The Holidays Are A Stressful Time. Here’s How To Deal With The Holiday Blues
While the holidays can be stressful for many people, there are a number of things you can do to relieve this stress. Many of the actions you can take and the things you can do are similar to the things you would do normally, but you’ll have to modify them a bit due to holiday travel and other factors like holiday parties.
Due to the stress of holiday travel, increased financial burdens due to purchasing presents and other holiday-related necessities, seeing family and others who may not be supportive of your journey to keep healthy, and holiday parties that can involve drinking and other negative influences, it can be difficult to stay healthy and drug free. Especially for someone in recovery from drug and alcohol use, the holidays can be hard times not to relapse.
The holiday season is also known for giving people the opportunity to reflect on their life and what they want for the future. This may lead to feelings of guilt or regret about missed opportunities in the past, which could lead to depression or anxiety. Negative images in media during this time may make people feel worse about their lives than they did before.
But there is help. Below we’ve collected some information about stress and depression in relation to addiction, and some tips to beat the holiday blues.
How Stress Affects Addiction And Relapse
Stress can cause a person to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with the stress. This is because drugs, on the surface, can seem more effective at reducing stress than other methods, such as exercise or meditation. But this is only in the short term, if at all, and this is precisely the way drugs can “lie” to a user.
Addiction is also a factor in this relationship. A person who has an addiction will continue to use drugs or alcohol even when it becomes clear that it is not having any benefits for them anymore.
Chronic stress is the body’s response to prolonged or extreme levels of stress. It can lead to increased risk for addiction in a number of ways, including:
- When chronic stress causes the release of cortisol, it can increase cravings for drugs and alcohol
- Chronic stress can cause individuals to seek out substances as a way to cope with their unpleasant feelings or memories
- Chronic stress may also lead individuals to use substances as a way to relieve pain or discomfort
In short, stressful situations like the holidays can create opportunities to relapse. But you can beat this.
How To Beat The Holiday Blues
The key to beating the holiday blues is to keep doing all of the things you do normally, but adjust them to your holiday plans.
First, you need to have a plan. This is important. It’s not enough to just “get through” the holidays. Because the holidays are particularly difficult, you need your normal stress reducing activities and you likely need to modify them by planning ahead.
One of the best natural stress removers is exercise. Our bodies are not meant to sit around all day looking at a computer or TV screen. We are meant to have at least daily activity. This is why “runners high” feels so good. During exercise your brain rewards you with all of the hormones and chemicals that make you happy. You probably know this and use it in your daily life.
But what to do when the gym is closed or you’re traveling?
Have a contingency plan. If you’re traveling, there’s likely a gym near you that allows a free single use or two, or that accepts travelers for a week or a month. Staying home and your gym is closed? Do bodyweight exercises in your own home. Youtube and Reddit have great tutorials. You can also go for a walk or run outside.
See how this works? It will be helpful to have a plan beforehand, and this can be tessellated to many of your daily or weekly activities. Do you attend sobriety meetings? Keep attending them in the area you’re traveling or attend one online. Do you rely on a support network to help stay sober? Talk to them beforehand and let them know you might need some extra help.
The holidays are also a good time to start healthy habits as well. One of the best pieces of advice we can give to deal with stress, loneliness and depression around the holidays is to volunteer. This will make you feel good in many ways, and give you an excuse to leave a party early you don’t want to be at, get up early, and get outside. You might even make new, healthy friends or find a new passion. Many nonprofits need extra help around the holidays, and it can be a good time to start a new journey.
How Can I Get Treatment For Addiction And Mental Health
If you think you might have an addiction and are ready to get help, give us a call at 828-347-9322 and we can discuss options for getting you into treatment.