Mental Health and Addictions: No Holiday Breaks

Three days until Christmas and next week is the beginning of Kwanzaa, we have already finished with Hanukkah and amidst all these holiday gatherings and fun, it is important to remember that mental health, addictions, illness, chronic pain, etc., don’t take a holiday. The notion that mental health problems, health issues and addictions take a pause or get packed away neatly on a shelf during the holidays is a myth that needs addressing. So let’s explore why these issues persist during the festive season as well as offer support and coping strategies for you to use or tryout.

  1. Heightened Expectations and Stress: The holidays often come with high expectations of happiness and social interaction, which can be overwhelming for those dealing with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. It can also be physically painful or exhausting for those with physical health issues or a temptation for those dealing with addiction issues.
  2. Disruption of Routine: Many people with mental health issues and addictions rely on a structured routine to manage their conditions. The holidays can disrupt this routine, leading to increased stress and potential relapse for those in recovery from substance abuse.
  3. Family Dynamics and Triggers: Family gatherings, while joyous for many, can be a source of stress and triggers for individuals with mental health and addiction issues. Past traumas, family conflicts, or being around others who may not understand their struggles can be triggering.
  4. Substance Use and Temptation: The prevalence of alcohol and sometimes other substances at holiday events can be particularly challenging for those in recovery from addiction. The temptation and social pressure to partake can be intense.
  5. Coping with Loss and Grief: For those who have lost loved ones, the holidays can be a poignant reminder of their absence, intensifying feelings of grief and sadness.
  6. Financial Stress: The financial burden of the holidays can also contribute to stress and anxiety, particularly for those already struggling with mental health issues.

Coping Strategies:

  • Seek Support: It’s important to maintain communication with therapists, support groups, or trusted friends and family members.
  • Set Boundaries: Know your limits and don’t be afraid to say no to events or situations that feel overwhelming.
  • Maintain a Routine: Try to keep to your regular routine as much as possible, including sleep, exercise, and healthy eating.
  • Practice Mindfulness and Self-Care: Engage in activities that bring you peace and relaxation, like reading, yoga, or meditation.
  • Plan Ahead: Anticipate potential triggers and plan how to handle them. Having a strategy can provide a sense of control and ease anxiety.
  • Focus on What You Enjoy: Embrace the aspects of the holiday season that you enjoy and avoid those that cause stress.

Remember, it’s okay to prioritize your mental health and sobriety during the holidays. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The holidays can be tough, but with the right strategies and support, you can navigate them in a way that’s healthy and fulfilling for you. Remember, your wellbeing is important every day of the year.

Happy Holidays,

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Happy Holidays everyone!