Holiday Challenges: Crowds

If there was ever an appropriate time to utter the words “Bah Humbug,” it would have to be while standing in line at the mall during the holidays. We’ve all been there. Slow clerks, customers with coupons, and, perhaps worst of all, returning purchases. Nothing is more maddening than the last step of shopping taking longer than the entire trip itself.


Many of us prepare ourselves for this daunting task. We get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy meal, or plan to dine out as a break from shopping. We psych ourselves up for massive crowds and wear our most comfortable shoes. Some people wear headphones to drown out the same holiday music we’ve been hearing since October, screaming children, and overhead announcements. Even the parking lot becomes a strategic exercise in planning.


Finally, as if all that is not enough, and despite our ninja-like agility, we find ourselves trapped in huge crowds of people, igniting our physical sensitivities, causing us to escape through the closest exit. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like hyperventilating behind a dumpster at the mall.


We can all laugh at this annual ritual of holiday shopping, but for survivors of sex trafficking, this can be an overwhelming experience that renders us useless for days. Between the noise, the smells, and the close physical proximity to so many people, every one of our sensitivities can be tweaked into hyper drive.


PTSD doesn’t care which month it is; it’s the gift that keeps on giving all year…


So what’s the solution to surviving the Christmas Mall Crawl?


I’m reminded of Joseph and Mary showing up for the census in Bethlehem with Mary already in labor only to find no hotel rooms. It’s as if Joseph and Mary got caught up in a holiday shopping crowd themselves.   


How did Joseph deal with the situation?  Did he worry about how they looked to the world or what was going on outside in the streets?  No, he stayed right by Mary’s side; attending to her physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs, all night long until she delivered our precious Savior. I think we can take a lesson from Joseph and Mary.


Whether you’re a survivor or not, creating a plan to deal with the unexpected collapse of your strength is wise. Planning an escape route to a safe place in a time of distress is prudent. But nothing is more vital to our emotional health this time of year than relationship.


So choose someone you trust, someone who knows your sensitivities, how to help you manage them and most importantly, will stay by our side as you recover from anxiety, if need be. The truth is, everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. So try to be patient with one another. Give a word of encouragement, of reassurance or just a smile to someone who looks like they may be struggling and together, we’ll get through this Season of Joy. Peace be with you.



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We are grateful for the partnership of the Women's Fund of Essex County as we work together to promote solutions for survivors of sexual exploitation.