Thursday, December 19, 2013

PTSD crunches Christmas

Guilt on top of all the other stresses makes Christmas one of the most dreaded times of the year for some people.  The Facebook page encourages sharing their information.  PTSD effects many people.  Holiday parties and end of the year changes, even happy ones, can totally disrupt routines and other defenses built by PTSD survivors.  Expectations, real or imagined, pours on the pressure sometimes to breaking point.  If you love someone with PTSD, reassure them often, even over things that were discussed and supposedly resolved.

PTSD and Seasonal Stress: Just the mention of the holidays and winter can send chills up our spines. Along with guilt because this should be the most wonderful time of the year… or so they say. Unfortunately, those who deal with the relentless demands of PTSD are especially vulnerable this time of year. Stormy weather, darkness, cold, threatening power outages, holiday hooplahs, excessive special events, family stresses, increased financial pressures, trauma anniversaries, overloaded schedules, lack of exercise, more crowds, less space, emotional upheavals, etc…. None of which are helpful to PTSD survivors and their loved ones. So since we cannot fast-forward to spring, how do we best make it through these colder, darker, difficult days? The following are some tips that have helped both me and my husband, a 100% disabled veteran with PTSD, during times of seasonal stress. Keep in mind that although secondarily impacted, we as loved ones are just as vulnerable to the triggers and effects as those with the PTSD. 
1. Be aware of your triggers. What circumstances (and people) cause your PTSD symptoms to increase? Learn to recognize your symptoms as well as what triggers them. Some typical signs of triggering are flashbacks, avoidance, numbing, putting up walls, withdrawing, hyper-vigilance, irritability, easily startled, memory blocks, sudden bursts of anger or other emotions, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, fear, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other additive behaviors, difficulty holding a job, relationship problems, and suicidal thoughts. 
2. Stay tuned to your body’s warning signals. Listen to your body. Learn to trust it. Does that headache, or indigestion, or grinding teeth mean anything? 
3. Do all you can to stay safe and healthy. Each of us is a choice maker. Although PTSD can be tyrannical at times, ultimately we have the power to choose what is best for us in the long run. Keeping our bodies feeling safe is crucial to surviving the PTSD onslaughts. And not giving in to destructive behaviors will pay off, not only for us but for those we love. 
4. Surround yourself with good support. Who are the people who are helpful (not the leech type)? Reach out to others who are supportive. No one needs to be alone! If you have no support, please check out website for options of local groups and online support. 
5. Remember you can’t keep everyone happy. Surprise! (I’m just now learning this!) Plan to disappoint a few people if necessary in order to save your own sanity. Do try, however, to be polite if possible. Learning to say “No, thank you” graciously comes with practice. 
6. Be good to you. Take time to do what you need and want. This is no longer a luxury but a necessity. In the book LOVE OUR VETS: Restoring Hope for Families of Veterans with PTSD, the entire middle section is devoted to caring for our own needs. Do you even know what you really NEED? Perhaps a light box to perk up the dark days, your favorite music, a new winter activity/sport, tastier cuisine, afternoon naps, indoor exercise, a canine companion, etc. And don’t forget to pause during the chaos to give thanks for all the blessings you DO have. You are worth it!<3 
7. Call for extra support if needed. The courage to reach out for help when needed is truly admirable. The alternative is not the answer. There are people waiting to talk with you 24/7 any time. No one can do this alone. Chaplain John Prater (641) 275-0390 or (515) 699-5463 1-800-273-8255 Veteran’s Crisis Hotline There is no need to dread the days ahead. Stay connected with those who are good for you, and take care of YOU. One day, one moment at a time. It will be spring before you know it! (And then we will be probably be moaning about pulling weeds, mowing grass, and sunburn!)  Welby From my blog on 
From Facebook

No comments: