8 Ways to make the holiday emotionally safe


By David Joel Miller

Plan now to safeguard yourself in recovery.

Holiday Safety

Holiday Safety.
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Momoc HDR)

The holidays can be stressful times. Recovery, from anxiety, trauma, alcohol or drugs is a precious thing and it takes a lot of work to reach for a recovered life. Keep your recovery and yourself safe this Holiday season by using these tips.

It is easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” and the “musts” and forget to look for the things that will be most helpful to you and your recovery.

Here are some helpful hints for getting through this time of year with your recovery unscathed.

1. Practice saying NO!

There can be a lot of pressure to do and say things that are not good for you. Work on setting healthy boundaries. Tell people no if they try to get you to do things that may be stressful and bad for your recovery.

Learn to tell yourself no also. There is always the temptation to overdo, run about too much, visit too many places and try to do too much to make this a perfect holiday. Nothing will make the holidays perfect if your recovery unravels.

2. Too much of a Good thing is a bad thing.

Even happy times can be stressful. This is especially true if you are recovering from depression, anxiety or substance abuse. Do not let the good times wear you out and leave you vulnerable to relapse into your particular issue.

Happiness is not a sprint to get to the cookie jar first. The happy life is a long journey of relaxed enjoyment. Trying to put too much pleasure on your plate one day may leave you unable to do the things that might make you happy the next and beyond.

3. Avoid people and places that would undermine your recovery.

Some family is not healthy. Just because they are relatives does not mean you owe it to them to put yourself at risk. Avoid family members who may undermine your mental health. Take a supportive person with you if you will encounter negative people and be prepared to cut your visit short if the stress gets to you or you begin to be overtired.

4. Take exceptional care of yourself.

Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep one night can set up the downward spiral that will result in being too emotional wrung out to get up the next day. Overtired can lead to using substances to try to keep going. Cut your sleep short and you are setting yourself up for a relapse.

Drink plenty of water. This reduces the effects of other unhealthy exposures. Being very thirsty sets problem drinkers up to drink alcohol and places people with mental illnesses at risk to drink more than they planned.

Eat healthy food. Avoid excess sugar and take in those calories in moderation. It is a whole lot easier to pass up a few unhealthy treats than it will be to get back in shape in the New Year.

5. Make getting better job one.

Nothing is more important than your recovery. If you have started practices that are furthering your recovery do not put them aside over the holiday season.

Go to the gym, do your journaling, call supportive people. Keep up on your spiritual practice. Prayer and meditation are not tools that should be kept in the drawer this time of year. If you practice mindfulness and meditation make this a do first action.

6. Go for the safe choice first.

Avoid doing things that you “might” be able to handle. Avoid things that are risky and go always for the safe choice first.

Alcoholics should not drop by the bar just to say hi. Do not call people you know will be upsetting.

7. Reach out for help.

Call your support system. If you are a member of a particular fellowship make sure meetings are on your to-do list. Attend religious services if you find this supportive of your recovery.

Every recovering person needs a list of people who are supportive. Make those calls to other recovering people. Sometimes you will find that they needed to hear from you even more than you need to talk with them.

8. Do not push yourself.

Be kind and gentle with yourself. Do not over do. Do not pile more and more on your plate and expect to get through the holiday season with your recovery intact.

Taking good care of you is not being selfish. Be the kind of friend you need. Be your own best friend.

Which of these things do you plan to do? What other techniques have you found that help keeps you safe and in recovery over the holidays?

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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