This blog was originally published for members of our Survivors' Network. We've made it publicly available so anyone can benefit from the suggestions. If you're a survivor of domestic abuse and would like to receive more blogs like this in future, you can sign up to our Survivors' Network.
Christmas time can be full of mixed emotions. It can feel like the rest of the world is having a wonderful time while we’re barely getting through the day. Accepting this time of year can be hard may be important. Accepting our emotions enables us to find strategies to then work through them. So, let’s just take a moment to stop, reflect and put some strategies in place.
The Mind website suggests these things:
Be kind, gentle and patient with yourself
Look after yourself
Talk to others
It might be worth taking half an hour over the next day or two and remind yourself of the techniques you’ve learnt to help you through moments such as these. Write them down and put them in places you’ll see them often, so you don’t have to try and remember when the stress hormone is high.
There will be things that are in your control and things that are not. The first Advent reflection focussed on the anticipation we can feel when past experience tells us something bad is going to happen. What might some of those things be?
One way of approaching this is to be curious. Ask yourself a lot of ‘what if’ questions, write down your thoughts, then ask yourself but ‘what if the opposite happens?’ It might also help to ask, ‘what might feel threatened?’ or ‘what emotions might be activated?’. Then we can ask, ‘What response might help me most this time?’
Each one of us will have developed our own techniques for when the stress hormone is high and our emotional brain (limbic system) takes over, whilst our thinking brain (cortex) takes a back seat. You may initiate these techniques without even recognising that’s what they are; our brains are very good at doing their best to keep us safe, even if sometimes their choice of activity isn’t helpful in the long term.
If this happens, it’s really good to calm the limbic system. Some suggestions might be breathing techniques such as the Human Givens 7/11. Close your eyes and breathe in for 7 counts and out for 11. Maybe use the breathing prayers that have been part of our reflections while you’re doing this. Making the out breath longer calms your body down.
Maybe you use the 5,4,3,2,1 approach. Focus on your breathing, name 5 things you can see; 4 things you can feel; 3 things you can hear; 2 things you can smell; 1 thing you can taste.
You could go outside for a walk, choose something fun to do (even if you’re in the middle of the washing up), connect with someone, do something kind for yourself or for someone else.
The Facebook group will be around for those of you who are part of it and the Survivor@ email will be checked every few days. There are some fantastic charities out there who are also available, Samaritans, Refuge, Mind,
However this Christmas season works for you, please know you are loved and being prayed for. We can’t stop the pain and difficulties, but we can be here to journey through it with you.
Other useful websites: