PTSD Spirituality: PTSD and Holiday Stress

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the USA. It will be a time when many people have enjoyable family get-togethers and a time to eat, relax, and maybe watch some football. And, unfortunately, for many, Thanksgiving and the crush of on-going holiday stress running through early January will be a wounding experience. 

Holidays and holiday get-togethers often amplify our PTSD. Many of us will be socially required to be present at events which for us will be high stress and provoke our PTSD symptoms.

We don’t need to swear off holidays, but we do need to engage them realistically.

As best as we are able, we need to be able to fend off relatives and others who want to probe our traumatic history and then tell us about how they know someone who has been through worse “and they are just fine.”

If that person does actually know someone who has survived significant trauma and the trauma survivor appears to be “just fine,” then it is probably because that trauma survivor knows better than to risk exposing their vulnerabilities to that person.

If someone wants to tell you about someone else’s personal traumatic experience, then they have proven they cannot be trusted with that information. Why should you or I display our history and our triggers to someone who is just going to splash them out to anyone they meet in order to gain some meaningless sense of social point scoring?

It is your decision who and when to share your story. It is not up to some family blowhard or acquaintance to splash your story.

It is your story. It is a sacred story because it has touched your soul.

Your story has value and it is your choice when and where and to whom you share it.

You don’t owe the telling of your story to anyone at a holiday event.

If holiday get-togethers are stressful or triggering for you then try to make sure you can have some sort of “time outs” when you can step away from the noise, crowds, and triggers. Stepping outside for some “fresh air,” or “I need to find something I left in the car,” can help get you some breathing space from those people who show themselves to be overly parasitic and false.

If you are fortunate enough to be there with someone who knows you well and who you trust, then have a subtle signal worked out beforehand where they can be alerted to the fact you need some time away from whatever (or whomever) is triggering you. Not everyone has a valuable person like this in their life, but if you do, then work out a way they can run a bit of interference for you so you don’t get swamped.

Do your best to avoid alcohol, street drugs, self-meds, porn, or violence, as holiday stress relievers.

Any relief you may think you feel is illusionary and it will just push you deeper into a PTSD hole. Anyone who pushes a drink on you is not your friend. They do not have your best interest at heart.

With the arrival of Thanksgiving we enter into the “Holidays and the 18% PTSD Danger Zone.” If you are interested, I blabber on at length in that piece about the risks of the holiday season and some ideas on how to get through it (as well as how to help others get through it).

As always, You Have Value.

Semper Pax, Dr. Z


  1. Dr Z, thanks for this realistic message. Missed my oldest son’s wedding today because of physical pain and mitigating circumstances. Breaks my heart more than I dare let anyone know. Maybe it’s best I wasn’t there for the very reasons you listed. Better that they focus in their wedding and all the good things in life.

    Hope you’ve been feeling Better. I’ve been offline from email for awhile. Hope to have it resolved soon.

    • Hi Russ, It’s always a blessing to hear from you…I really mean that. Congratulation’s on R’s wedding! Semper Pax, Dr. Z

      • Hope your health is allowing you to enjoy Christmas with your family. You remain in my prayers and I’m grateful for your willingness to share and reaching out to others. We need you and more like you in these times. Merry Christmas.
        Thank you.

        • Hi Russ, Always glad to hear from you. My health has been better than it was through most of the year. My jaw infection finally cleared up and now I just deal with the usual suspects of pain and fatigue. Your prayers keep me in the game and I am very grateful for them and you. We have had a restful, quiet, Christmas…just as we like it. I continue to keep you and yours in prayer.
          Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. Smoking isn’t good for my health, but it is an excellent excuse for that “time-out.” Also, alot of the folks in the smoking area are a lot more cool than most of the jerks at the holiday gathering.

    Dr. Z, I notice you have been posting more lately. Hope it means you are feeling better.


    • And on this day of thanks, I am greatful for you, Doc Z. You are the first resource I learned about a “soul wound.”

      After knowing *something* was not right and not knowing what it was for many, many years, the concept of soul wound gave me a way to explain what was going on for me.

      Blessings to you and yours.

      • Hello Patricia,
        I don’t know if “soul wound” originates with me or not. I’ve been using it for my teaching and also work with individuals. It seems to hit the spot for me. I am glad you find it useful. It is much more applicable than the term, “moral injury,” in my experience both as someone with PTSD and as someone who tries to help those with PTSD.
        A Blessed Thanksgiving to You and Yours!
        Semper Pax, Dr. Z

    • Hi Patricia, I wish I had thought to suggest a smoke break, if a person smokes or not, it is a good idea!
      I have started using voice processing software again. Dragon 14 seems to mostly work well for me and I am able to do a bit more “writing” with it. The previous versions never worked well for me, but they seem to have gotten something right (write?) with this version. I still use my hands from time to time, but lengthier stuff I tend to voice process these days.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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