Thursday, December 25, 2008

PTSD & Holiday Stress: How To Avoid A Meltdown

Back around Thanksgiving I interviewed Dr. Marianna Lead about her Top 5 stress relief tips. This month I decided to go to the source: In all of the online support groups in which I participate, I asked my fellow PTSDers what their favorite methods were. Here are their Top 5 answers:

I have a visualization that I do of a "safe place" from when I was a kid. I go to the big canopy trees in the woods, look up and see them blowing around with blue sky and sunshine behind them. It calms me. I usually cry, but ultimately I feel saner after.

I make up my mind … that I want to feel calm and relatively content for the holidays, and then I do nothing that would make that difficult. (It's kind of like that Lynn Grabhorn book, Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting. It works.) I've cut way back on Christmas frenzy, and no one has complained. The important stuff still gets done and everybody, including me, has good memories.

I don't make commitments to others that I don't want to just to please them. Nowhere is it set in stone that I HAVE to visit so and so...I can do what I want and others will have to cope with my healthy it or not.

I cut back on what I do for others. I used to make candy, cookies and treats for holiday trays that I would prepare and give to friends & coworkers. This year I haven't done any of it.

The hard part for me will be visiting my parents. That is always hard because they hold Christmas up to be this massive event that has to be "perfect" and trust me dysfunction can't be turned into perfection over night ... so needless to say they're always disappointed. I'm over trying to make their holiday perfect. I'm not going to be responsible for their happiness anymore, it's not my problem. This year I worked on creating a "shield," with the help of my therapist, that will help me deflect the pain, hurt and sorrow that they "gift" to me each year.

And because it's the season of giving: two bonus ideas. The first is something I’ve never tried, but I think the idea – to remove ourselves from stressful situations, even if just for a few minutes – is one that can help us regain control over ourselves, regardless of what’s going on around us…

I usually go into the bathroom (the smaller the room the better) and sit until the feeling passes. I've even done this while driving. I'll pull off the road near the nearest restaurant or something and go into a bathroom stall. I don't know why it works for me, but it does.

And the second, a tried and true favorite -- whether you live in the country or the city:

Long walks.

What tips would you add? Let me know what works for you...

(photo: julianabreeze;epmd)

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