Holiday traditions and family get-togethers are a source of comfort for many. But the holidays can also act as anniversaries of unpleasant events or remind us of difficult changes that have happened in the last year. Veterans may also have memories of being deployed over a holiday during their service and could experience challenges with returning to civilian norms.
For Veterans diagnosed with PTSD, the holidays can be even more difficult to manage. While there are often bright spots, the unique struggles that trauma survivors can face as the year ends can often overshadow the joy of the season.
Helping you manage over the holiday season
There are ways to cope and manage these feelings and stressful events. Here are some tips from our clinicians that can help you manage your symptoms over this holiday season:
- Don’t overschedule. Leave time for yourself.
- Make a plan to get things done. Set small, doable goals.
- When stressed, remind yourself what has helped in the past.
- Use the tools from PTSD Coach app or PTSD Coach Online to help you manage stress.
- Reach out for support if you need it. Know who you can rely on for help. If your symptoms are getting worse or you feel down, reach out to your provider or
- Call the Crisis Line.
If you know someone with PTSD, there are things you can do to make sure the holiday season is pleasant and enjoyable for everyone.
- Educate yourself: Download and read Understand PTSD and PTSD Treatment (PDF) to learn more about how PTSD affects your loved one.
- Talk to your family member about what they need to feel comfortable during the holidays. If your loved one needs services, call Coaching into Care for advice on talking to them about treatment.
- Keep important resources at hand, such as the Veterans Crisis Line, 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.
The holiday season can be difficult for people with PTSD, but there are healthy ways to cope and manage stress and have positive mental health throughout the holidays.
Here’s more information about PTSD.
Peggy Willoughby is the director of communications for VA’s National Center for PTSD. She joined VA in 1993 and is the daughter and spouse of Army Veterans who served in the Korean War and during the Vietnam era.