With holiday gatherings right around the corner, many people may find that their expectations for a good time as well as their anxiety regarding the people, places, and topics that may or may not present themselves can seemingly cripple a person’s ability to enjoy what are supposed to be the merriest times of the year. Holiday gatherings aren’t always what we hope they will be, whether they are work functions, family celebrations, or spontaneous get-togethers with old hometown friends. When dealing with a situation that you feel may trigger your memories of a sexual victimization, it’s important to give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. In some situations this may mean arriving with a prepared excuse in hand for when you are ready to leave, and it may mean declining an invitation altogether. Below are some tips to help you take full advantage of the holiday gatherings you will be invited to attend, while maintaining your boundaries and continuing to take care of yourself first.
- Prepare for opportunities, for example if there is a family member you rarely see that you would like to speak to, make a plan for when may be a good time to pull the person aside and what you might want to say.
- Similarly, prepare for deficits. For example, if there is a specific family member who may or may not be there who has been known to act in a way that makes you uncomfortable, prepare multiple tools to take care of yourself.
- If you are attending a gathering that you are unsure of how you will react to the people or even the place, prepare a specific and simple excuse to use if you become uncomfortable and wish to leave early. Give yourself permission to use it.
- Set an alarm or two on your phone as a reminder to check in on yourself and take a breather from the festivities. This can be as simple as going to the bathroom. Splash some cold water on your face, or your wrists, or the back of your neck.
- Ask a close friend to text you at a specific time to check in on you and give you an exit strategy if you need it.
- Carry a small interesting tactile object like a stone or a penny to use as a grounding object.
- Carry a travel sized lotion or essential oil of a calming scent such as lavender that you can dab on your wrists to center yourself.
- If you start to feel overwhelmed at a gathering, go outside for some fresh air.
While the holidays are about giving, they are still a time when it remains of the utmost importance to take care of you. Listen to your mind and your body-you know what you need. All you need to do is to acknowledge your value and give yourself permission to put yourself first.