Hardly anyone would claim to be a stranger to holiday stress. From money woes to holiday travel, traditions, and family tension, at some point everyone has struggled to make it to January. But the holidays can be a particularly tough time of year for anyone with a family history of abuse, whether it’s emotional or physical.

The idea that one shouldn’t be alone during the holiday season is drilled into our heads and we want familiar people near, even if those people can be toxic to us. Memories of trauma may become more salient. Some holiday encounters could open old wounds. You’re not just trying to make it to January — you’re trying to avoid being retraumatized.

Stay on the healing path.

You’ve already done the hardest part; you survived the trauma. You are much stronger than you think you are. You are solely responsible for your survival, your endurance, your courage. Give yourself the credit and respect you deserve. You’ve done the impossible and you can do the holidays, too.

It’s normal to feel this way.

Stress, fear, anger, panic, and disgust are all normal emotions right now. You’re not crazy and you’re not overreacting. You are the only authority on your experience and you have a right to your feelings.

The holidays are always a stressful time of year. Add trauma to the mix and it can seem insurmountable. You must make yourself the top priority.

Maintain your routine.

Now is not the time to dive into fatty foods or increase your alcohol intake. Don’t stock up on holiday junk food with the intent to binge and don’t buy extra spirits for holiday parties. Don’t shop til you drop thinking that holiday bargains will be soothing. Stick to your normal routine. If you ever needed it, you need it now.

Stable moods like stable routines. When we get off track, more than just our waistlines and pocketbooks suffer. Unhealthy or emotional eating and excessive drinking at this time of year can exacerbate depression, trauma, and other health problems,  Fight the desire to throw caution to the wind.

Reinforce your boundaries.

Maintain your boundaries throughout the holiday season and know your own capacity.  Don’t do something just because it’s tradition. Listen to your feelings. Pray!

One of the significant stressors for survivors at the holidays is having to see family members or others who abused you, or unsupportive family who blamed you or did not protect you from the abuse or assault.

If spending Christmas eve at your aunt’s sounds too stressful, don’t do it. If traveling across country to spend New Year’s with family in Florida doesn’t fit into your comfort zone, take a raincheck. If someone thinks you’re being dramatic or selfish, then they obviously haven’t walked a mile in your shoes. It’s not important for you to explain yourself. You get a pass here. Don’t let anyone else try to saddle you with guilt or shame. If you need your space, take it.

Don’t be drawn into ancient dysfunction, old arguments, or the same tedious and detrimental ways of dealing with relatives. Every family has a little of this here and there, but this year you’re definitely taking a pass.

Maybe you feel seeing your abusive or enabling family members is just too toxic but you’re afraid to turn them away.

Don’t be afraid to ask for support.

Do not be afraid to reach out for help. There are many people out there just like you. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual or ritual abuse, don’t hesitate to ask for support and prayer.

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