Navigating early recovery during the holidays can be a challenge. You may need to change some of your traditions, and emotions may run extra high. Remember that you are still building your coping tools and allow yourself some grace through this season. Ultimately, when you learn to overcome these challenges you will find freedom in recovery. It is important, no matter the season, to keep your recovery first and continue to work on staying healthy and well.
The holidays are often wrought with a mix of emotions under the best of circumstance. For example, the traditions and rituals that you celebrate with your loved ones may bring to mind those who are no longer with you, which is bittersweet. In addition, in early recovery you are going to have the added challenge of navigating others’ less healthy patterns, like drinking or using substances to party or cope, which can be triggering.
To compound matters, it’s 2020! As we all know, it has been a difficult year. While we have grown accustom to the changes that COVID has created in our everyday lives, the call to minimize gatherings over the holidays adds additional stress. You may have to create boundaries with family or you may find that you are isolated through the holidays which may increase your risk of relapse.
Now is the time to make a holiday safety plan that will help you achieve your recovery goals and navigate the difficulties of Christmas and New Year’s. Know what you’re up against, and be honest with your close supportive friends, counselor, and sponsor. It is paramount so you can develop a plan for the holidays that will support your recovery.
You may or may not choose to join family for the holidays depending on your needs in early recovery, and the circumstances of pandemic planning. However, there are many ways to celebrate with people in recovery. If you are going to an event with your family, you could always take a supportive member of your recovery network with you to have additional support to hold you accountable. If you are alone and in an uncomfortable situation, you can always pick up the phone and call someone in your network.
Make sure you are taking good care of yourself. Keep the basics of your routine strong or strengthen it. You may be tempted to allow yourself more leeway but this can be detrimental to your resilience during this time. Take sleep for instance, regular bed times and wake up times with between 7-8 hours of sleep will keep you healthy by not over extending yourself.
Here at BTG we talk about the importance of eating good sources of protein for our neurotransmitter health or mood repairing and stabilizing forces. It can make a tremendous difference. It can be tempting during the holiday to eat a bunch of junk food but it will do nothing for your mood or your cravings. Doing things like skipping a meal, or not including protein can lower your resilience or the ability for you to handle what life is throwing at you.
There may be times you want to enjoy the celebration of the season with delicious pie or cookies, but be cautious. At BTG we recommend only consuming no more 6 teaspoons of added sugar in a day. This is much lower than what you would ingest from your aunt’s pumpkin pie. One moderate slice of that pie may have 16 teaspoons of sugar in it. That sugar hit is going to activate your cravings and mood swings making your holiday feel a lot less sweet.
Being dehydrated can make you feel bad. Headaches, sluggishness or low energy, lack of mental clarity, and sugar cravings can all come from being dehydrated. Aim to drink half your weight in ounces of water daily. Your cup of herbal tea, non-caffeinated drinks, or the fruits and vegetables you eat can all count towards your water content too.
Stress can be a difficult thing during the holidays. Have a plan to break the stress cycle by going for a walk, talking it out with a friend, or getting a hug from a family member or friend. Making a plan ahead of time can make it easier to reach for coping tools when your emotions start to run high. Self-care is important. Don’t be afraid to step away from others for a few minutes to gather your composure or call a friend in recovery.
Include stress relieving spiritual practices don’t have to take up much time, but can help us remember our humanity and our interconnectedness during what can be a frenzied time. Here are some ideas. Do something unexpected and kind for someone else. Meditate, pray, or write a gratitude list. Even something as simple as practicing kindness fits the spirit of the season while helping you to feel more connected to others.
As you prepare for the upcoming holidays, do it with support and awareness. Put a plan in place to prioritize your recovery. Utilize the above coping tools and self-care strategies to support your early recovery during the holidays. These strategies don’t have to be difficult, but they are easy to let slip when life gets stressful and busy.
The staff at BTG wishes you a safe, healthy, and sober holiday season!