Surviving the Holidays When You Have PTSD

November 26, 2019 Beth Avery

When you're living with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the holiday season can feel like a nightmare. Holidays can be stressful for everyone, but trying to balance the activities of the holiday season when you have PTSD can be very overwhelming. 

The holiday season has been one of the most dreaded times of the year for me for a long time. I know firsthand how stressful it can be to navigate holiday parties and activities when dealing with PTSD. Getting through the holiday season isn't easy, but it is possible. 

Tips to Navigate the Holidays with PTSD

Plan Ahead and Know Your PTSD Triggers

The first step in surviving the holiday season when you have PTSD is planning ahead. Think through the activities you usually participate in and how they might trigger your PTSD. For example, I like to go to holiday markets in the city. They're fun, but they're also extremely crowded. The noise, the lights, and the constant stream of people brushing up against me can be unpleasant. Knowing this, I'm able to prepare in advance and be ready for my triggers.

Family gatherings can also be difficult when you have PTSD. Not everyone understands the disorder, and family members don't always have the compassion to accept that PTSD can change someone. It's frustrating when you have to deal with people like this--there's no doubt about that. By planning ahead, you can be ready to field any uncomfortable questions that might pop up during a holiday gathering. If surviving the holiday season means dodging Aunt Janet's judgment, then dodge away. 

Don't Feel Pressured to Be Happy During the Holidays

Another tough aspect of the holiday season for people with PTSD is the pressure to be happy and thankful. When the holidays come around, we're bombarded with messages of joy, peace, thankfulness, and togetherness. But when you have PTSD, it can be really difficult to feel those things. 

Though there is a lot of pressure to be positive around the holidays, you don't have to feel anything other than what you are truly feeling. If you're sad in November, that's okay. If you're angry in December, that's okay too. You don't have to be happy or joyful just because it's expected. Posttraumatic stress disorder can result in a lot of negative emotions, and being honest about what you're feeling is an important part of PTSD management.

The holiday season can be a tough time for people with PTSD, but it doesn't have to be a nightmare. By planning ahead and being prepared for any triggers the holidays could bring, you can find ways to enjoy yourself despite the difficulties. 

APA Reference
Avery, B. (2019, November 26). Surviving the Holidays When You Have PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Beth Avery

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