Traditionally, New Year’s Eve can be joyous and bright. For many recoverers, however, December brings a unique set of risks. Stress, depression, and family drama are all major triggers for sober people. Today we’re going to talk about a different kind of vacation preparation: preparing for potential stressors during “the best time of the year.”
Why are holidays so stressful?
According to the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people say their stress levels increase during the holidays. This time of year is supposed to be about reunions and family – what makes it so especially intense? We have some ideas.
First, shopping for gifts for friends and family can be a major undertaking. We don’t just have to worry about picking the perfect gift; we have to make sure we can afford it. This factor has become an even bigger concern for Americans in 2020.
Anxiety and Seasonal Depression
Many people struggle with anxiety and depression year-round, but winter can trigger seasonal emotional turmoil for others. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by worsening depressive symptoms due to decreased sun exposure.
Plenty of Food and a Relaxed Schedule
It might seem absurd that some of the best parts of the holidays—the good food and the freedom—can actually trigger stress, but it’s true. It’s not uncommon to feel worse when you give up your nutritional needs in favor of greasy, poor-quality foods. While taking some time off is good, sitting with nothing to do can be detrimental for those in the early stages of recovery.
Everyone’s experience with family during the holidays is different. Some revel in this level of unity, while others rebel against it. No matter how close you are, staying in one house for a long time can be challenging. Additionally, it is even harder to stay around relatives if they struggle with substance use disorder themselves and don’t support your sobriety.
Christmas Celebrations and Temptations
This is a time for celebration – unfortunately for the unconscious populace, the word “celebration” is often synonymous with alcohol or drug abuse. That means a holiday party can open up countless potential trigger offers for you. It is very important to pay attention to how you handle these situations.
Feel Pressure to be Happy
Activities designed to make you happy may have the opposite effect. Expectations are high this time of year, and you might feel pressured to put a smile on your face in front of friends and family. In fact, you may be struggling with anxiety, depression, or sobriety.
What can we do to deal with holiday stress and triggers?
Despite the stress, the holidays are an exciting and fun time of year. We want to help you enjoy the weeks ahead instead of worrying about possible triggers. Here are our suggestions for a stress-free, relapse-free Holiday.
Identify your triggers
The first step in preparing for your holiday triggers and substance abuse is getting to know yourself. Go back in time to find your triggers; then, you can devise a plan. Do you have an uncle who brews everyone’s beer at Christmas? Get in touch to let him know you’re sober and don’t need any beer. Is there a cousin who always wants to “go for a walk” and smoke a cigarette when he is lazy in the afternoon?
Let others in your family hold you accountable. By thinking ahead, you can prepare for possible triggers of drug and alcohol addiction.
Learn to Recognize Stress
Stress is a useful adaptation — it helps keep us motivated and protective. However, this fight-or-flight mechanic is less useful when engaging in a sensitive political conversation or subtly rejecting a glass of eggnog.
Pay attention to how your body responds to stress. Is your stomach crunching? Are you sweating or hyperventilating? Do you feel your heart beating faster? Once you recognize the signs, you can learn to address them immediately.
Set Reasonable Expectations
Avoid falling into the “luck trap” during the holidays by setting realistic monthly expectations. If this is your first sober Christmas, you might think everything will be perfect. This mindset can trigger anxiety and possible relapse if something goes wrong.
Rather than letting things run smoothly, be prepared to be flexible and keep a close eye on your recovery. This way, you can get your priorities right and face any obstacles with a good attitude.
Practice Handling Triggers
You have learned many helpful coping mechanisms in therapy when encountering triggering people or events. There are several ways to handle any difficult situation for holidays in recovery. Here are some of our favorites:
- Join the Virtual Celebration
- Attending more meetings than usual in preparation for the holidays
- Practice good self-care (diet, exercise, sleep, and relaxation)
- Express yourself to friends and family
- Bring your own safe drinks to the party
- Seek support from other sober people or loved ones
- Read your recovery literature for reinforcement
- Calm down with breathing exercises
- Don’t be afraid to say no to people, places, and things that threaten your sanity
- If you feel overwhelmed, step outside for a moment or leave the meeting altogether
- Hold your sponsor or sober friend accountable
- Stay Home and Start a New Substance-Free Tradition
Long-Term Addiction Treatment at Hathaway Rehabilitation Center in Los-Angeles
At The Hathaway Recovery addiction rehab, we understand that this time of year can be tough. If you need support and want to spend Christmas in recovery or consider treatment in the next few days, please let us know today, and we will help you with the personalized addiction treatment program.
Our best luxury rehab in Los Angeles is always ready to help you recover. Contact The Hathaway Recovery online or by phone for more information.