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El Paso VA Health Care System


Coping with PTSD and Holiday Stress

Woman lighting a candle
Friday, December 7, 2012

How do you manage stress around the holidays?

The holidays are a time for fun, family, friends and festivities. But we all know that the shopping, family feuds and hectic schedules can add stress. We asked our El Paso VA employees, “How do you manage stress around the holidays?”

“Just get away. Take time for yourself. And I try not to touch a computer when I’m at home.” Carlos Acosta, Senior IT Analyst

“I go out in the mornings and run until my lungs burn.” Jewel Anderson, Supply Tech

“I go to spin class on post. Endorphins make you happy!” Jalisa Jackson, Work Study

“I bake. Cupcakes, cookies, whatever. It’s fun.” Phaydra Crews, Medical Records Supervisor

“I spend time with my family. They alleviate the stress.” Gabriela Guerrero, Social Worker

“Lots of alone time.” Lucy Dominguez, Audiology Health Tech

“I try to exercise more and I make sure I’m sleeping enough.” Guadalupe Estrello, Nurse Educator

Coping with PTSD and Holiday Stress

The holidays are a time for fun, family, friends and festivities. But we all know that the shopping, family feuds and hectic schedules can add stress. This is particularly true for someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Gabriela Guerrero, Mental Health Social Worker at the El Paso VA, has a couple of tips for her patients who have PTSD and experience stress around the holidays.

1. Be prepared. Work with your health care team to identify what your triggers are and prepare coping strategies now. Practice your coping strategies when you are relatively relaxed.

2. Plan ahead. Social situations or large crowds can be stressful for someone with PTSD. Find out ahead of time who will be there and how many people are going. The more information you have the less unpredictable the situation will be.

3. Seek out support. Take a friend whom you trust with you when you are planning to go to a social gathering or shopping. Social support through a friend, support group or therapist can also be useful in coping with symptoms.

4. Focus on spirituality. The holidays are a time when many people place more emphasis on spirituality. Focusing on spirituality may be one way of connecting with the holiday season that is not stressful or uncomfortable for someone with PTSD.

5. Redefine what the holidays mean. The holidays are a time for celebration, and this can happen in a number of different ways. Celebrate your own way. For example, volunteering your time at a homeless shelter or at a Veterans’ hospital. Giving back and helping others can be an effective way of recovering from trauma.

6. Communicate. To the extent that you trust family members, discuss with them things that may be triggering or stressful to you about the holidays. Be open and honest about what you need to enjoy the holidays.

However you celebrate the holidays, make sure you take time to enjoy them. These are just a few strategies that may be effective. Take time to come up with your own so that you enjoy the holiday season to the fullest.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. More about the Veterans Crisis Line.



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