly. Remember that you are entitled to respect, personal space, and self care. If you feel triggered or unsafe, it may be best to go home.
Identify potential stressors/triggers. Families tend to follow traditions during the holidays, and this can be helpful in planning ahead. Is your family gathering small or crowded? Do you have relatives who express affection through touch? Remember that while crowds, loud sounds, or hugs may not usually be triggers or stressors for you, all of these combined may be overstimulating.
Make a self care plan. Practice grounding and breathing exercises and/or identify a loved one who knows how to help manage triggers/stressors.
Start a new tradition. Again, we are entitled to respect from others and for ourselves. If you come from a family that is toxic or abusive, consider how it may feel to skip all or some of their celebrations. If you think that you would feel safer, physically or emotionally, it may be time to start your own traditions. You can do this with your spouse and children, with friends, or alone. Maybe you cook your favorite meal, order pizza and a movie, or take a bath and slip into your fuzzy pajamas early in the evening. A tradition of love and self care is one worth keeping for years to come.