Reducing Your Stress Over the Holidays

by Chris Gilyard, MA, LAMFT

(Because this content is often a high request, this is a repeat posting of a Phoenix Society article blog that was originally published December, 2012.  We hope you find it helpful.)

Holiday Stress Strategies

There is a holiday song that says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”.  Yet, while this may be true for some people, for others, including family and those recovering from a burn injury, the additional pressures of the holiday season can make this time of the year anything but wonderful. Here are just a few simple de-stressing strategies that could help you and your family find the spirit of celebration and fill it full of the wonder that we hope for each holiday season. 

Inpatient Stage; Accept Assistance.  If your family is maneuvering through the inpatient stage of the burn injury and you’re wondering how to manage the holiday demands, ask a family member or friend to do the honors for you this year.  In many cases you may receive offers of assistance – as difficult as it may be for some of us – accept offers of assistance for errands, meals, or even decorating, and help take some responsibilities off your shoulders.  Ask friends or relatives help create a holiday atmosphere for small children or other family members that may be overlooked during the whirlwind of hospital visits and treatments.

Focus on what you treasure.  Bouncing back from a burn trauma is a slow process.  Allow for this holiday season to be smaller,…. slower…. and more focused on the few activities or traditions that your family really treasures

Social Skills; be prepared for holiday visits.  The holidays are usually a time of visiting family and friends. For those of us with changed appearances, this can bring additional stress to the season.  Be prepared for the reactions people may have when they see new scars, bandages or splints: Use the Phoenix Society’s resources ‘Beyond Surviving, Tools for Thriving after Burn Injury’ so you can be prepared to respond with comfort and confidence.  Here’s a link to information on ‘Beyond Surviving, Tools for Thriving’ or  register for our Online Learning Course of ‘Beyond Surviving, Tools for Thriving’.

Give Back.  You may be at a place in your recovery to give back to others or you may be in a place where it would help you to receive.   When support is offered, remind people that other family members close to the burn survivor can also use a card and gift of encouragement to lift their spirits. 

Find Peer Support.  Connect with others and find how others may cope during the holidays. At Phoenix Society, we host a moderated Online Peer Support Chat every Wednesday from 9:00 PM to 10:30 PM EST.  You will find you are not alone!

Give yourself the gift of time and space.  While songs may resound “the happiest season of all”, it is also a time of the year where we may especially feel the losses and changes of the past.  Set boundaries with others when you need space.  Perhaps the greatest gift you can give to yourself this holiday season is the time and space to feel and honor the losses.  Practice a lot of self-care and things that feel comforting:

  • Take walks
  • Read a book
  • Take time alone
  • Take a soothing bath
  • Watch a movie

Avoid harmful coping techniques. Take care of yourself and avoid harmful techniques for coping such as misuse of alcohol and/or drugs, misuse of prescriptions, binge eating, or not eating enough.

Exercise.  For those that are burn-injured, be sure to follow your physician’s recommendation for exercise.  For caregivers and family members, exercise can be a great way to reduce stress and anxiety and create peace of mind this holiday season.  Again, be sure to follow your physician’s recommended exercise regimen.

And finally, to you and yours, from all of us at the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, may hope and peace of heart come to you this holiday season.  

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