The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year?

Culturally, the holiday season is regarded as the most wonderful time of the year. From endless Christmas movies with the same cheesy plotlines to social gatherings for work, family and friends, December’s activities are all centered around love, happiness and togetherness. But for many people, that’s not the reality of the holiday season. When you’re coping with a family member who has substance use disorder, recovering from grief, battling seasonal depression or experiencing other negative emotions, it’s not always easy to feel the holiday spirit.

If you feel more depressed, anxious and stressed around the holidays, you’re far from alone. There’s a social expectation to be jolly all month long, but it’s okay if you’re not in the spirit. The more important aspect to consider is how you cope with your emotions during the holidays. It’s less common for people to discuss feelings like sadness, loneliness and anger when the world is supposed to feel like a winter wonderland. But the team at our Greater Boston addiction treatment center wants you to know that there are ways to get through the holidays with your mental health intact.

How to Cope with Holiday Depression

There are a few things you can do to help mitigate sadness and anxiety around the holidays.

Open up about your depression to a trusted friend or family member.

Reach out to someone who is also struggling with holiday depression; empathy and commiseration can do wonders if you’re feeling isolated and alone.

Volunteer at an animal shelter or an organization that helps provide Christmas gifts and meals to local families.

Avoid triggering media like holiday music, movies and commercials. It’s okay to change the channel or radio station.

Allow yourself to set the boundaries to protect your mental health and take care of yourself. For example, attend holiday gatherings but don’t feel obligated to stay the entire time.

Focus on any little moments that bring joy.

Winter Weather Means Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Look around. Most people you see are experiencing seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Less sunlight and colder temperatures lead to feelings of isolation and melancholy, which can make symptoms of depression and drug addiction more prominent. Staying home and spending time alone becomes much more common for people dealing with SAD because it’s cold, dark and snowy outside. This cycle of depression and isolation can be difficult to break, and many people just wait for spring to arrive. SAD affects holiday depression and can increase how much you dread the season and want to disengage with loved ones and the world around you.

New Year, New Outlook
As the year ends, it’s often easier to look back on the past 12 months and see a long list of mistakes you’ve made or actions you’d like to change than reflect on the good memories. You might be feeling end-of-year remorse or regret as you listen to people you’re close to or follow on social media discuss their own successes or positive memories of the year. Many people approach the new year feeling like they’ve failed because they didn’t meet all the goals they set back in January.

Think of the new year as a new opportunity to reevaluate your goals, not a time to beat yourself up for unmet benchmarks. To start, think about what prevented you from achieving this year’s goals and use that insight to inform changes for the upcoming year. Maybe it makes sense to identify smaller steps you must take to reach overall goal, allowing you to create more feasible resolutions.

Loved Ones with Substance Use Disorder During the Holidays
Are you worried about attending or hosting holiday gatherings with loved ones who have substance use disorder? There may be an added layer of stress or concern around celebrations if there’s addiction in your family. It’s essential for you to set expectations and boundaries around drug and alcohol use before or during the events. Once you’ve clearly communicated these guidelines, keep in mind that you’re not responsible for their behavior and shouldn’t blame yourself for their actions.

While you can provide help and support for your loved ones dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, it’s not your fault if they don’t follow through on your requests. If necessary, discuss the expectations you’ve set with another relative or friend who can help you say “no” and stick to the boundaries when it becomes difficult.

The team at Woburn Addiction Treatment is here if you’d like to discuss our Intensive Outpatient Program or other drug treatment options for your loved ones as we move forward into a new year. From outpatient alcohol rehab programs to evening IOP near Boston, MA, there are many ways for you or your loved one to start down the road of recovery today.

Navigating the Holidays While In Recovery

Spending holidays with family and friends in early sobriety can be one of the most awkward and uncomfortable experiences to endure. The holiday season is oftentimes filled with laughter, wine, drinking games, sports, and family traditions. When someone is in recovery from substance use disorder, family and loved ones usually ask themselves the question of should we have alcohol in the house at dinner, can uncles and aunts come over if they like to indulge in wine and drinking games, will my loved one be “triggered” by the holiday because its a day where they are used to being able to drink with everyone else? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions and family should spend their holidays however they feel comfortable doing so while also supporting their loved ones.

Giving Back:
With Thanksgiving approaching, there are a number of different opportunities to practice selflessness and give back to those in need. Holidays are not about the gifts we receive or the sports teams on TV that day but more about being present with family and friends and reflecting on everything that we have to be grateful for in our lives. In order for someone in early recovery to stay grateful, they will need to show gratitude through some form of action. If we give back to people who are less fortunate than us it will help relieve the obsession to use drugs or alcohol. Our illness is deep rooted in selfish and self centered ways. I went through my life expecting things from everyone but not giving anything in return. As soon as I started to shift my thinking towards others and how I could be of service followed by putting in the action to do so, I began to have a complete psychic change in the way I viewed life. The feeling and urges of getting high started to diminish and I had finally done something for someone without expecting anything in return. Altruism is the key to my happiness.

Getting Involved:
How can someone get involved in giving back if they are in early recovery? The best part of selfless actions are that they are FREE of charge. Anyone can call their local church, police station, fire department or coalition to inquire about service opportunities at local food pantries, soup kitchens, hospitals, and homeless shelters. A simple kind gesture can go a long way in someone else’s life. Sobriety will become a byproduct of your selfless actions and you will soon feel true freedom from the bondage of self. Today my life has changed drastically as a result of doing the simple things. I am able to show up at holidays and enjoy the time spent with loved ones, be grateful for the life I have and the second chance that I received while helping to make someone else’s holiday season just a little bit easier for them.