VA Offers Tips on Coping with PTSD During Holiday Season

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Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and their families, enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at the dinning facility on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Nov. 22, 2017. Keeping with an Army tradition the senior noncommissioned officers and officers served the lower enlisted their Thanksgiving meal. (Lane Hiser/U.S. Army)
Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and their families, enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at the dinning facility on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Nov. 22, 2017. Keeping with an Army tradition the senior noncommissioned officers and officers served the lower enlisted their Thanksgiving meal. (Lane Hiser/U.S. Army)

The holidays are a time for coming together with family and friends, but they can also bring on added stress for veterans dealing with PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

There can often be that person at holiday gatherings who just has to ask awkward questions of the veteran with post-traumatic stress, the VA said in a list of tips on its Vantage Point blog.

Rather than blow that person off, the veteran should first consider cutting them some slack, the post noted, adding that the person asking the annoying questions is probably doing so out of genuine concern, however misdirected, for the veteran's well-being.

"A polite way of handling these types of situations is by taking a few slow, deep breaths and calmly responding to someone, 'I think it is nice of you to show you care by asking, but I'd rather not talk about that right now,' or 'thanks for your concern, but I'm not comfortable answering questions about that,'" the post said.

The best course for the veteran in such a situation is to try to redirect the conversation to other topics, it added.

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"Ask that family member about work, their children or their favorite sports team, and steer the conversation to safer ground," the Vantage Point post said.

Other VA tips for getting through the holidays for veterans with PTSD include these:

  • Talk with your family about how you feel. Your family can help you. This does not mean you have to tell them everything, but let them know you're feeling stressed.
  • Set limits. Don't join activities for longer than you can handle. You can choose when you want to be a part of the group.
  • Get plenty of rest. You may already have difficulty sleeping, but do your best to maintain your usual bedtime or wake-up. Naps should be taken sparingly, as they may further disrupt your nighttime sleeping patterns.
  • Make the best of it, if you can. Sometimes, people who are feeling depressed find that if they go through the motions, they just might catch themselves having fun.
  • Go easy on alcohol. Many people have a few drinks, thinking it will relax them, but instead, alcohol causes many people to have less control over their emotions and behavior.

The VA also advised that the Veterans Crisis Line will be available throughout the winter holiday season, including Christmas and New Year's Day.

Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals also is available.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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