It’s that time of year again! For some, holidays are about bringing family together, thinking of others through gift giving, and celebrating our preferred festivities. It is also a time of year for individuals with C-PTSD, or complex post-traumatic stress disorder, to experience a wide array of triggers and symptoms. This time of the year may bring up old emotions, intrusive memories, or negative beliefs about oneself. As an EMDR trained therapist, here are some of my tips for how to self-soothe:
1) Stay Grounded. We all have that “window of tolerance” with which we can exist to handle mildly disturbing or discomforting feelings. Know what skills you need to use to remain in your safe/calm place or get back into it if you feel distant. If you don’t have any coping skills, consider going for a mindful walk while listening to some calming music to mimic bi-lateral stimulation (what is this?) 2) Set Boundaries. We’ve all heard this before but setting healthy boundaries puts a healthy distance between you and what is triggering you. If a family member or someone who needs a boundary in place is not respecting your needs, it is okay to leave the situation or ask a healthy person in your life to help you advocate for what you need. 3) Use Supports. Using allies or people we can rely on as strong, protecting, and nurturing figures can help us to not feel as if we must do it all on our own. If you are struggling with identifying supports, consider objects that represent these qualities to remind you of those parts of self (strength, courage, appropriate authority) working together. If you are in therapy, schedule an appointment with your therapist to help beef up your emotional regulation skills! 4) Be Mindful. In addition to knowing what triggers us and how we can remain in our window of tolerance, being mindful of other stressors can be helpful to avoid activating a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response. Misuse of alcohol and drugs (including marijuana), food, isolation, and overspending are behaviors that may increase our symptoms. 5) Foster Growth. What do I mean by this? I’m referring to the phenomenon of post-traumatic growth. This is the emergence of growth after we have experienced trauma. The five domains of post-traumatic growth include personal strength, deeper sense of spirituality, close relationships, new sense of possibilities, and greater appreciation of life. Whatever area of post-traumatic growth you can identify with or want to feel closer to, focusing on how we can integrate these areas of growth into our lives is essential during this time of year. Reflecting on how we have experienced these areas of growth can feel empowering and validating. You can journal about these or share these with a friend or loved one.
If you are struggling and would like to learn more about ways to manage C-PTSD symptoms or begin working on healing from trauma, please consider reaching out to start your work! Wishing you a safe, happy, and healthy experience during this time.