Getting Through the Holidays: Tips for Survivors

The aged old question of DO I STAY, or DO I GO is one that survivors of sexual abuse are fretting over during the holiday season.

It’s possible for you to gain some momentum in your healing journey by understanding how to put these holiday tips into play as you’re sitting around the Christmas, or Kwanza or Chanukah table!

Here’s some easy to remember tips to survive the holidays in a robust and empowering way. Through the lens of trauma-informed-care’s 5 guiding principles of:

  1. Safety
  2. Choice (& voice)
  3. Collaboration
  4. Trustworthiness
  5. Empowerment

These useful tips may help you to decipher and answer, DO I STAY, or DO I GO?


Engage in the “law of substitution” and substitute doing an activity instead of feeling isolated, lonely and missing out on the family holiday event if you decide to stay home:

Tip #1: Volunteer

  1. Pick up holiday pies to deliver to veterans, retirement communities or orphanages. This way you are substituting being alone & isolated with being engaged in a beneficial activity. Set this up in advance, so that you have approval to do so & your day is structured & planned accordingly.

Tip #2: Pre-connect with a lifeline

  1. Pre-select a study buddy, friend, colleague or group.
  2. Ask them if it’s ok to phone, text or email you through the holiday to ward off the “loneliness” in order to stay connected with you. Set a 30 second time limit for a connection call, connection text or connection emails.

Tip #3: Create new memories or traditions of your own

  1. Plan to volunteer in the morning, feed the homeless or if you play music, entertain hospital patients.
  2. Eat a special holiday meal out at a pre-determined unique restaurant you’ve never been to before.
  3. Do a special activity – go to the theatre, cinemas, bowling, park, beach or even run/walk or be a spectator in a local area race.


Here are some useful & practical tips to empower yourself before you head out to the holiday table if you decide to go:

Tip #1: Cool Coping Mechanisms = Pre-select and memorize at least 3 Sayings that can help. Repeat the saying in an undertone or head to the bathroom, turn on the water faucet and say out loud several times.

  1. Not my monkey, not my circus! (old polish proverb)
  2. I am worth doing self-care today!
  3. It’s none of my business what others think about me!
  4. I have enough ‘bandwidth’ to take care of only me today!
  5. I’m free to leave, without making a scene, at any time!
  6. I’m empowering myself to determine how long I want to stay here.
  7. Or create your own personal empowerment or affirmation statements.

Tip #2: Envision your surroundings before you go

  1. Get familiar with your surroundings; especially if you’ve never been to this city or relatives’ home
  2. Do Google map search – street view of where you are going, what you are to expect. Minimize the element of surprise.
  3. Determine how close the nearest park, beach walk or bike path is, in the event you need a self-care break.
  4. Yelp/Google any other “outside your family” events in the area: skating rink, bowling, theatre cinemas – this is a law of substitution quirky technique to implement if things are getting uncomfortable, suggest one of these additional outings, for yourself &/or guests.

Tip #3: Calculate, decide & pre-determine the Quantity &/or Quality you want during the Holiday - this will help you to stay in control, be in control and not get to over consumption.

  1. Decide upfront just how many alcohol drinks you’ll consume
  2. Decide upfront how many slices of pie you’ll gobble down
  3. Decide upfront if you’ll be the Chanukah latke maker
  4. Decide before the meal if you want to feel like a food coma set in after you eat the holiday meal
  5. Decide which food helpings and how your food plate will look like
  6. Decide in advance, how much time YOU allot to be at the festive feast. Stick to that, don’t deviate. If you decide that it was a total of 4 hours; stick to it. Say your goodbyes at the 4-hour mark, whether you’ve finished your dessert or not!

As a survivor of sexual abuse, getting into inspired action, taking decisive action and making highly beneficial choices all seen through the lens of trauma informed self-care can help you survive and stay out of overwhelm during the stressful holiday season. Here’s to making choices that empower you so survive the holidays!

Other Suggestions for Self-care

  • Lean on a fellow survivor : When you know you will be going through a tough time, it can be helpful to have someone to talk to by email, text or in person.
  • Take a walk(exercise): Exercise is proven stress reducer
  • Eat Well
  • Nap: Give your body and mind time to recharge
  • Read a book
  • Watch a Funny Movie :
  • Journal : Write down how you are feeling don’t keep it bottled up inside.
  • Learn something new : Try a new recipe, do a craft

Another helpful article by Board Member, Ashely Easter

There are also other resources for both survivors and supporters: 

Please remember you are not alone.


Showing 4 comments

  • anne gleeson
    commented 2019-12-15 13:03:57 -0600
    I tried to print them (or download as pdf on my desktop), and all 7 pages have Japanese? text running though them vertically centered… makes it hard to read the English text. Can this be fixed?
  • anne gleeson
    commented 2019-12-15 12:56:22 -0600
    THANK YOU ladies! I hope your holidays go smoothly.
  • Jim Brigl
    commented 2019-11-29 13:31:45 -0600
    This is absolutely phenomenal. Thank you so very much. Jim Brigl
  • anne gleeson
    commented 2019-11-27 23:41:45 -0600
    THANK YOU!❤️

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