The holidays can be a stressful time. Dealing with crowds at malls, attending back-to-back holiday parties and spending time with family members are just a few potential triggers that occur during this season. Having time off from work or school can strip an individual in recovery from structure and daily routines, leaving an opportunity for mental health or substance abuse issues to resurface. Instead of focusing on the stressors associated with the holidays, enjoying this time off and practicing self-care can improve overall mental health.
Time off to relax is generally good for the soul. However, it is often a rare commodity in the United States. As Timi Gustafson, a registered dietician, notes, “Two-hour lunches, midday siestas, weeks of paid vacations may be cherished customs elsewhere, but not here. We work longer hours with fewer breaks than almost any other developed nation.” Gustafson questions whether this work ethic and lifestyle is sustainable when breaks from everyday stress have been found to improve both physical and mental health. A 2013 study funded by U.K. non-profit health organization Nuffield Health found that taking vacations can increase an individual’s ability to handle stress, improve sleep and lower blood pressure.
Despite health benefits for the general population, deviations from normal day-to-day activities can be triggering for those in recovery. Planning ahead during the holidays is encouraged to ensure that an individual does not have too much downtime and, alternatively, is not overbooked. Either extreme can lead to the resurfacing of disordered behaviors, including substance abuse.
Practicing self-care is critical during the holidays, particularly for those in recovery. This can take many forms, including pampering, exercising or journaling. Festive activities can play a role in self-care, as well. For instance, an individual who loves baking might find it comforting to spend a night in baking cookies. Someone with a penchant for arts and crafts might prefer watching holiday movies while crafting. Taking time away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays can be a game-changer when it comes to maintaining mental health and sobriety this season.
The holidays can be particularly stressful for individuals in recovery, or those who are coping with untreated mental health issues. If you or a loved one is facing a mental health disorder or substance abuse issue this holiday season, help is available. Call the Sovereign Health Group today on our 24/7 helpline to speak with a professional about your treatment options.
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Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health writer