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‘Tis The Season to Be Triggered

3 things you can do to develop resilience

As a clinician, I am acutely aware of the fact that holidays trigger all kinds of emotional stuff for many people. Holidays are days that come with the expectation of celebration surrounded by close relations and family. Television and social media might lead you to believe that for many, life is good and everybody gets along. But that's not the reality at all for many. What I hear more often is that holidays can be quite difficult days oftentimes triggered by some insensitive comment or behavior on the part of someone close. With expectations that holidays are supposed to be among the most wonderful days of the year, hurts imposed by people around you are felt sometimes most keenly during the holiday season. We humans get hurt all the time by stuff other humans do.

New and old relationships carry with them the potential to trigger emotional pain. No one is immune from that. Being triggered is a reality of life. Out of nowhere, people can say or do something that precipitates an emotional "ouch." When I was about 4, I went to the park with my grandmother and remember her telling me to go make friends with the nearby children. So, I did go off and went up to this little boy nearby where we were sitting and said “hi, will you be my friend” and within seconds, he hit me in the face—hard. I never forgot the incident. I can still remember thinking, “that sucks, what was that about?” And no, the lesson is not "don't approach strangers," but rather that out of nowhere, people can behave in surprisingly hurtful ways. As a therapist, I get to hear all kinds of stories about painful stuff happening to people all the time and spend many therapy hours helping people process the pain. When I hear about all sorts of yucky things that people experience I often wonder, “what was that about?”The reality is that stuff like that happens to everyone, plenty of times in life. Not exactly getting literally hit in the face by a stranger but symbolically, out of nowhere, people doing hurtful, mean things seemingly out of nowhere. And during the holiday season, people seem to possibly feel it more.

As a clinician, I’m always thinking about why people do the things they do. A myriad of explanations can go just so far making things hurt less. But more important than why is what can you do when people do hurtful things to you? What matters a lot is how you cope with stuff. It’s not what life throws at you but it’s how you cope and how resilient you are.

So what can you do when people say or do mean, insensitive, unprovoked things to you?

Here are 3 things that you can do to develop resilience.

1. Acknowledge that it hurts and care for your wounds. That means paying attention to the fact that something hurt you and it might take a little time to feel better about it. Take time to share that with someone.

2. Give yourself time to think about what you want to do about it. Quick reactions might not be the best way to handle a situation. Why and how we react are things that are best worked through in therapy since we humans and our behaviors are complicated. Reactions sometimes need to be thought through since behaviors have consequences. A “time out” to think about what just happened can help.

3. Be nice to yourself. Self-care is essential. Behave like a best friend to yourself. Think of things you can do to be kind to yourself and do them. Resilience is the ability to bounce back during adversity. Being able to count on yourself is essential.

Holidays can be great but keep in mind that if you're struggling or triggered by someone else's hurtful behavior, you're not alone and reaching out for extra support might just be the thing to do. 'Tis the season to be extra kind to yourself. It's the present you won't get from anyone else.

More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
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More from Maria Baratta Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
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