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When the Holidays are Triggering

When the Holidays are Triggering

By Keelei Magar, L.M.S.W.

With the holiday season upon us come the annual seasonal events, loose schedules, good food, and time with extended family. It’s a time of celebration with family and friends. So why has a recent study shown 38 percent of people report an increase in their stress levels during the holidays? For many, the holiday season also brings about financial strains, seasonal depression and feelings of anxiety. Family time and pressure to be happy can impact many of us. But there are options to help reduce the stress and methods to help reduce the potential impact these feelings can have. 

Identify Your Triggers

Think back to holidays past and moments, gifts, and people who may play a role in your stress and anxiety at gatherings. Consider traditions that may not align with your values or may not be feeding a positive experience. It is important to identify these things and learn to tell when you are getting stressed out and setting reasonable expectations. Notice how your body reacts in stressful situations. Do you sweat, clench your jaw, or have trouble breathing? Once you recognize the signs, you can learn to address your own needs and adjust to manage the uncomfortable situation. Some techniques that will help you to manage the stressors are: 5-4-3-2-1 technique, rainbow technique and the grey rock method.

Many of these triggers can come from families who have experienced multiple levels of stress and trauma over the years. It is important to identify those experiences individually and their triggers in order to set up appropriate coping strategies.  Often, family gatherings may include individuals with a history of being abusive. This can cause as much stress prior to the event as it does during the actual gathering. 

 While the holidays can instill negative emotions and feelings, the use of appropriate coping strategies and practicing these grounding skills can help mitigate the impact of these stressful events. There is no shame in setting boundaries for yourself and your family in order to avoid some of the stress. To learn more about managing the stress and anxiety, please reach out to a therapist for more techniques and help in processing some possible triggers you may experience, not only at these stressful holiday gatherings, but in daily life as well.

Child and Family Solutions Center is always here to help. Please call us at 248-851-5437 to get started with supportive services.