It’s no secret that while the holidays are a time of joy and bliss, they also have their fair share of stress factors as well. If you are in recovery from addiction, you know the holidays present a unique set of challenges. No matter what stage of recovery you are in, it can be difficult to maneuver through the holidays with your physical and emotional well-being intact.
It’s important to become familiar with the warning signs that could lead to relapse. During the holidays, you may be dealing with urges, cravings, emotions, or even isolation. With the time off work or school, family events, and social gatherings on the horizon, we’ve put together a list of ways to cope with holiday stress in recovery.
One of the best things that individuals can do during the holiday season is reaching out to their sponsor for recommended events for individuals in recovery. It’s important to understand that old places and individuals can trigger old habits. So if you are traveling to a place where your addiction was active, be sure to stay connected to those that keep you grounded in sobriety. Connecting with close friends or family members that support your recovery is also beneficial whenever you feel you need a little extra help. Allowing yourself to be around people that truly understand what you need in order to recover, rather than reconnecting with those who do not, will be most helpful this season.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be overwhelming. With all the rushing around and stress, it’s vital to remember to slow down. Take a deep breath and enjoy the moments, sights, and company of the holiday season. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday rush, but try to take the time to practice daily meditation and stay in the moment. If you don’t have time to sit down and meditate, try and incorporate mindfulness practice wherever you are. Mindfulness is the act of being fully present, trying not to be overly reactive or overwhelmed by things happening around us. You can do this by pausing, focusing on your breathing, and paying attention to your body. Taking the time to slow down and enjoy the holiday season is a considerable way to cope with holiday stress.
Being outdoors is known to boost mood and increase focus. Even if it’s chilly outside, try to step out and spend some time in nature to clear your mind. Enjoying time in nature is great for de-stressing. According to the American Heart Society, being in nature is known for relieving symptoms of stress and anxiety. Time in the great outdoors exposes us to natural, highly beneficial chemicals called phytoncides, which are known to reduce blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. There is also a mindfulness aspect of being outdoors when individuals are able to actively engage in the senses and sights of nature.
Even in the business of the holiday season, you should not skip out on your exercise regime. A regular exercise is a powerful tool in stress relief and addiction recovery. It doesn’t have to be a complicated routine, it can be as simple as low impact walk. Exercise is great for establishing a routine, improving self-esteem, and reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. It provides a general feeling of positivity as you work on improving your own physical health. It’s also extremely beneficial for mental health as well. Research shows that exercise helps increase new nerve connections in the brain, aiding in the healing process of recovery. With the increased stress of the holiday season, it’s obvious that keeping up with (or creating) a fitness routine is extremely important.
Adjust Your Attitude
Managing stress effectively starts with adjusting your attitude. Entering a situation with a clear, positive mindset can change the outcome significantly. We suggest talking with your sponsor, a close friend who understands your addiction, or a counseling professional to discuss your emotions and expectations around the holidays. Keep in mind that your friends, family members, and coworkers are most likely feeling the same feelings of stress during the holidays. This realization will help put things in perspective, lower your expectations, and adjust your attitude about holiday events.
Even though the holidays are a time for giving to others, you should still remember to practice self-care. Celebrate the holidays by acknowledging and celebrating your own sobriety. Find some quiet time to relax and take care of yourself. Do things that you enjoy in order to maintain your mental health. Proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, and meditation are all great examples of self-care. Do what you can to nourish your spirit, and it will radiate to those around you.
Don’t be Ashamed to Get Help
If the effects of holiday stress are hindering your recovery, it’s OK to get help. Admitting you need a little extra help is not a failure. While some may consider the holidays an inappropriate time to get addiction treatment, in reality, it’s simply not true. The holidays tend to ramp up the triggers that could cause a relapse, so admitting you need some help is something to be proud of. Whether this is attending an extra meeting or counseling session, enrolling in a new treatment program, or simply leaning a little more on your support system, don’t be ashamed to ask for help.