Awareness around the Holidays By: Jamie Pfister, Needs Assessment Supervisor

As the holidays are fast approaching it can be all too easy to get swept up into our own experiences.  Holidays like many other cultural traditions are filled with expectations around what ‘good’ or ‘normal’ families should or shouldn’t be doing. As a culturally sensitive and aware place of healing, PrairieCare understands that our patients may not share the same sentiments about ‘celebrating’ holidays.

At PrairieCare we understand that our patients and their families may experience increased stress during the holiday season. For patients with disordered eating this can be a very difficult time due to many cultural traditions focusing on food. For patients with anxiety, increased time at home with extended family might contribute to an increase in symptoms.  For patients that do not celebrate the dominate-cultural holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas, this can be a particularly isolating time. For our patients with ASD, the holidays can be an over stimulating time.  Not only do the holidays possibly exacerbate mental health symptoms but they can also be triggering for patients with an abuse history. Experts recommend that we “Remember that individuals from other cultural/ethnic backgrounds may observe holidays differently.  Avoid making generalizations and promoting inclusiveness (National Center on Domestic Violence).

During the holiday season there is data that point to an increase in domestic violence.  “Domestic violence does not stop during the holidays and that the abuse and violence experienced by victims may be exacerbated (although not caused) by the financial stress and alcohol consumption that often accompany the holidays” (National Center on Domestic Violence).  Many of our patients come to us with a history of trauma including child abuse or domestic violence.  Holiday’s may bring memories or feelings of past events as well as present current vulnerabilities.

During this holiday season, PrairieCare will work to retain our holiday cheer and yet be aware of how our experiences may differ from our patients. We will take into account the language we use with families and be alert to their language and responses, both verbal and nonverbal.

By no means is it recommended that we not celebrate the holidays in our own tradition, simply that, we at PrairieCare will bring mindful awareness to our interactions with patients and their experience with this season.

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