It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is a time full of excitement and presents and events and family and joy. It is a time of celebration for all, and there is so much to do!
However, for some, in many ways, the holiday season may not feel like the most wonderful time of the year at all. It may instead be a very challenging time of the year. There are parties to avoid, family members who ask too many questions, lonely times of isolation, reminders of loss, and never enough money for everything. The holiday season can be very stressful, and exhausting, too.
Unfortunately, all of these feelings can be dangerous for someone working on his or her recovery. Each and every one of these emotions can be a potential trigger to return to using. As someone in recovery, you know all too well that using just once can quickly lead you into full blown relapse, and before you know it, you will be right back where you started. It is vital that you are aware of various potential holiday related triggers, and that you are armed to handle and defeat them before they even arise.
Stress is ever-present for many, but even the calmest and most Zen folks report increased stress during the holidays. According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, 69% of people report that during the holidays they are stressed about a lack of time, 69% are stressed about lack of money, and 51% are stressed about pressure to give gifts. These factors can all add up quickly and can lead to overwhelming feelings of overwhelm. Furthermore, arguments with relatives, holiday travel, and other factors can play a big part in rising stress levels as well. Stress can be a major trigger; your mind will play tricks on you, convincing you that all this uncomfortable anxiety can be solved with just a drug or a drink. It’s not true, and you know it, Instead, make a list of healthy ways to deal with stress so you have it to refer to in times of need. Take a walk, call your sponsor, practice yoga, meditate, take some deep breaths, make lists to stay organized, or go to group. With the proper plan in place, you can get through this!
HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)
The acronym HALT is a great reminder of what mental states to avoid in order to stay strong in your recovery. Its letters stand for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Each of these emotions can be felt frequently during the holiday season and throughout the year. However, they all can be avoided, too, with proper planning. Although there is seemingly food everywhere during the holiday season, you may find that you are too busy to eat, or that the food you are eating is not filling or healthy for you. In order to avoid this problem, plan your meals ahead, set an alarm to remember to eat, and make time to sit down and actually enjoy your meals instead of simply grabbing something on the go. If you find that you are angry because of something a friend or family member said or did, take a moment, take a deep breath, and walk away. No comment is worth a relapse.
Many people of all ages are lonely during the holidays,due to social isolation or loss or simply not knowing many people. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Reach out to others and let them know you feel isolated; most people will do whatever they can to help you feel included. Or, spend some time volunteering. Volunteering is a great way to meet other people, and through your service, you will help yourself while helping others, too.
And of course, we are all so tired during the holidays. There is so much running around and trying to fit things into an already busy schedule, it’s no wonder we are all exhausted. Don’t overdo it, though! Pace yourself, make time for rest, take breaks when you can, and practice self-care. Delegate tasks when you can, and don’t try to do everything all by yourself.
Attending holiday parties is another challenge for people in recovery, but they don’t have to be. Even if drinking alcohol at this party is a part of family or company culture, don’t feel like you have to do so just to fit in. It is perfectly acceptable in this day and age to abstain from drinking at a party. As someone who is clean and sober, though, it can certainly be hard to say no to what seems like it could be a good time. You know that in the long run it won’t be. Don’t succumb to temptation. In order to stay strong, make a plan for awkward situations before you go, and call your sponsor for support both before and afterwards. To strengthen your resolve, attend a meeting beforehand, too. On the day of the party, bring your own, non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy, bring a sober friend, and be ready to cut out early if you feel you need to do so.
Changes in Daily Routine
It’s like you have been plugging along with no temptations for the past few months by just following your routine and doing what you do one day at a time to stay clean and sober. But during the holiday season, all that changes. Routines are out the window, and schedules are all over the place. This can be unstable ground for you, so do all that you can to keep your routine in place. Eat when you normally eat. Get the same amount of rest you usually do. Don’t skip a workout or your yoga class. And most importantly, keep going to meetings and keep seeing your therapist. Staying on track means staying on track, and keeping to the routines that have brought you this far is paramount.
The holiday season can be a very challenging time for people working on their recovery, but with the right planning, the right tools, and the right mindset, you can do anything. You made it this far; now keep it going! Happy holidays!
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