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Don’t Let Holiday Stress Interrupt Your Substance Abuse Treatment

The holidays are supposed to be a time for celebration, joy, and gathering with loved ones. But if you’re struggling with an addiction, it can feel like the loneliest season of all. Even if you’re surrounded by friends and family who do their best to understand what you’re going through, you may find yourself feeling isolated from others. People in substance abuse treatment programs are often afraid of being judged, or having an experience that triggers a relapse. It can also be hard to navigate all the social events during this time of year without relying on past coping mechanisms, especially if everyone else is indulging in excess, or there are challenging communication dynamics in your family.

But there are ways to enjoy the holiday season and stay on track with all your hard work. This blog post offers some tips for anyone who’s feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of the holiday rush.

Here are 9 ways to take care of your mental and physical health…

Substance Abuse Treatment and Self-Care

1) Let People Know How They Can Support You

If it feels right, consider sharing your struggle or concerns with loved ones in advance so they can support you through the holidays. The winter season can be tricky for those in recovery from addictive behaviors because the usual family squabbles don’t vanish just because you begin substance abuse treatment.

In many homes, the holidays are usually celebrated with alcohol, too, which can make it hard to avoid if you’re trying to abstain. But whatever your challenges, it can help to let loved ones know how you’d like to receive their support, or what you’d find the most helpful. Often, people in our lives want to help, but they’re just not sure how, regardless of their best intentions. Explaining what you need might also make you feel closer to your friends or family, instead of trying to handle everything on your own.

2) Connect With Others in Substance Abuse Treatment

One of the most difficult things for many people in substance abuse treatment is to let go of a deep sense of shame, and really allow themselves to feel supported and loved. It’s often beneficial for people who are in recovery to connect with others who struggle with similar issues, either through group therapy, online forums, social media  groups, or a 12 step program.

3) Have a Plan before Attending Events

Before attending holiday events, it’s important to know what your plan is if you feel triggered. Consider your most likely stressors as well as healthy ways to manage them. This is something you can talk to your therapist about so you aren’t caught off guard by strong emotions. Having a plan in place can make you feel more confident, too.

4) Avoid Spending the Holidays Alone

You might think the safest option is to spend the holidays home alone, but this can lead to depression. When you’re in substance abuse treatment, it may seem tempting to withdraw from the world, but we all need meaningful connections. Plus, your commitment to sobriety is something to celebrate. Instead of going it alone, seek support from others who have been in similar situations. Spend time with family and friends, or find a support group that meets during the holidays, and make some new connections that are in alignment with your healthy lifestyle.

5) Find an Accountability Partner

An accountability partner you trust is another option, too. Having someone to check in with on a regular basis allows you to talk about anything stressing you out, instead of bottling it up. Getting things out in the open can help you avoid relapse, and just knowing someone cares and is thinking about you can make all the difference.

6) Make Sure You Have Safe Transportation

If you’re feeling worried about the holidays, it’s also not a bad idea to carpool to and from events. You can make arrangements with a sober friend or family member who lives near you, or stay the night so you aren’t on your own between destinations. Of course, you may not feel like you need this extra support, but it’s another option to consider.

7) Create a Schedule and Stick to It

It can be easier to stay sober during the holiday season if you have a specific schedule in mind, whether that means booking time off work in advance, deciding how you’re going to get home safely on New Year’s Eve, or discussing how you’d like to celebrate with your family. If you find you already feel a bit stressed during the pre-holiday season, it can really help to map out your schedule.

One thing to remember is that you don’t need to change your plans for other people, or do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Do what’s best for your health. Your loved ones will understand.

8) Let Go of Stress

It can also be useful to let go of tasks that stress you out during the holidays. For example, if shopping in holiday traffic is overwhelming, order gifts online, or ask someone to help you out. Maybe there’s a person in your family who loves being in control during the holidays, or they’re especially handy at wrapping presents, or baking the perfect dessert. It’s okay to ask for help. You don’t have to do everything on your own. The best thing you can do is ask for extra support when it comes to organizing holiday celebrations. After all, this time of year is all about coming together. The goal is less pressure and more fun when it comes time for seasonal celebrations, so share the workload with others.

9) Keep Up With Self-Care Routines

It can seem harder to keep up with daily self-care routines during the holidays, but it’s so important! Things like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, spending time outside in nature, and connecting with friends are all key to staying physically and mentally healthy during any time of year.

Call For Substance Abuse Treatment

The holiday season is a time of increased excitement and stress, but we hope these tips help. If you need support, please reach out to us at COPE. You’re not alone. We’re here for anyone who needs guidance through substance abuse treatment, or other mental health services. Give us a call at (310) 453-8788 today to learn more about how therapy can help you prioritize your well-being.

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