Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA) has served the community since 1972 as the only sexual violence resource center serving Boulder County, Colorado.

Cultivating Resilience over the Holiday Season

Despite countless songs professing that the holiday season is the “happiest time of the year,” for survivors of sexual violence, the holidays can bring painful memories, anxiety, or repeated harm. While the holidays look different this year given current COVID-restrictions, the pandemic does not prevent these painful experiences for survivors. In fact, in some ways the ‘safer-at-home’ measures could add increased hardship for survivors.

This year’s holiday festivities look and feel different. For some it is a relief to avoid travelling and spending time with family, for others not having an “escape” for the holidays is isolating and potentially dangerous. Your feelings surrounding the holidays this year are valid, whatever they are. The boundaries you set around health, travel, and family are yours to set. In the same way that it is okay to say no to travel, it is also okay to say no to virtual gatherings that will not make you feel loved, supported, and safe.

These safety tips and strategies to cultivate resilience can be beneficial for survivors during the holiday season.


  1. Have a safety plan if you find yourself in a dangerous or triggering situation. Is there another place where you can go to feel safe? Do you have friends or family you are comfortable reaching out to for support?
  2. If you are travelling by airplane, airport security is not always trauma-informed. This guide from RAINN offers tips for airport security for survivors.
  3. Alcohol is a frequent component of holiday plans. If being around alcohol is difficult, consider setting boundaries around drinking.

Strategies to Cultivate Resilience

  1. Check-in with yourself over the holiday season. What do your sleep, food, and exercise habits look like and do you need to make any changes? Utilize your sources of support, such as a spiritual practice, taking a walk outside, journaling, cuddling a pet, listening to your favorite music, or talking to a loved one.
  2. You are in control over the media you consume. If the holiday movie you are watching, or the news media you are consuming is upsetting, you have no obligation to continue to watch. Instead, partake in an activity you know brings you joy.
  3. If you are experiencing a flashback, use these strategies:
  • Tell yourself you are having a flashback; the event is over, and you have survived.
  • Place your hand on your stomach and take deep breaths – watch your hand move out with each inhalation and fall with exhalations. Focus on this breathing pattern.
  • Tap into your senses. What do you see? Light a candle, what do you smell? Play your favorite sounds or music, what do you hear? Eat a favorite food, what do you taste? Hug something soft/warm, what do you feel?

If you need support or immediate referrals to resources, please contact the Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA) 24-hour hotline 303.443.7300.

Caroline Harris
Prevention Education Specialist
Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA)