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Spot These 4 Common Holiday Season Triggers

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

and learn 4 strategies to navigate through them

The holiday season is often seen as full of joy, peace, and happiness. Moods and emotions can appear elevated, and at the same time depressed due to stresses that can occur. Some of us look forward to the holiday season, while others just try to find ways to get through it. Something often not talked about are the triggers during the holiday season for survivors of domestic abuse and ways to cope with the feelings that develop.

4 common holiday season triggers


Gatherings of friends and family typically involve at least one relative asking when you will be married, or where is so and so (the last relationship), or when there will be children. For DA (domestic abuse) survivors, such questions can easily cause feelings of shame or even guilt - especially if the answers are not what the one questioning wants to hear.


With the holidays, memories are created and even reminisced upon. But for survivors of domestic abuse, these holiday memories could be traumatic instead of nostalgic. Interacting with specific people, places, things, or even specific smells can bring these painful memories flashing back in the survivor's mind.


Another trigger may be others telling your story with or without your permission. For instance, this could be a family member discussing your personal story with someone or a close friend telling one of their friends all about your journey. One way to handle this is to set boundaries and to explain that these are out of respect for your personal wishes. Such boundaries could be stating that you are not comfortable with your information being talked about without your permission.


Memories of previous holidays can come up, whether it was good either positive or negative can cause stress due to things being different now than in the past. Changes in relationships can be stressful, especially while attending events that the significant other typically attended with you. This could also be a change in a relationship such as cutting out family members (Thompson, 2014). No matter the relationship it is a loss, and “it’s important to allow yourself to grieve this” (Thompson, 2014).

Skills and Strategies to navigate these triggers

Often coping skills are mentioned no matter the season to manage feelings and assist getting through situations, but during the added stress of the holidays they are especially crucial.


During the holidays, utilize a support system, whether that be a friend, family, coworker, or therapist (Thompson, 2014). Utilizing a support system allows you to feel not alone (Thompson, 2014). Make sure that whoever is in your support system is someone who is safe and that you trusted. The people in your system should be people who can listen to what you say and provide you with nonjudgmental support, such as validating the feelings you express (Thompson, 2014).


Take time for yourself and know that it is okay to say no if you don’t feel comfortable attending a holiday party/gathering (Pelzer, 2019). If you attend gatherings that you don’t want to but feel obligated to, limit time to assist with easing stress (Thompson, 2014). By doing that you are setting limits and boundaries, which place you in control of the situation (Thompson, 2014). Establishing healthy boundaries and limits is a strong therapy skill to develop (Thompson, 2014). Along with this, developing a plan ahead of time before attending the gathering, by considering areas to separate or have a way to go home when you want to (RAINN, 2016). Developing this plan also helps when potentially your domestic abuse perpetrator(s) could be at said gatherings.


Practice self-care and do something that you want to do, such as a manicure, read a book, or mediate (just to name a few) (Thompson, 2014). Whatever self-care is practiced, make sure it is something that you enjoy! Also try to keep a routine. Straying from a routine can cause more stress to develop as things can change from your sense of normal (Newman, 2018).


When you are triggered, practice grounding techniques. One such thing is to remind yourself that this is just for one day and if you can get through one day you can get through this. Also, ground by taking each day one by one throughout the holiday season. By taking small steps, you will get through this.

For more info about domestic abuse and for more practical advice for domestic abuse survivors, please follow Defy Domestic Abuse Beloit’s Facebook and Instagram page.


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Newman, S. (2018, July 08). A holiday guide for abuse survivors. Retrieved November 18, 2020,from

Pelzer, A. (2019). 5 secrets about domestic violence and the holidays that you never knew. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from

RAINN. (2016, November 18). Insights from the hotline room: Planning for holiday gatherings. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from

Thompson, J. (2014, November 13). Ways for Adult Survivors of Abuse to Cope During the Holidays. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from

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