It’s seems like the holiday season is thrown on us earlier and earlier every year. We’ve barely said goodbye to the long summer days, and got used to the cozy, colorful fall weather and then - bam - before you could even get truly sick of pumpkin spice everything, you look around and the streets are strung with brightly colored lights, and you can’t go into a grocery store without bumping into stacks of candy canes and Santa displays. While there are those who can’t wait for Halloween to be over to put up their Christmas trees, there is another very real population that the holidays don’t bring joy or cheer to – but rather anxiety, depression, and a struggle to stay sober. Most of the people who fall into this category would probably rather hide from the day before Thanksgiving to January 2nd, but since that’s not an option the end of the year can be a spiral of mental health issues.
There are endless reasons why people struggle this time of the year – family pressures, gloomy weather, and financial burdens just to name a few. And with such huge factors at play it can seem so overwhelming, but there are effective ways to combat the holiday gloom, and we here at Alpine Center want to help you be successful and healthy, and so we’ve come up with tools that have worked for us, so we know that you can utilize them to set yourself up for success.
Stay Sober at Holiday Parties
You find yourself at work, family, or friend’s holiday party. Maybe everyone is having a great time, or maybe everyone is feeling awkward seeing your boss in a rented Santa suit, but either way when they break out the alcohol it seems like it could only make the evening better. But if you’re trying to stay sober during the holidays, this can trigger anxiety. If you take a drink it can undo all of the hard work you’ve put into your sobriety, but if you don’t you might feel ostracized from everyone else. So what can you do?
- Try taking someone that is a good sober companion to parties. “As far as coping with my addiction around the holidays, one of the most important things that I do is when I’m going to parties or holiday functions, I make sure I take a sober friend with me that I know is strong in their sobriety and would never allow me to falter in mine.”
- Offer to be the designated driver; it will give you a reason to not drink, and a great way to answer why you’re not drinking. “I also offer to be a designated driver for family members and friends that are drinking. That way their safety is part of my responsibility and I obviously have to stay sober in order to take care of them. Feeling needed in that way makes it less tempting for me to drink or use.”
Get Some Sun
One of the biggest issues with the holiday season is that it for the majority of the western world it falls in winter. Winter is cold, snowy, and maybe the biggest problem is that the days are short, and we stay inside to avoid the cold when the sun is out. This can lead to many issues such as a lack of vitamin D, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD in particular can cause depression, irritability, and social withdrawal. While you should always consult with your medical doctor to best treat any medical issues, there are a few safe and effective things you can do to help during the long dark days.
- “Get out and about. Even though it is cold outside, bundle up and get some fresh air! If the sun is out, soak it up while it lasts, at least a few times a week. Go for a walk, or even a drive, force yourself to get out of the house for a bit!”
- Look into a UV lamp for your house or workspace. “A light box can help get the “sun,” back in your life during the cold, dark winter days. Not an exact replica, but can be a huge help. Please consult with your Dr. before using one of these and on how often you should use them.”
Take the Pressure off Yourself
Around the holidays your money and personal time can disappear. Traveling out of town, buying presents, and trying to make everyone else happy can leave you feeling spent, depressed, or wanting to take the edge off. That level of stress is dangerous for anyone, but especially those trying to achieve and maintain sobriety or control over their mental health. But there are healthy ways to relieve the pressure on you!
- “Surround yourself with positivity. Being around positive people is contagious! Sometimes it may be hard to force yourself to get out or be with people, you would rather just be alone and stay home, but really 99% of the time, you will be glad you got out and had fun.”
- Make everything you need to do manageable. “Try making to-do lists. It helps you stay organized and feel less out of control and overwhelmed when you can see what you have to do on paper, versus keeping all that information in your head and then stressing about forgetting something. Plus, checking off things you have done releases endorphins!”
- “Make sure to take care of yourself, even just 20 minutes a day. Sometimes around the holidays we get so wrapped up in other people and things that we forget to take care of ourselves. Take a hot bath, listen to music, meditate, yoga, crafts, hobbies, anything that you enjoy, make sure you take the time for yourself!”
- Try focusing on others with volunteer work. “Volunteering or giving your time to others will not only help them out but makes you feel really good too!”
- Focus on what you are grateful for in your life. “Make a list of all the good things in your life, and the things you are thankful for. This can help shift your mind and attitude to a positive perspective.” “. As the cold darkness of winter sets in find ways to bring the light of recovery into your life. Journal about gratitude daily; express love and joy to those you hold dear; practice good self-care. Namaste.”
Make sure that your Sobriety and Mental Health come First
With so much going on during the Holidays it can be easy to let things slide -which is why we see so many people getting gym memberships in the new year- but when it comes to maintaining your mental health and sobriety it is far too important to let it fall on the backburner. We’ve heard many times from our clients that the holidays were an excuse for them to relax their rules for a sober and healthy life. Please don’t fall into that trap!
- “It is important to have a "more rigorous application" of our recovery program during the Holidays. Be reading from your recovery literature daily; attending your support groups more often; being of service in the rooms of recovery and in your community.”
- If you are traveling for the holidays please look up local support groups that you can rely on when you are out of your element. Having a community of support is key when it could be easy to “cheat.”
- If you are early in recovery, keep yourself grounded one day at a time. “The last weeks of November through the first week of January are often high-risk months, weeks, days, and hours for people in early recovery. It is important to remember that "to change the things we can" implies our attitude to the holidays and actions related to self-care during this stress-filled period. Slogans like "this too shall pass" and "keep it simple" can be concepts that help keep us in the present moment day to day.”
We truly hope that these tips can help you have a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. But, as always, if you feel that you need to more help to get through the holidays – or any time of the year – please call us, we would love to help you in any way we can.