Christmas is a beautiful time of year filled with joy, family gatherings and delicious food, but it can also be stressful and a little overwhelming when it comes to navigating complicated family dynamics and unique pressures we don’t experience at other times of the year.
The festive season can be a particularly triggering time for those living with trauma, and with modern research having widened what trauma looks like, more of us are living with, and battling trauma based issues.
“Trauma is a response to an event. So there’s a traumatic event and then trauma is the response to the event” says trauma informed counsellor Kerri Sweetman of the Siloam Wellness Centre in Brisbane.
“The critical factor in trauma is ‘I perceive a threat to my life or wellbeing and I don’t have the resources to cope’ which results in feelings of overwhelming fear, powerlessness and helplessness”.
With the festive season in full swing, it’s important to stop, consider and reflect on how trauma is impacting your ability to survive and even thrive this Christmas.
Tip #1 – Foster self-compassion
Self-compassion is that attitude of open heartedness and kindness towards yourself. It’s not self-esteem (judging my worth compared to others), it’s not self-pity (judging myself as worth off than others), it’s not self-indulgence (putting my needs above others).
“Self-compassion actually doesn’t involve anyone else at all. It’s a place of inner safety and connection with myself where I can acknowledge my emotional pain, my overwhelm and bring myself validation and comfort” says Kerri. Self-compassion is a place of acceptance and not judgement.
Tip #2 – Fostering good boundaries
Those who have experienced trauma have often developed a lot of coping strategies that usually involve withdrawing from others which can be challenging during a time of increased connection.
When it comes to setting healthy boundaries, Kerri recommends working out what you want and what is actually possible in your relationships and where possible, trying to remove guilt and obligation from the boundary setting process.
Tip #3 – Honour what I have lost
For some, it’s the most wonderful time of the year but for those who have experienced trauma, it might be one of the hardest times of the year. It’s important to acknowledge your loss and allow yourself to sit with it.
If you’re grieving the loss of someone or something this Christmas, Kerri recommends thinking of a way that you can honour them or honour the loss in this season. It might be a symbol of remembrance or just carving out some time to reflect and experience the full spectrum of grief which can look like sadness but also anger, fear and guilt too.
Tip #4 – Introduce something new
Make this year feel different by introducing something new.
Allow the feelings of newness to foster feelings of joy and hope. Trauma’s all about being stuck in the past so by opening yourself up to new possibilities and opportunities, you can foster a sense of joy and hope that you can start to move forward.
“Trauma is a very world shrinking experience so to push against the shrinking and expand my world brings a lot of hope” says Kerri.
Tip #5 – Foster a giving spirit
Trauma is a thief. It steals our sense of worth.
In order to overcome this, Kerri recommends finding a safe way to freely give of yourself so that you can experience being a part of something bigger in order to experience the sense that you’re worth something and that you have something to give.
“Giving helps us to feel like we’re an active participant in the season. It doesn’t have to be extravagant gift, it can be a simple as a smile, an act of kindness or an encouraging word. It’s about allowing yourself to feel the pleasure of making someone feel special or making a difference somewhere.”
Siloam Wellness Centre is a not-for-profit charity based in the inner suburbs of Brisbane. They provide trauma-informed holistic care to:
- Those who may be struggling with overwhelming or traumatic life events.
- Those who are exploring spirituality.
- Those who desire personal growth.
- Those who are simply seeking belonging in a safe and authentic community.
Their focus is providing and facilitating space for connection with God, connection with ourselves and connection with each other.
Listen to the full interview with Kerri in the audio player above.