Why Is Christmas A Trigger?
Christmas is always intended to be a time for joy, laughter and connection and yet for many it can be a time of triggers and frustrations.
So why is Christmas a trigger?
For those that know my line of work – you know that I work with you to gain clarity of what you want and the confidence to ask for it.
Your 5 senses are processing information all of the time and it is your 5 senses that are used to recall memories.
And sometimes memories are triggered involuntary because of the association with certain smells, tastes or touch. It could be the sound or tone of something or someone that triggers a thought. You might be aware that certain words or epxressions push your buttons and annoy or frustrate you and for some the response is one that cannot be explained with words. You know those moments when you respond emotionally and even you know that the response is not rationally.
And it is great when those senses are associated with and trigger good memories and your heart and mind are reunited with the joy and love in your life past and present.
Not so good when they trigger a sad or painful memory.
With this in mind, Christmas can be tough for so many in our community because there are so many repeated patterns and associated words, sounds, smells, taste and touch associated with this season.
From Christmas songs, to decoration to certain foods every single one of our senses are associated with memory recall of Christmas and yet this can be a time that reminds others that their Christmas’s are not the same as others.
Having worked with my local refuge for 17 years this is a time of year when many woman say enough is enough, it is the day they leave with just the clothes they have on their back and they have the courage to take their children from their home leaving behind everything.
With this in mind I am pleased to introduce you our guest blogger this month who herself is a survivor of domestic violence. I hope this article supports those that find this time of year hard and it reminds others how to have more compassion and care for those that might not be at their best right now.
How to survive and thrive during the holiday season
As a survivor of domestic violence, I know all so well how difficult it can be to weather the holidays especially when many of them were spent with your abuser.
Like me, there are many survivors of domestic violence that find holidays to be emotionally and mentally challenging. Feelings of anxiety and depression are common emotions that survivors tend to endure. As a survivor, it is not uncommon to encounter triggers from the past experiences with abuse. Perhaps time has allowed you to disconnect you from with the memories and feelings associated with the abuse for the most part, but the holidays are when the pain, brokenness and sadness returns.
Maybe it is seeing happy families walking in shopping malls and filled with cheer, the smell of gingerbread and candy canes in the air, Christmas carols playing, the scent of pine trees, and other joyful season cues that trigger all the bad feelings linked with the agony of abuse and abandonment even though you managed to keep it at bay for most of the year.
Even though it might seem hard, it is very possible to survive and thrive during the holidays.
Importance of Support
Having a strong support system is one of the most important components of surviving the holidays. Perhaps you have friends or peers from a support group, a neighbor that has comforted and supported you during your survivorship journey when you need them.
Maybe you have a sister, brother, cousin, grandparent or aunt who is emotionally stable and can be the source of strength during this hard time. You also want to consider the family and friends that are not comfortable with your newfound strength and health and will want to limit the time you spend with them. You must be strong enough to draw boundaries and not succumb to their negative response to your decreased interaction with them. Organizations such as Women of Virtue Transitional Foundation, National Coalition of Domestic Violence, and other organizations are able to provide support, referral services and/or immediate support to victims and survivors of abuse.
Considering the holidays can be stressful for many people, and even more so for survivors, remember to take it one step at a time and don’t hesitate in asking for help from loved ones. It is now, you should focus on you and be selfish for a moment, remember that you deserve to be just as happy as the next person and your past should not dictate your mood.
Do not act out of guilt to appease others instead treat yourself to something that makes you feel good such as a massage, a manicure or a pedicure.
All of these things can be relaxing and comforting which will in turn bring you joy. Avoiding a high intake of alcohol will help minimize feelings of sadness, depression, anger and other emotional complications. As you participate in fun and positive festivities during the holidays, you will find that the negative feelings of sadness and depression are replaced with thoughts and feelings of enjoyment.
Most importantly, you must be good to yourself and not place extreme demands on yourself during the holidays. Allow yourself time to be alone and do things that make you smile. Then allow yourself to grieve your past to continue moving forward towards thriving. Give yourself permission to have a beautiful and cheerful holiday season, you deserve it!
Thank you Sonya for sharing your tips.
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I might be part of the solution you need and I might not, but you will you know your next best step.
Sheryl Andrews, Founder of Step by Step Listening, is well known for her fast speaking and her passion to make things happen. But what many of you may not know is that in private behind closed doors she was also no stranger to lapses in self belief and an overwhelming sense of not being good enough.
That was until she learned the importance of being heard and asking for support. In her book she describes the step by step journey she took to learn how to manage her critic turning her overwhelm into clarity in 7 steps.
Sheryl now runs retreats that encourage you to really listen to what you need to work, learn and live at your best with others and the confidence to ask for those needs to be met.
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