Does the idea of time with your extended family feel like torture?

Many people with trauma histories (or grief and loss of any kind) find family gatherings especially triggering. These simple self care ideas for trauma support will help you support yourself through this highly charged time of year..

I’m loving the new series / sweary reboot of Criminal Minds Evolution (you can watch from Ireland on Disney+).

Kristen Vangsness’ character, hacker extraordinaire and walking open heart, Penelope Garcia REALLY doesn’t want to return to the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU).

She’s been healing the personal and vicarious trauma her almost decades of service have taken on her.

We see her advocating self care for her former colleagues: Meditation, exercise, nourishing food, dance breaks with new colleagues, baking and more have been helping her heal.

They’re torn because they see her thriving away from the BAU and they need her magical computer skillz to thwart the most menacing network serial killer they’ve faced so far.

While Garcia (fictional character, I know, I know) mapped a serial killer network across the US, I, watching at home, barely managed to access one of my own accounts and slowly upload a couple of small amendments with my rural wifi…I can tell myself, fiction, Evie, fiction.

But, especially at this time of year, people often forget that all the TV ads and Christmas films are carefully curated and not Every Other Family.

What does this have to do with you being triggered by your family over the holidays?

The trepidation Garcia demonstrates, heading back into her old workspace, much as she loves her ‘family’ of colleagues, might remind you of the way you feel heading back into your childhood home?

Or even meeting relatives and others from your past in more neutral territory?

So much is written about boundaries but if you know your family meant well and that what you survived was far from good enough, you’re struggling with a mixture of emotions.

Yet you’re still wanting (and deserving!) to protect yourself and your emotional and mental health.

Garcia’s 2009 days away from the FBI have helped her ground her new self care practices. She quickly decides that the isolation of her high tech room is less healthy than sitting next to her friend and colleague, JJ.

Humans are mammals. We heal better with other (safe, loving, welcoming) people. In sitting with JJ as she delves into more depravity, Garcia is co-regulating.

I’m not (at all) suggesting that facing your family is like dealing with serial killers but you can still learn from Garcia

Who in your family can you turn to for emotional support?

Would it help to meet them first? Turn up with that support? Maybe have them save you a seat next to them?

How can you be as compassionate with yourself as possible as you psyche yourself up to face them?

Have you forgotten that however strong the expectations, and however manipulative the pressures, YOU GET TO CHOOSE how long you spend doing whatever with whomever..

You get to simply pop by with a good wish for them (or not).

You don’t have to even go inside (or invite them to yours) if you don’t want to.

You certainly don’t have to spend hours of your precious life trapped somewhere you don’t want to be doing something you don’t want to be doing.

Get clear on what YOU want and then decide how you’ll protect your mental and emotional health by honouring what feels good for you.

You may have been raised to endure what doesn’t feel good but, advanced practice as the holidays can be, you’ve GOT this. Give yourself the gift of sanity.

Having something nice to look forward to afterwards as a reward and to bring you relief?

Extra awareness around heightened temptation to self medicate with food or drink or anything else?

Maybe Power Posing will help you prepare? Or the Dragon’s Tail exercise?

The simple tensing and releasing of your thigh muscles as you use your calming breath practice helps honour the body’s natural fight/flight impulses while enabling you to stay seated at the dinner table.

And if you can excuse yourself, Chair Pose can be extra helpful and done in a small toilet, too.

If you’re feeling more charged around the emotionally amped up holiday season, how can you put extra supports in place for yourself?

Feel free to email with any questions or comments.

And please do feel free to share this post on your social media etc so others who may find it helpful can read it.

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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