8 Healthy Ways to Cope With Holiday StressLindsay
As a person in recovery from a substance misuse problem, you must place a priority on protecting your hard-won sobriety. The holiday season can be an especially challenging period for many people due to the stressful nature of this time of year. Dealing with the added pressures of family obligations, shopping for gifts and back-to-back social gatherings can put a strain on even the most resilient people.
If the “most wonderful time of the year” has stopped feeling so wonderful to you, here are some tips for getting back on the right track without leaving yourself susceptible to a relapse.
1. Get Some Sun
Though sunlight may be harder to come by in December, going outside to soak up some rays can benefit your mental health because exposure to the sun helps trigger your brain’s production of a feel-good chemical called serotonin. Sunshine can also work to your advantage if you are one of the millions of people who struggle with a condition called seasonal affective disorder, also known as the “winter blues.” Seasonal affective disorder can mimic depression symptoms such as lethargy, fatigue, hopelessness and disrupted sleep and appetite.
If it has not been sunny where you live, or the early onset of darkness is challenging for you, you can buy a light therapy box to mimic the effects of sunlight and help regulate your mood.
2. Try Aromatherapy
The right scent can go a long way toward turning a bad day around. Scientists believe aromatherapy works because it activates smell receptors in your nose, causing them to send messages to the part of your brain that controls emotions. If you’re feeling down, scents such as citrus and peppermint can invigorate you and provide you with the pick-me-up you need to get going. Get an essential oil diffuser and experiment with different aromas.
3. Treat Yourself
It’s common to view the holiday season as being all about doing things for other people, and to some extent, that’s true. However, do not overlook the importance of self-care in recovery. Taking time to schedule a massage or even something simple such as preparing and eating a favorite meal can go a long way toward helping you unwind and recenter yourself on your recovery goals.
4. Get Social
If you’re like most people, you probably have no shortage of invitations to various events and gatherings during the holidays. But you may find yourself with less time to interact one-on-one with close friends or family members. If this area of your life is lacking, it can leave you feeling isolated and depressed. After all, your in-laws’ annual holiday shindig isn’t the best opportunity to confide in someone that you are struggling with insomnia, or that you have been wrestling with cravings for alcohol or drugs.
Since loneliness can be a significant addiction trigger for many people, you should do your best to schedule a lunch with one or two friends from your sober support group. Take turns going around the table and talking about anything that’s weighing you down. The simple act of unburdening yourself can go a long way toward making you feel better, even if you don’t necessarily come away with concrete solutions to your problems.
5. Don’t Neglect Therapy
If you’re feeling stressed or burned out, you might feel tempted to skip your regular sessions with your therapist or your meetings with your recovery group. However, those challenging times are when you need therapy most. You won’t regret taking time to get worries off your chest, or helping others work through their problems in the safety of a group setting. Admitting you have challenges you can’t solve on your own is an essential part of working toward positive change in your life. Trying to go it alone can be a recipe for failure.
6. Take a Walk
Not only is walking a great, low-impact way to get your heart rate pumping while you burn some calories, but you can also turn a daily walk into a form of meditation. If the weather allows, take your walk outdoors, so you can also benefit from the healing effects of surrounding yourself with nature, such as fresh air and sunlight.
7. Learn to Say No
During the holiday season, it’s common for people to bite off more than they can chew as they try hard to please others. However, an essential part of protecting your sobriety is recognizing when you have put too much on your plate. “No” is a tiny word with a vast amount of power to change your life for the better.
In addiction recovery, establishing boundaries is crucial because it helps you identify what behaviors you will and won’t tolerate, both from yourself and from others. If you are uncomfortable saying no, rehearse with a friend until you get used to the idea. There is no need to feel ashamed about politely turning someone down if you find yourself in a situation that jeopardizes your recovery process.
8. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Stress can disrupt your sleep schedule, which can, in turn, leave you feeling irritable or fatigued throughout the day. If you find yourself tossing and turning all night, or waking up frequently, you can benefit from establishing healthy sleeping habits. Here are some ways to get started.
- Be consistent: Always wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, even on your days off.
- Make tech off-limits: Remove electronic devices, such as your phone, tablet or laptop, from your bedroom. If you have a partner who sleeps with you, request that they do the same. These gadgets emit blue light that can give you trouble sleeping.
- Do something relaxing before bed: Establish a bedtime routine that includes things like a cup of herbal tea, a warm bath or a series of yoga stretches to help prepare you for restful sleep.
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