How to Deal with Feeling Triggered Around the Holidays

4 min
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The holiday season is not fun for everyone – although it’s often described as one of the most wonderfully joyful and festive periods, many people can actually feel lonely, stressed, triggered, and sad at this time of year instead. The festivities can bring back difficult memories, or spark fresh waves of grief for the people we miss. It can remind us of all the things that we don’t have, and leave us feeling resentful of the people who do. Sometimes, it can seem as if everyone else is having a gloriously cozy time full of friends and family, love and laughter – while we’re left out in the cold. So how can we get through this time of what may feel like forced merriment and obligatory social revelry, all floodlit by the glow of a million garish fairy lights?

When you’re at a low ebb

Winter holidays across many cultures were originally a celebration of the darkest part of the year – when the nights are longer than the days. Traditionally, it is a time where we need to sleep more, work less, and focus on nourishing ourselves in preparation for the coldest months. So if you’re far from bursting with festive feelings, this is your permission to take some downtime. Focus on recharging rather than charging into the foray, and remember that life ebbs and flows. Summer will come around again, as will another winter.

When you’re financially strained

Financial fears are no joke, particularly when they are highlighted over a period of time that’s designed for spending – literally, by commercial forces that are specifically intended to prize away your hard-earned cash. But what’s much more valuable during the holiday season is time, and the quality of that time spent with others and/or yourself – and how you spend yours says a lot more than money ever can. This year, you could tell your loved ones that you’ve donated your time to a charity on their behalf in lieu of a gift, or get creative about whipping up something homemade. Then you could spend some time examining your finances, building intentions for where you want to be with them, and putting a plan in place to meet your goal for next year.

When you’re healing your body issues

Where there are festivities, there is usually food, so make a holiday truce with your body. Our emotions can have a strong impact on our consumption habits, so it can be wise to experiment with being on the same team as your physical being, and create a personal defense system to help you come back to self-love when you’re feeling triggered. It might be listening to a favorite song on repeat, finding an affirmation to repeat in your head around inconsiderate comments (or using an affirmation meditation to help boost your confidence!), or a breathing exercise to practice when feelings of guilt, shame, or unworthiness creep in. Whatever anyone says, your weight does not define your worth. Keep reminding yourself of this, until you know it in your soul.

When you’re an introvert

Whether it’s making small-talk with party guests or fielding the in-laws’ incessant questions, the social pressures of the holiday season or attending gatherings can be anxiety-inducing. Try shifting your focus from “what are they thinking about me” to “what do I think of them”. Ask questions, be kind, and remind yourself that they may actually be the ones feeling insecure, and that might be what’s causing their triggering or projection-based behavior. At social gatherings, stick to people that make you feel more at ease in your body, and extricate yourself from anyone who makes you feel like you have to prove yourself. If and when you need a little pause, give yourself permission to take one, to briefly restore your energy. When the family is all together, keep an eye on your energy levels and take little breaks from the group whenever you need. Leave the extroverts playing a game and go do some mindful breathing, take a nap, get some air, or read a book.

When you’re lonely

Just because everyone else seems to be surrounded by partners and children and parents and pals doesn’t mean they’re not lonely. Remember this when you’re scrolling through someone’s picture-perfect holiday feed – which is still quite often just a highlight reel of life, rather than a more authentic reflection of reality. Everyone has their demons, and the holidays can really bring them to the fore – so use this as an opportunity to pay attention to yours. Loneliness offers a clue to your deepest needs, and the only person responsible for meeting those is you. So lean into this feeling and embrace some alone time. Get comfortable with yourself, journal about what it is you’re truly yearning for, and start thinking outside the box for how to get it.

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All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Christmas And Subjective Well-Being: A Research Note; Christmas Depression; A Measure For Christmas Spirit; The Holiday Meal: Eating Out Alone And Mobile Emotional Geographies; The Meaning Of Christmas; Tis' The Season Of Stress.

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