Tis the season to be jolly, or maybe not

While many look forward to festivities with friends and family, others fine the holidays too stressful and without joy. Too often people set unrealistic holiday expectations that if unrealized leave them frustrated and feeling down. A packed social calendar, over commitments or financial stress can be overwhelming, and unhealthy.


If you feel loneliness, anxiety, frustration, even anger you are not alone. Here are some tips that will help keep you well. Keys to maintaining mental health during the holidays include eating healthy, getting adequate sleep and exercising regularly.  Be sure to continue to take all of your medications, and don’t stop seeing your therapist because of a busy schedule.


Think back to your childhood. What activities kindled feelings of excitement and joy in the season? Decorate some cookies, grab a cup of hot chocolate, watch a favorite holiday movie, turn on some seasonal music.  Rituals are a way to connect with our past and to make us happy.


If you are overextended and run down, practice saying no. It’s often hard to prioritize, but rather than trying to do it all, focus on the most important activities and tasks.  It’s better to do a few things well rather than to do everything poorly. Similarly, it’s better to be “in the moment” and enjoy a few social functions rather than to simply go through the motions and show up to everything.


The holidays can be especially challenging to people recovering from alcohol or substance abuse. Regrets about the past, lost opportunities or strained relationships can steal away the joys of the season. Looking back in the rearview mirror can cause you to take your eyes off your future. Don’t focus on any past difficulties. Instead think of your accomplishments, and the positive changes you have made in your life on your journey in recovery. Above all don’t let the holidays trigger a relapse. Social events where there is alcohol or drugs are a real risk. Emotional and mental stress leads directly to relapse. Have a plan should you find yourself in situations or with people who might be difficult to be with. The best plan is to avoid these triggers if at all possible.


If you or someone you know is struggling with as addiction, don’t wait to get help. The best holiday present you can give yourself and the ones who love you is getting the addiction treatment you need. Remember addiction is treatable and recovery is real.  Don’t wait, get help now. We at Advanced Addiction Medicine and Psychiatry are here to help. Call us.