The holidays are meant to be a time to bring people together, to celebrate, and to give thanks. Yet, for someone struggling with addiction or other mental health complications, it’s not that easy. Holiday mental health can be a very important component of your overall wellbeing. If you do not take steps now to protect your mental health and do so throughout the holiday season, you may find yourself simply overwhelmed. For some, this could put recovery in jeopardy.
Know the Risks That the Holidays Bring
One of the first steps to take, whether you are an individual struggling with addiction or you are a family member, is knowing what the risks are. The fact is, relapse is a real concern for many because of the constant exposure to triggers. Triggers are instances which an individual with an addiction is more likely to take a drink or use their drug of choice. A key part of recovery is removing those triggers from day-to-day life. But, the holidays bring about some situations where triggers are constant.
Being in early recovery can exacerbate these problems. Statistics indicate that a person who is within three years of ceasing drug or alcohol usage run the highest risk of relapse. Those who are more than three years out are less likely to relapse. Still, everyone can benefit from this guide to holidays and mental health.
Know Your Triggers
One of the keys to your success is understanding what your triggers are. What makes you more likely to use again? There are many things that can fall in line here. These are just a few examples.
- Certain family members may be more likely to trigger feelings you struggle with, and during the holidays, you may be more likely to come in contact with them. If this is a concern, be sure to excuse yourself from activities if they put pressure on you.
- Being around alcohol and drugs is generally discouraged for all individuals. During the holidays, you have less control over this. Again, you may need to leave the room or occupy yourself with those who you know can support you.
- The holidays also create situations where you may be alone, tired, angry, and hurt. All of those feelings are likely to push you to the brink. The key here is to encourage you to obtain routine counseling and importantly, do not try to hide your feelings during this time.
Focus on you. It will always be important to you to focus on what you can do to remove yourself from these high-risk situations. Prioritize your health and foremost.
Maintain Mental Health During the Holidays
There is a lot to do during the holidays. At any stage of your recovery, you may find yourself immersed in the holidays. You may be decorating a tree. You may be visiting with loved ones more often. For some, it means working longer hours. No matter what is happening, you simply must work hard to maintain your mental health during the holidays. How do you do this?
Visit Your Team Frequently
Everyone in recovery – at any stage – should have a counseling team to help them. Even if you are busy, make these appointments. You also want to be sure you are attending all of your group therapy sessions. Go to your meetings. Doing this simple act can open the door for new and exciting opportunities. It allows you to talk about your feelings, but also gives you the ability to discuss the stressors you experience during this time of the year.
Focus on Your Nutrition
Believe it or not, eating well during the holidays is not always easy to do. However, you may know the importance of boosting your health through nutrition. During recovery, your body needs good nutrition in order to thrive. This often means ensuring you are taking in good nutrients. Use this time to get your health back in check. You don’t want to eat too many of the wrong foods and find yourself struggling with weight and negative emotions.
Find a Way to Give Back
For many, there is a sense of guilt during this time period. You may not even want to talk about it, but you feel guilty about the world you left behind. You are doing good for yourself, but that doesn’t mean others can’t do the same. This may be a good time for you to open your heart to some volunteer work. Of course, you do not want to put yourself in the same place as you used to be – avoid the areas, people, and experiences where you commonly used your drug of choice. However, you can find a way to give back. Volunteer at a food bank. Donate a few gifts or coats to those who are in need. Doing some little like this can not only help others but also help you feel good about yourself.
Deal with What Happens When It Happens
A big part of holiday mental health is being aware of what is happening to you throughout this timeframe. Know when a problem is surfacing:
- Do you find yourself getting anxious and angry? This means something is not right.
- Do you find yourself making excuses not to visit certain people or engage in certain activities?
- Do you tell people you hate the holidays?
- Perhaps you simply do not want to even think about the holidays. Some people focus just on working during this time.
- Do you experience feelings of loneliness and emptiness?
These are all indicators that something needs to change. In short, the way you act and feel should give you some indication that it is time to get help. Visit your counselor to find out what the underlying problem is. Sometimes, you do not even know why you are feeling this way. And, this means that it is time to get some help.
Holiday mental health is never easy. Year-after-year, you will get stronger. It may not bother you as much when you see this as a time of rebuilding your life and not something to dread. Nevertheless, it is critical that you work consistently toward renewing your commitment to living a clean life. Allow your professional counselors to help you to continuously achieve this goal through routine visits and treatment.