A message from Blueknot for the Christmas break

This blog featured in Blueknot’s latest newsletter, “Breaking Free” and we wanted to share their wisdom as we head into another Christmas season.

Looking after yourself over the holiday season

We know that this time of year can be especially challenging for people who have had the many varied experiences that can cause complex trauma. While others seem to be full of cheer many of us are left with a range of feelings. The reality is that many people find the holiday season challenging. It’s hectic and can be overwhelming, especially for people whose nervous systems are easily triggered into overdrive.

It is important to know that whatever you are feeling is valid and makes sense for you. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard to feel distressed, anxious or alone.

The holiday season often comes with the added load of having to do a range of things that are confronting. From facing crowds, to being alone, to spending time with family members who you choose to see rarely if at all. For some holidays bring reminders of traumatic events.

We are all individuals and find our own way through in different ways. It’s very hard but we get it and if you want to speak with someone about it, we’re here right through the holiday period. Our Blue Knot Helpline operates 365 days a year between the hours of 9am-5pm AEST/AEDT. So please feel free to call 1300 657 380 and speak with one of our trauma counsellors.

And in the meantime, we thought it might be useful to give you some strategies many people living with complex trauma find useful. Please choose as little or as much as you want from them.

Strategies to help you get through the holiday season

What do you need?

Many of us are not great at saying what we need as we are focused on trying to please others. It is hard to say ‘no’, especially for survivors, but you can say ‘no’ and this includes not going to events if you don’t want to. It’s all about setting healthy boundaries for yourself. Healthy boundaries can help you to feel safe and in control of what you do. You may decide to go to some events, but if you do, you can choose to take time out or stay just a short time. Take time just for you, as long and as much as you need, and try to do more of the things that work for you.

What helps you to be grounded?

Do you have strategies that help ground you? Find out more here: www.blueknot.org.au/survivors/survivor-self-care If so, have these strategies ready. Whether it’s taking time out to simply look around and see where you are, noting the colours you see, listening to the sounds, or keeping your feet firmly on the floor.

Maybe you find music soothing and can have some ready-to-go or textured objects that you carry with you. Perhaps speaking with someone who may be near you or making a sound to yourself if no one is there. Vocalising puts you in touch with yourself.

Going out into the fresh air or into nature can bring you into the here and now as can splashing cold water on your face. So too can reminding yourself of where you are, how old you are and that you are safe, now and in the present.

And always remember to breathe – in through the nose and out through the mouth down into your belly. It sounds simple but we can all hold our breath without realising it and we do it more when we are overwhelmed or anxious. So slow deep breaths

It helps to plan

While it can be hard for survivors to plan it is a good idea to think about how you will manage in different situations. This sort of planning can help you feel more grounded, less stressed and overwhelmed. It can also help to know what you will do after a particular event. Something you enjoy which will help you feel calm again.

And amid everything try to do the basics – eat well, stay hydrated and rest up when you can. Many survivors have used alcohol or drugs, self-harmed or tried other strategies to numb themselves or limit their distress. It’s hard when stressed not to use these different strategies but planning other ways to cope, small rewards or gentle ways can help you manage this.

What if you’re alone?

Some people choose to be alone a lot of the time while others find themselves alone without choosing it. Being alone provides you with space and an opportunity to do things you might not normally do. Whether it’s going to visit your special place, watching a movie, curling up with a book, making yourself a meal you would not normally make. Whatever it is try and find something just for you. And if you can, plan a day or time with someone from your support network with whom you feel safe and calm. If you have a good friend or sometimes a family member with whom you have a healthy connection, check in with them or make a time to catch up. It can help.

And most of all be kind to you. Holidays are tricky for many people so be gentle on yourself and patient. Often the hardest thing for survivors to do is to be compassionate to themselves. Self-kindness is everything and remember if you do want to reach out Blue Knot is here right through the holidays. Check out our website for resources at www.blueknot.org.au or call 1300 657 380 to speak with a counsellor.