Decorations have been on display in stores since October. Holiday movies have been playing since early November. And in 2021, COVID variants are spreading and the news media are predicting shortages of food, toys, and gifts. It’s no wonder our holiday stress levels can hit overload.
For people in recovery, stress and depression can ruin the holidays and hurt our health. How can we keep it together this year? Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic:
- Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or if you can’t (or don’t want to) be with friends or family, realize that it’s normal to feel bad about it. Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Next, reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, spiritual, and recovery events and communities near you. They can offer critical support and companionship.
- Talk about it. If you’re feeling stress during the holidays, it may help to talk to a sympathetic friend or family member. Try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat.
- Give of yourself. Volunteering your time or doing something to help others is a good way to lift your spirits. For example, consider dropping off a dessert at a friend’s home during the holidays. Don’t expect anything – you are doing this for you.
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect, or just like “the old days”. Maybe those days were never perfect anyway. Choose the traditions you want in your life, and be open to creating new ones. Find new ways to celebrate. Attending a Christmas Eve support meeting, take a walk to see the holiday lights, or cheer up the folks at a recovery or old-age home. Your holiday plans may look different, but they don’t have to be less meaningful.
- Set aside differences. We all want to be accepted for who we really are. And that works both ways. Don’t make others live up to your expectations. Set aside grievances and politics. Be understanding if people get upset when something goes awry. Chances are they’re also feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression.
- Stick to a budget. Before you do any gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend and stick to it. Don’t try to buy happiness with gifts. A holiday card with a heartfelt note is very important to most people.
- Plan ahead. Schedule time for shopping, baking, connecting with friends, and rest. Plan your menus and activities, even if it’s only you. A plan can help you avoid feelings of loneliness, abandonment, and depression because you know you have something to accomplish.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no will leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. That’s not good in recovery. Most friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. Even if they don’t, that’s on them and not you.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Make eating healthy, exercise, and stress reduction part of your holiday plan.
If you want help for alcohol, drug, and/or mental health issues during the holiday season, L.A. CADA can help. Call us at (562) 906-2676.