As the holiday season continues its march through the next month, it can bring with it excitement and energy. If you’re in addiction recovery, you might find that the break in routine and the extra time with family is a welcome mental health boost. After all, being with those you love and maybe getting a little time off work can provide the space to unwind and reflect.
But if the opposite is true–if you find the holiday season more stress-provoking than stress-relieving–you’re not alone. Many people, especially those trying to stay on top of their sobriety and mental health, thrive on routine. When that routine gets interrupted, even for “good” reasons like holidays, the stress can pile up quickly. And for anyone in recovery, extra stress means a greater risk of relapse.
If you’re someone who finds this time of year stressful, now is the time to plan ahead. What can you do to keep yourself calm and steady over the holidays? Here are some ideas…
Care For the Body During the Holidays
The fall season is not just a time for holidays. It’s also a time for colds and flu. When you’re sick, it’s doubly hard to manage responsibilities, not to mention all of the extra tasks that come with the holiday season. So be careful this time of year. Stick to your self-care routine.
The holidays offer a cornucopia of sweets and treats that, while delicious, can compromise your immune system–and potentially lead to addictive behavior–if you overindulge.
- Tip 1: Look for healthier treats to make for yourself.
- Tip 2: Want to eat more treats? Then eat more fruits and veggies, too. And drink more water.
- Tip 3: Overindulged? Don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best to get back on track.
If you have a regular exercise routine, stick with it.
- Tip 1: On days you don’t have time for your usual routine, go for a couple of 10-minute walks outside. The fresh air will benefit you just as much as the movement.
- Tip 2: Do some stretches or strengthening exercises while waiting for your dinner to cook. Remind the body how good it feels to lengthen and engage.
Sometimes sleep is the first thing we give up when we get busy. But getting yourself overtired will make it harder to handle the stress and busy-ness of the holiday.
- Tip 1: Stick with your sleep routine. If you have a hard time calming your racing mind, avoid all electronics at least an hour before bed; instead, take that time to journal, listen to music, or drink some calming tea.
- Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to take a 20-minute nap if you get tired during the day.
Don’t shirk on your preferred healthcare routine. And if you do get sick, don’t blame yourself. Get the treatment you need, ask for help with chores and other responsibilities, and rest, rest, rest.
Care For the Mind During the Holidays
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the two support each other. If you have a mental health routine, stick with it this holiday season.
- Tip 1: Take some time when you’re stressed to pause. You might take a few minutes to breathe, meditate, journal, or listen to music.
- Tip 2: Ask for help. When we try to do everything ourselves, we get tired and resentful. Remember the lesson you learned in drug or alcohol addiction treatment: you can’t do it alone. Need help wrapping gifts? Making cookies? Cleaning? Decorating? Playing with the kids? Ask.
- Tip 3: Prioritize. We tend to view holiday traditions as sacred. How could we stop baking 12 dozen cookies when we’ve done it every other year? How could we not send Christmas cards when everyone expects a family update? Etc.
Take some time to reflect on what really matters to you about the holidays. Is it sending cards or is it feeling connected to people you love? Think of ways you could achieve the same goals without all of the extra work and stress.
Care For Your Sobriety During the Holidays
Caring for the body and mind are crucial in protecting your sobriety, but don’t forget to rely on the old stand-bys as well.
- Tip 1: Keep up your recovery care. If you go to recovery support meetings or therapy sessions, keep going. If you work with a sponsor, stay in touch with that person.
- Tip 2: When things get tough, pause and be grateful. Be grateful for your sobriety, for the people who support you, for all of the little joys and moments of beauty or humor hidden in each day.
- Tip 3: If you feel like your sobriety is in danger or if you’ve slipped or relapsed, contact St. Gregory Recovery Center. Our compassionate team in Bayard, Iowa, will help you get back on track.