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Baby It's Cold Outside

by Ashly Ash, Board Emeritus 

Changes in seasons, particularly winter months, can be a catalyst for trauma symptoms to resurface or even for survivors to feel like they are regressing suddenly. The appearance of regression will often bring a survivor down and discourage them to stop their journey or counseling altogether due to depression or simply giving up for a time.

This is all very normal when seasons change. Whenever there is trauma, there is a season of weather as well. Sometimes it was fall, sometimes winter, etc. But when a survivor sees the seasonal reminders around the time when the trauma occurred, it often triggers memories and symptoms both in the body and the mind which manifests in unique ways. It doesn’t help that sunlight in the winter months is deficient, there is no real activity for much of the cold-ridden country, and there is not much to look forward to during those quiet months. 

Furthering this perfect storm brewing under the surface is the fact that the holidays are near and those are triggering and trauma-inducing times for many survivors as well.  When there are triggers, those parts that are usually in the background sometimes come forward, which makes everything feel “different” or “off” to a survivor.

All of this is quite normal, often unbeknownst to the survivor who begins a very real struggle to function on a daily basis. In spite of what you may feel, it is during the time that trauma symptoms manifest that is an ideal opportunity to process and look at some of the layers beneath the surface. It is a great time to listen to the little ones (parts) and allow them an opportunity to share their story. 

Most of the time being aware of the seasonal pattern during the winter months and the often-accompanying trauma symptoms helps a survivor to wisely identify and recognize the temporal position they are in. This acknowledgement both encourages and empowers the internal system to hold on and stabilize.

Whether you are a survivor or a support person, it is important to stay tuned to the behaviors and self-care opportunities during this time of “holding on:”

  • Be sure that physical needs are being met such as diet, rest, hygiene, and especially exercise/activity. 
  • Watch for isolating behaviors and limit them when possible during these months.
  • Look for signs that you or your loved one need to seek professional help.
  • Find a healthy activity or something for the little ones (parts) to look forward to during this time. 

Remember: You are human. You are brave. Keep your self awareness on alert, and have self compassion for yourself when you are experiencing a difficult time.

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