As Remembrance Day approaches it is a good chance to think about anniversaries or occasions, the reaction these cause and how we can cope with these feelings.
Anniversaries are powerful. Often when an anniversary or occasion comes around, we can have a reaction, even if we are not consciously aware of the anniversary. This can include unwanted memories, an increase in hypervigilance and an increase in being reminded of the occasion. You may emotionally distance yourself from others, experience irritability, disturbed sleep, feelings of sadness stress, tiredness or adopt a gloomy outlook on life.
Along with these symptoms, our body may remember these anniversaries and we can experience physical complaints during this time. This can vary from headache or upset stomach to cardiac events and pneumonia. We can feel drained and emotionally exhausted by the pain these anniversaries or occasions cause.
So, what can you do to handle an anniversary reaction?
- Prepare. Sometimes the lead up to the events can feel worse than the day itself. Try to reduce extra stressors around this time. Consider spending time with someone who understands and will be supportive.
- Commemorate in your way. Do what you can to plan ahead. Planning can increase our sense of control. Think about what you need. This is not selfish. If you focus on what you might need at this time and communicate this to others, they may be able to help you more and understand what to do. Figure out a way to honour, celebrate or acknowledge your loss.
- Set your expectations. Give yourself permission not to be okay. Try not to do as much as other times or the year or make big changes during this time.
- Remember that this time passes. These feelings and reactions are temporary. Know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – knowing this can help us get through and make it better.
- Do something that makes you feel good. Read your favourite book or website, go for a walk, spend time with your pets, or listen to music.
- Reach out and find support. This can be with family or friends, or people who went through it with you. If you see a therapist, arrange to see him or her over this time and let them know what is going on.
It is never too late to look for support, so if you need any support at this time please reach out to Mates4Mates by calling 1300 4 MATES (62 837)
Written by Mates4Mates Psychologist Laura Stewart