The holidays are in full swing! I love this time of year and want to sit by the Christmas tree ALL day long with coffee, Pentatonix Christmas music playing through the house, and the scent of pine coming from the diffuser. In a perfect world, my kids would be sitting there playing quietly and I would look outside and see the ground covered in snow while I relax cozied up by my husband next to the warm fire. Picturesque, right?
In the excitement of it all, the holidays come with an expectation that we will continue to live life normally this whole month of December, in addition to the many holiday celebrations and preparations.
I have so many things I’m looking forward to this season.
1. Baking cookies and treats
2. Playing Christmas music all day and singing along
3. Looking at Christmas lights
4. Daily Christmas crafts and books with the kids
5. Buying gifts and wrapping them
6. Watching my kids’ Christmas program
7. Playing music for Christmas services
8. Spending time with family at holiday celebrations
9. Watching people open the gifts I picked out for them
10. Continuing our Christmas day tradition with the kids—a three course fondue meal
I look forward to everything on this list but, at the same time, I can start to feel a little overwhelmed. This is another 10 things added to my December schedule unique to this month. My life is already so busy with work, kid stuff, managing the house, and the ongoing process of working toward emotional health.
Honestly, the added festivities really could be a recipe for a much weaker version of me that is more likely to be triggered.
Since I’m a planner, I am going to plan to be triggered this season. If I know it is going to take place, I can make a plan for what I will do when it happens.
1. Say no. I will say no when I can and create margin in my schedule and in my family’s schedule. This could be saying no to an activity, a holiday gathering, or service project.
2. Take time to pause every day, at least once. I will use deep breathing exercises or a meditation app for a few minutes to reset and calm my body and brain.
3. Make a realistic plan for self-care every day. The holidays are busy and our plan for self-care may look different than other times of the year.
30 minutes of exercise three days a week
30 minutes relaxing with an audiobook and organizing three days a week
Intentional date night with my husband once a week
4. Identify my feelings throughout the day. By staying connected to my feelings and resisting the urge to numb out or fill a void, I can think and feel more clearly to redirect myself when I notice a trigger.
5. Identify the unhealthy behaviors that get triggered this season and tell someone my plan to redirect them. Our triggers during the holiday season may look slightly different than what they normally are. Some may not lead to a total relapse but if the trigger begins pushing us in that direction, there should be a plan for redirection.
Trigger: all the great deals!
Plan: tell my spouse what I want to buy before making a purchase.
Trigger: sweets and unique food at Christmas gatherings.
Plan: eat slowly and pay more attention to when food starts to lose flavor. This is a signal from our body telling us to be done eating. We may think we are still hungry but that’s probably because everything just looks so good during the holidays.
Food is part of many celebrations and I won’t miss out on it but want to be wise about the amount of food I eat.
Trigger: looking at other people’s social media holiday photos.
Plan: refrain from looking at social media for long periods of time and take some days off from social media to enjoy reality with my family. I’ll remind myself that the facade of social media cannot even compare to this quality time I have with my family.
We all know it takes 37 tries to get one cute picture of kids in front of the Christmas tree but we only see the one photo when they all looked and smiled at the same time. This is merely one second of a stressful experience that the kids hated and had to be bribed into smiling. Right?
LONGING FOR A BETTER LIFE
Trigger: romantic Christmas movies that leave the viewer longing for that chemistry and “perfect” life during the Christmas season.
Plan: write down how I am feeling after the movie and then write a list of five things I am grateful for in my life, reminding myself that movies are not reality.
SEXUAL THOUGHTS AND FANTASIES
Trigger: holiday commercials and sale advertisements with a sexual theme.
Plan: refrain from watching shows that have commercials this month. Tell someone in my group and my spouse if I start getting too consumed by replaying unhealthy thoughts.
Trigger: being around people who feel unsafe.
Plan: if someone shows up to a holiday gathering and makes me feel unsafe, I will tell my husband, take a walk, and do some deep breathing. If the feelings continue and anxiety takes over, I will have a plan in place with my spouse to leave the gathering and go home.
We all want to enjoy the Christmas season, but for a lot of us it isn’t an easy thing to do. It may be because the holidays make us feel lonely, we get stressed seeing relatives, there is so much to do and not enough time, or an unhealthy behavior continues to take over.
The reality is that the month of December can be a challenging time for everyone. The key is understanding why it is hard for us and what we can do about it. What may be hard for me, may not even be an issue for others.
In our effort to understand our own holiday triggers, let’s also be more aware of the things that trigger our loved ones.
I’m really looking forward to all the fun holiday traditions this month but also know that if I do not take care of myself and have a realistic plan to deal with the triggers, I will be showing up as a lesser version of myself.
The people I care about deserve better. I deserve better.
With less than two weeks until Christmas, let’s make our plan so we can enjoy the season and feel confident that when we are triggered, we will know what to do.
Anna is the Events Manager for Pure Desire. Her background is in event planning and social media. Anna has a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design and Health Education from George Fox University. She is a leader for Pure Desire women's groups and a contributing author to Unraveled: Managing Love, Sex, and Relationships.