Holidays are joyful, festive times. Right? So why do they feel like an overwhelming minefield of triggers and temptations to people who suffer from addiction, mood swings, depression and anxiety?

Maybe we have unrealistic expectations of how we’re supposed to feel during the holidays. We think our life should look and feel like a Hallmark card. Maybe we have glorified the memories of holidays past.  We recall people and places in ways that evoke images of perfect celebrations.  Maybe we have skewed perceptions of current reality. “It’s Christmas! I’m supposed to get/be/have ___________ (fill in the blank).” “Poor me. Everyone else is dressing up, going out and drinking.”  Really?  The good news is, the holidays can be a time of contentment, community and continued recovery. Here are a few helpful tips to beat the holiday blues.

Gratitude is an Attitude…But We Have to Work on It
One of the quickest cures to beating the holiday blues is to count your blessings and be grateful for what you have. Write down what you’re thankful for. Make a daily gratitude list. Wasting time bemoaning what you don’t have is a pointless exercise that dooms you to depression and anxiety. Practice saying to yourself: “At least…….” instead of “What if……..”

Don’t let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Listen to your body and get tuned into your feelings before things get out of control.  If you’re hungry, have a snack. A little something sweet perhaps to take the edge off. Get plenty of rest. Watch out for negative emotions like anger and loneliness. If you’re angry, talk to someone. A problem shared is a problem cut in half.  If you’re lonely, pick up the phone or go to a meeting.

Stay in the Moment
We can’t change the past and the future isn’t here yet. Enjoy the day. Live one day at a time.  Worrying about something never made it better. Don’t live in the wreckage of the past or waste time imagining wreckage in the future.

Have a Plan….Keep Parties in Perspective
When the holiday season feels like a party that starts at Thanksgiving and ends at New Year’s, remember……you can make your own plan. Maybe you go late and leave early. If you’re in recovery, you can decide (after talking it over with your sponsor) if you’re even going to attend functions where alcohol is served…or not. You do have a choice. If you go, be selective about the invitations you accept. Have an exit strategy if you feel stressed, tempted or overwhelmed.  Know what you’re going to say if offered a drink. “No thanks” is usually enough because what’s in (or not in) your glass only matters to you. Really, no one else particularly cares!

Enrich Your Spirit
While we should be working on the spiritual side of our natures every day, what better time to remember this than during the holidays. Get out of the material trappings of the season and spend some time in prayer and meditation, getting centered and balanced in body, mind and spirit.  Communing with nature on a peaceful walk; joining in a traditional worship service at church or synagogue; listening to a mindful meditation tape; practicing yoga; or just closing your eyes for a few minutes each day and recounting your blessings….there’s no single way to pay more attention to the spiritual side of your nature;  you can find a way that works for you.

Have a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season…and Share
While you’re practicing these holiday tips for staying balanced and sober during the holidays, remember there may be someone who needs your strength and encouragement. There’s no surer remedy to cure a funk than to “get out of yourself” and reach out to someone who needs help. Regardless of where you are on your recovery journey, you have experience, strength and hope to share.  Reaching out your hand doesn’t just help the other person, it helps you. And that, my friend, may be the greatest gift you can give yourself or anyone else.

If these tips for coping with depression and anxiety during the holidays don’t help and you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider reaching out to our mental health professionals for help.

About the Author:
Mary R. is a wife, mother, daughter, retired business owner and recovering alcoholic who relocated to southwest Florida from Ohio. As a person in recovery, she writes from the heart and shares her strength, hope and experience with others so that they too may recover from the prison of addiction. Her sobriety is strongly engrained in the belief that “you can’t keep it unless you give it away.”  When not volunteering for David Lawrence Centers or actively participating in 12-step meetings, you can find her living her life in recovery to its fullest potential playing tennis, traveling, or trying out a new recipe with family and friends.

Nov 30, 2016 | Mental Health

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