Holidays can be a difficult time for many people, especially those who are estranged or alone as a result of substance use. Here at Sage Recovery, we want our clients to be as prepared as possible for all that is to come in their recovery journeys. That’s why we want to share three mental health tips for getting through the holidays. Whether you spend the holidays with family, friends, or alone, we want to help you do it healthily by knowing your triggers, enforcing boundaries, and planning ahead.
One way to get through the holidays is by knowing your triggers. Triggers vary from person to person and can be set off without warning. Certain smells, environments, words, or relationships can activate memories – both good and bad.
For example, if you are recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) and your friends celebrate New Year’s Eve by going bar hopping, it’d probably be a good idea to find other people to hang out with that night. The key is to keep yourself out of situations that may potentially cause you to fall back into unhealthy behaviors. This can feel daunting, especially around this time of year, but you don’t have to do it alone.
If you aren’t sure how to identify your triggers, seeing a licensed professional counselor (LPC), like the ones at Sage Recovery, can help. LPCs may be able to help you identify the root of your triggers and empower you with tools to help you cope healthily. They will also be able to guide you through any uncomfortable feelings you may encounter as you heal. Having the support and guidance of someone, specifically a professional, by your side can be a game-changer for your healing journey, especially through the holidays.
Knowing your triggers is an important part of any healing process, whether you’re healing from trauma, emotional distress, abuse, substance use, or a mental health disorder. The more you are aware of the things and circumstances that trigger you, the healthier you’ll be.
In addition to knowing your triggers, enforcing boundaries can also be an important key to helping you get through the holidays. The holidays may be the most difficult time to enforce boundaries; however, it’s probably the most important time to do so. Enforcing boundaries can be tricky, especially with people you’re close to. They may not understand or agree with your boundaries, but that doesn’t mean that your boundaries aren’t important or worthwhile.
Boundaries will look different for every person. Some people will need to set very clear boundaries with loved ones, while others will need to set boundaries for themselves. The key to enforcing boundaries is to surround yourself with people who will support your healthy lifestyle.
This will look different for everyone, as each person has their own support system. If the people you are surrounded by are not supportive of your healthy lifestyle, it may be time to set up some boundaries. These boundaries don’t have to last forever, they can be temporary until you feel more equipped to confront the issues. Some boundaries may need to be permanent for your safety and health. An LPC can help guide you through the complicated relationship dynamics that may come with setting up boundaries.
If you don’t feel like you have a positive support system nearby, you could reach out to your treatment center and inquire about alumni events. Treatment centers, like Sage Recovery, often pour a lot of resources into their alumni programs. They want to continue providing a healthy environment for their clients, as well as a built-in support system. Alumni events are a good way to connect with like-minded people who can truly understand your story and how far you’ve come. Moreover, healthy support systems may also be found through participating in group therapy meetings, joining wellness groups, or participating in family counseling.
Another important factor that can help you maintain good mental health through the holidays is to plan ahead. This includes planning for fun. It may be difficult to wrap your head around the holidays being enjoyable, especially if this year is going to be different than those in the past. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays in recovery.
If you’re struggling with finding things to do, you could check your city’s website or event center for local events. You could also look into traveling to a nearby national park for one of their special events. For example, the National Parks Service website has an event calendar full of things to do for the entire month. You could visit a park solo or grab a couple of friends and make a day of it!
In addition to planning ahead for fun, it’s equally important to plan ahead for any feelings or difficult emotions that might emerge. The holidays can be a difficult time for a myriad of reasons, including:
Just one of those things is enough to throw anyone for a loop. While you won’t always be able to control your feelings, remember to give yourself some flexibility. Maybe this looks like setting aside time to journal or attend counseling. Others may choose to curl up on the couch with some hot cocoa and sit quietly.
No matter what route you choose, keep in mind that it might be helpful to give yourself a backup plan. For example, if you had planned to go play in the snow but end up being sick that day, it’d be better to save snow for another day and take care of yourself today. That way, you can enjoy fully the snow when it’s time. Making time for rest is vital to any schedule, but even more so during the holidays.
Getting through the holidays can feel really intimidating and overwhelming, especially if it’s the first time on the healing journey. We get it. Here at Sage Recovery, we want to be your advocate and see you heal healthily. That’s why we offer customizable sessions, multiple counseling services, wellness groups, alumni events, and more. Whether you need outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, or residential, we can help. Our masters-level clinicians are experts in their fields and have been extensively trained to offer holistic, trauma-informed care. You’ll always be treated with dignity and respect here, no matter what you’re going through. When you’re ready to begin healing, reach out at (512) 306-1394.