Merry Christmas to each of you. As you continue on through the Christmas season and into the New Year I hope you will all be practicing extremely good self-care. On the theme of the 12 days of Christmas, I offer 12 tips and resources to get through.
- Just say, "No!": while some triggering situations and seasonal expectations cannot be avoided, a high number can. When overwhelm hits (or is expected to hit), consider just dropping it (i.e., the duty, expectation, event). I've seen some PSAs letting go of a number of the usual traditions this season in order to priortise their own emotional, physical, etc. self-care. This has resulted in their having been able to survive these very hard days.
- Just say, "Yes!": at the same time if some of the traditions and gatherings (virtual or in-person) feel like they would be life-giving, say, "Yes!" I've been thrilled to see some partners stretching themselves a bit this year and reconnecting with estranged family, as well as deepening new, supportive friendships. That said, if you are planning on going into a potentially triggering situation, please make sure you take a trigger-buster kit (see this Naked Truth Project worksheet) with you, some grounding tools and an "escape plan" in case you need to leave early.
- Just say, "I'll see!": this year you may just need to ask people to be more flexible and allow you to commit on the day... so that you are free to work with what you are capable of at the moment. This is the same principle most people work with when they are talking about getting together with someone suffering from physical trauma (I have a friend with morning sickness who is in the same boat). While it may be more difficult for people to give grace to those with emotional trauma, I encourage you to ask for what you need, even if there isn't full understanding on the other side.
- Ask for help: some women are doing a lot of their "usual" seasonal committments... but asking for more support than they normally would. This may include asking guests to contribute to the food, suggesting "ordering in" or asking someone else to host. Likewise, you may need to reach out for emotional "help." Don't be afraid to ask a friend (or fellow support-group) member if you can get in touch if things "go south" over the holidays.
- Say "Yes!" to calming: acts which help to calm our nervous system can help us stay on top of (rather than under) holiday triggers. The best self-care routines incorporate physical activity, emotional soothing (e.g. quiet time), spiritual activities and intellectual ones. See last year's holiday blog post for more on this.
- Say, "No!" to unhealthy self-soothing: It's very tempting when in the horrific pain of betrayal to "numb out" in ways that ultimately do more harm than good. Christmas is a time when "over-indulging" (e.g. alcohol, food, shopping) may be particularly easy. However, as betrayal specialist and sociologist Jill Manning warns in this resource: "The body and mind have natural mechanisms for healing, but for this healing process to occur, we must not get in our own way."
Next week I'll continue this post with some poetry, music and resources to augment your seasonal self-care routine. In the meantime, you may want to consider singing (humming, listening) your way through Handel's Messiah: