The holidays can be an especially challenging time for those wanting to minimize or completely avoid alcohol and drugs. Company parties and gatherings of all kinds along with travel and other stress can lure those in recovery or harm reduction back into a bad habit.
To help keep us in a healthy, happy holiday spirit, Quit Genius Alcohol and Drug Counselor Manager Shantal Childers shares advice and tips for surviving and thriving during this season.
“The holidays can be a busy and even stressful time. In order to stay healthy and limit or avoid alcohol and drugs all together, it’s so important to practice self-care,” says Childers. “Self-care covers physical, mental, social, and emotional health.”
1. Physical health
This encompasses exercise, a healthy diet, taking prescribed medications, and practicing sleep hygiene (going to bed at the same time every night, creating a calm sleeping environment, engaging in a bedtime routine, etc.).
2. Mental health
Set bite-size goals using the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), and find fun or social activities to fill your time (boredom can be a trigger) such as reading, taking a warm bath, taking your dog for a walk, or meeting a friend for coffee. It’s also important to attend any scheduled or needed counseling sessions and challenge negative self-talk. Childers also recommends compiling a gratitude list.
3. Social health
Engage in spiritual or religious practices if you find it helpful. Shift the focus of events such as holiday parties from drinking to building relationships with others. You might also look for ways to volunteer over the holidays.
“Call a friend for distraction or support, and plan ahead if you’re nervous about a social situation,” says Childers. “Develop an exit strategy, and think about what to say to others to let them know you aren’t drinking. You might also consider creating new traditions that fit your lifestyle instead of relying on old traditions.”
4. Emotional health
Remember to HALT—when you feel Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired—before picking up a drink or a drug.
“Check in with yourself periodically and think about whether any of these stressors are affecting your mood or actions,” advises Childers. “You also need to understand your limits and set boundaries for yourself. Don’t stay overnight at your aunt’s house on New Years, for example, if you know there’s a tradition of late-night drinking and board games.”
Childers also reminds us to prioritize mindfulness, which can take the form of body scan meditations that reconnect with your whole self, grounding exercises, and gratitude.
If you would like additional support and resources, check to see if your company covers Quit Genius, and learn about how we can support you this season and beyond.
About Shantal Childers
Shantal Childers has more than 19 years of experience providing exceptional care to those in need of alcohol and drug counseling and education.
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