Coping with Holiday Triggers: Affirmations for Trauma, Stress, and Substance Abuse

Living with mental illness is a year-round contract. We don’t get to shed our diagnosis for two months each year. While the holidays bring cheer to some, they also come bearing the not-so-jolly gifts of triggers, painful reminders, and an abundance of risky situations. How this manifests varies, but the uncomfortable themes of unresolved trauma, substance abuse recovery, and difficult relationships with food are often ignored by the world this time of year. Survivors suffer in silence while forced to face these traumas at holiday events; including parents wearing cheerful disguises for their children’s sake. As a mom living this reality, it’s impossible for me to avoid the dire need to address this topic.

As the song blaring through every supermarket speaker goes, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” – but is that really true? Even those with a squeaky clean bill of mental health (which, does anyone not struggle with mental health anymore?) can recall the tension of a house full of distant relatives and the anxiety of finding a perfect gift. For some, it’s beyond the most stressful time of year; it’s the most triggering time of year. To top it off, add stigma as the star on top of the Christmas tree that showers us with extra pressure to conform to societal expectations and appease familial traditions.

Mayo Clinic reminds us to be proactive by preparing an action plan for navigating holiday stressors. Acknowledging our triggers, setting boundaries, accepting support, and planning ahead are all healthy coping skills we’re already implementing in daily life which we can lean on heavily in these trying months. To complement those coping mechanisms, pick out a few of these affirmations I’ve curated specifically for the holidays. Write them down and repeat them as necessary!

General Affirmations for Holiday Triggers

This list of affirmations may pertain to any situation. Some of these will blend with the following categories as well. Remember to pick what works for you and discard what doesn’t.

  • I give myself permission to say no.
  • I deserve to set boundaries and have those boundaries respected.
  • I do not have to conform to social expectations.
  • I know when to leave a situation that harms me.
  • I do not have to contribute to harmful conversations.
  • I trust myself and my intuition.
  • I stand up for myself and my inner child.
  • I make informed choices.
  • I know what is good for me, and what is potentially harmful.
  • Boundaries keep me safe. I am safe because I am not afraid to set boundaries.
  • I know when to ask for help.

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Affirmations for Holiday Substance Abuse Triggers

These affirmations focus on substance triggers, including an unhealthy relationship with food, alcohol, or other substances. Combine these with your holiday relapse prevention plan to curate a sturdy armor against addiction.

  • I take good care of my body.
  • I do not partake in self-sabotaging activities.
  • I have worked hard to reach where I am now and will not give in under pressure.
  • I know recovery is possible because I am proof.
  • I am allowed to say no.
  • I know where to turn for help.
  • I know my body and my limits.

Affirmations for Domestic Violence Triggers

Holidays can conjure painful memories as well as nostalgia for the past. Those who have suffered domestic abuse may even find themselves missing their abusers due to romanticized events, loneliness, or trauma bonding – or, they may have to face them at a holiday gathering. The National Domestic Violence Hotline emphasizes the importance of safety planning during the holidays.

  • I do not live in the past.
  • I am more than my painful memories.
  • I am not merely the sum of my negative thoughts and memories.
  • I take good care of my children.
  • I am not isolated. I have people who love me.
  • When I start to feel unsafe, I know I can leave.
  • I do not have to attend.
  • I am safe, here, in this moment.
  • I keep moving forward.
  • I can access my inner peace at any time.

These cold months are challenging for a myriad of reasons. Show yourself love and grace by acknowledging your completely valid emotions and triggers surrounding the upcoming festivities. You are worth it.

You can find contact information for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, and more on my Resources page.

Take care of yourself this season!


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