Navigating the Holidays with PTSD

For veterans and service members with PTSD, the holidays can be a challenging time. Take a look at these tips to help prepare for potential triggers that may arise this season. The below list was adapted from an Endeavors post “8 Tips for Preparing for the Holidays with PTSD“.

Take the time to understand why holidays can be so triggering

There are many expectations that come with the holiday season, such as social gatherings, large crowds, and planned activities and events. For individuals experiencing PTSD, this may bring about stress or anxiety. For many, the underlying theme of the holiday season is a sense of joy and excitement. As such, an individual experiencing PTSD may feel shame, depression, or guilt that they cannot engage or participate in the way they always have (or would like to). Understanding how PTSD impacts your experience will help normalize your feelings, while providing an opening to share with your loved ones and develop a plan that works for you.

Have a discussion with the whole family

Lean on your support system to help navigate the struggles that may emerge this holiday season. This could include your spouse, children, extended family, friends, a therapist, or anyone you trust in your community. By communicating your concerns with your loved ones, they will be able to better understand what you're going through. This will also allow you to collaboratively identify your boundaries and come up with a plan.

Create a structured plan for holiday parties

Creating a plan can help alleviate expected and unexpected stressors and triggers that may arise. Take breaks when you need to – step outside for a walk or sit down in a quiet room. This could also include agreeing on a set time to leave an event, or for guests to leave if you're hosting, or arriving to an event early. It can also help to communicate this plan (and your boundaries) with friends, the host of an event, or guests.

Create new traditions that work for you

If your old traditions aren’t working for you anymore, don’t force it. Creating new routines and traditions with your family is an opportunity to collaboratively work together to discover meaningful ways to connect in a way that works for you and the whole family. Remember that there is nothing wrong with you— these ways of celebrating simply don’t work for you anymore.

Additional Resource

Take a look at the Holiday Question Guide Workbook, an interactive resource from Full Range Foundation. This workbook helps navigate the stress and feeling overwhelmed as it relates to holiday expectations placed on us by friends, family, and the numerous events we're expected to participate in. The three key areas covered in this workbook include:

  1. Strong values & boundaries for decision making
  2. Healthy & supportive family dynamics
  3. Healthy habits
Cover-Life & Mental Health Coaching Holiday Question GUIDE.jpg