It’s the Happiest Time of the Year…and Most Stressful!
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“Are we having fun yet?” Is a question I often think of in the midst of Holiday chaos. This is supposed to be an enjoyable time of year to connect with friends and family and to celebrate the New Year. The problem is, life continues to march on while additional expenses, tasks, social events and traditions pile up. There are only 24 hours in the day, and many people are at their physical, emotional and financial capacity before the Holidays and then are tipped over the edge with their stress level as the Holidays progress.
Those in early addiction recovery have their own unique set of challenges during this time of year as well. While their stress level may increase, they do not have access to their once favorite maladaptive coping mechanism- substance use. This is why learning new stress management and coping skills is so important during vulnerable times in sobriety. However, everyone can benefit from applying stress management skills and self-care into their busy lives.
There are 5 types of stress: Stress that you create, stress you can avoid, stress that you contribute to, stress that you can modify and stress that you cannot avoid. It can be helpful to see that we have control over some types of stress- especially during this time of year. There are areas of pressure in our lives that we can address and attempt to change or alter our perception of. There are also various areas of our life that we can focus on self-care- and in a gradual manner. Here are suggestions of coping skills that you can apply during this joyous and stressful time of year to various domains of your life:
- Balanced nutrition and regular eating pattern (eat breakfast and take lunch breaks!)
- Adequate sleep (varies) and practicing sleep hygiene
- Regular exercise (something is better than nothing!!!)
- Spend time in nature
- “Downtime” or breaks at work and at home
- Deep breathing
- Creating a non-toxic work and home environment
- Compartmentalize work and home life
- Balanced behavioral schedule
- Develop opportunities to socialize and social support networks
- Avoid “negaholics” or “Debbie Downers”
- Set boundaries and limits when needed personally and professionally
- Ask for help and delegate tasks
- Be pleasantly assertive when needed
- Develop a list of pleasurable activities you would want to engage in with others
- Just say “no”!
- Learn to express your emotions with a “safe” person
- Effective communication
- Change your sensory experience (sight, smell, visual, etc.)
- Mood tracking (Daily scale 1-10)
- Identifying/labeling emotions
- Pause for 10 seconds before reacting or take a “time out”
- Engage in creative expression (music, art, journaling, etc.)
- Attend therapy
- Watch really stupid T.V.!
- Read inspiring books or articles
- •Practice mindfulness
- Meditation (Try the Insight Timer or other meditation apps)
- Ride the wave!
- Become an observer
The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) Institute trains addiction professionals in a model of care that supports clients in their natural environment. Therefore, it is easier to help to tailor coping strategies to clients when you are aware of the stressors that they face during the Holidays and in everyday life. The IHAT Institute is bringing healing home for the Holidays!
By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC AADC