Staying Sober: Handling the Stress of the Holidays

HopeXchange is proud to welcome another distinguished guest post! Constance Ray co-created RecoveryWell to provide a safe place for people to share their addiction stories so that others can learn from them and benefit in their own lives. In this article, amidst the holiday festivities, while a relapse is attempting to steal one’s joy here are some ways to conquer it. Wishing everyone a joyful time this holiday season.

Photo via Pixabay by Geralt.

Photo via Pixabay by Geralt.

Big family celebrations, colorfully-lit trees, and exchanging gifts are some of the things that make the holiday season special for many people.  Recovering addicts may view the holiday a little differently, with stress and trepidation.

Chaotic parties and family events, coupled with a feeling of loneliness, can all be triggers for a temptation to relapse. Making a plan to neutralize these situations can help you make it through the holidays without having a meltdown or risking your sobriety.

Starting with a Plan of Action

Start every single day with a plan of action.  Look in your mirror and tell yourself how good it feels to be sober and in charge of your life.  Keep notes and positive sayings on your mirror for reinforcement of your daily goals.

Set a routine for yourself as much as possible during the holiday season.  Maintaining recovery depends on getting good rest, eating healthy foods, and getting exercise in your schedule whenever possible.  Placing your health as a top priority will aid in recovery by keeping blood sugar levels in check, curbing irritability, and keeping cravings low.

Knowing your triggers and assessing possible stressors can help you make a plan for the day’s events.  Don’t be afraid to decline certain parties or get-togethers that may present too many issues for you.  Try bringing a close friend or family member with you to events you do attend to support your sobriety.

Being sober will not always guarantee life will go as planned.  The holidays are not the same for everyone, so be realistic with your expectations.  Your joy can come from different places and moments if you look for it.

Dealing with Holiday Parties

Take control of how you navigate holiday parties and events. Driving yourself to holiday events is one way to have an easy way to leave whenever you feel necessary.  Knowing some people or situations might set off your triggers might be a good reason to arrive early and have the option to leave earlier.  When people do not respect your boundaries, feel free to leave the area or the party.

If you’re a recovering alcoholic, being handed drinks or desserts with alcohol in them could trigger relapse.  Plan some drinks and snacks to bring along to parties, or serve yourself before the host does to avoid the possibility of being handed things you might have to politely decline.

Board games, movies, or playing outside in the snow might be better options to suggest to family members instead of sitting around talking and pouring drinks.  Staying active will curb cravings and alleviate stressful conversations or situations.

Ways to Handle Stress and Temptations

When things are getting too stressful, take some time to walk away and breathe.  Clear your mind of thoughts of substance abuse and focus on all the steps you’ve made toward sobriety so far.  Think about things you can be grateful for in your life, instead the possibility of relapse.

Call on your support system, whenever necessary.  A trusted friend, family member, or sponsor that can be available when you need to talk is invaluable.  Get through the holiday season by attending some extra AA or NA meetings.  You can find meetings to attend in almost any city while traveling to bolster your sobriety resolve during the holidays.

Ask What You Can Do

Sometimes we get so focused on our own problems that we forget there are others dealing with the same problems or worse.  Finding ways to help support other recovering addicts at events, volunteering at homeless shelters, or asking an older neighbor if they need help with errands during the holidays, can bring joy into your life as much as it will bring into theirs.  Actively engaging in a positive, meaningful lifestyle, will make you stronger and more confident in your sobriety, and get you through the holidays stress free.

 

 

Peace of Mind: Four Ways to Battle Depression

We are pleased to welcome guest poster Jennifer McGregor to the HopeXchange blog! She is a medical student who has seen the impact that mental health has on our overall well-being. She believes we should all embrace our emotional health in the same we do our physical health.

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Peace of Mind: Four Ways to Battle Depression

Counseling is one of the best ways to battle depression and suicidal thoughts. The expertise of a trained psychologist can guide a person from the hopelessness of depression and help them to reclaim their life. Though talk therapy represents the standard concept of therapy, it can be expensive and may not work for some.

Talk therapy is usually a component in many treatments, but using a different format as the main focus can be very beneficial for some people. Keep in mind that “therapy” may sound intimidating, but in reality it is simply the word used to describe any process that can provide insight and promote healing. The following routes do not necessarily require the guidance of a mental health professional (though it may be helpful), and anyone struggling with anxiety or depression may find these methods to be beneficial:

Exercise Therapy

Exercise is a critical component to recovering from many mental illnesses. Physical activity keeps our bodies healthy while providing mood-boosting endorphins to our brains. Exercise therapy is a treatment method that prescribes different forms of exercise to keep mood elevated and battle depression. The self-esteem boost that comes with regular exercise can also be hugely beneficial in combating suicidal thoughts.

Dog Therapy

Dogs have been shown to be excellent mental and physical health caretakers. Their need for food, water, exercise, and love ensure that their owners have a reason to get up every morning, a reason to get out of the house, and someone to offer unconditional love and comfort for when they are feeling down. Dogs are also highly attuned to their owners’ emotions and will usually be the first to provide comfort on a bad day.

Some therapy groups will bring in dogs to comfort the patients while simultaneously making it easier to reveal personal information.

Phone Therapy

Many people lead lives far too busy to attend therapy sessions, or they may even be embarrassed to tell loved ones where they are going each week. A good alternative might be phone therapy. These sessions are conducted over the phone with a trained counselor, providing essentially the same service as if you were to attend a physical session. Using phone therapy is a good option for people who may have difficulty getting to an office for treatment.

There are also options such as video chat sessions and text chat sessions. Text chat can be great for those who struggle with verbal communication while video chat is ideal for someone who wants a face- to-face experience but is unable to make the trip.

Meditation as a Therapy Supplement

Meditation alone cannot be used as a complete treatment plan, but numerous studies have shown that meditation is a very effective supplement. Its effects may even match medication therapy. The act of meditating works to silence the mind and embrace feelings of peace. It only makes sense that this would be very effective against something like depression or addiction. It is best to utilize this technique alongside talk or group therapy.

Finding therapy for your depression and suicidal thoughts is the first step to recovery. When people suffering from depression do not receive treatment, things can only get worse. Whether you decide to stick with traditional talk therapy or test an alternative route such as meditation or phone therapy, what’s important is the fact that you are seeking help. Once you have taken that first leap, it will only be a matter of time before you start feeling good again.

Jennifer is passionate about expanding access to trustworthy health and medical resources and helping others stay up-to-date on the latest developments in general wellness.

Image via Pixabay by 947051