2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and has had negative affects on all of our mental and physical health. Whether you are new to recovery, multiple years clean, or still suffering from addiction, the upcoming festive season can be a difficult one to navigate. Alcohol is everywhere at this time of year, and drinking is socially acceptable, or even encouraged. If you’re trying to remain clean and sober, there are more obstacles than usual and it’s understandably an anxious time. The holiday season does bring about excess, from too much food, excessive alcohol consumption, spending and financial strain, or difficult emotions amongst relations with others. Added to this is the widespread fear and uncertainty due to coronavirus.
The ongoing pandemic has only exacerbated people’s worries, creating economic uncertainty, widespread unemployment, increased substance misuse, and family dysfunction. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re worried about your drinking habits or concerned about where you are in your recovery. The good news is that despite the pandemic, treatment centres across the UK remain open and available throughout the Christmas period. There are also many online recovery resources to help you cope this year through a COVID-19 Christmas. Find out more about our comprehensive alcohol.
Loneliness at Christmas
As human beings, we all need to feel connected to others. It’s natural to feel lonely from time to time, such as after a relationship breakup or losing a loved one. If you’re feeling lonely, you really aren’t alone. Indeed, an estimated 9 million people in the UK are thought to be often or always lonely. Many people feel the effects of loneliness are heightened at this time of year. 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t helped things, with more people than usual feeling anxious, isolated and depressed. If you’re in recovery, now is the time to surround yourself with positive and supportive influences who can keep you and your sobriety on track.
Coping tips for Christmas
Here are some of our favourite tips on navigating the Christmas period, being good to yourself, and staying clean and sober:
1. Have a strategy in place
Christmas is a tricky season for us addicts and alcoholics to navigate. Having a strategy in place to protect your sobriety and prevent any potential relapse is a very useful tool. The month of December can provoke a whole host of emotions, from stress to loneliness to financial worries, and shine light on fraught relationships with friends and family. It can be a good idea to limit your time spent in stressful situations or with difficult people. Why not plan ahead, for example asking a loved one to accompany you to a social function where you are know there will be excessive alcohol available? If you plan in advance, you reduce your chances of being caught off-guard.
2. Be mindful
In recovery, remaining aware and mindful of yourself and your surroundings is a crucial factor in preventing relapse and. By being mindful of your surroundings, such as the social gatherings you attend and the people you spend time with, you can protect yourself and your sobriety. It is not unusual to become more worried about your drinking or drug use during the holiday season, especially given what has happened this year with COVID-19.
It’s important to understand your triggers for relapse and what you class as high-risk situations that pose a threat to your recovery. Many people turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with stress. Life doesn’t stop being stressful just because you get clean and sober, so when things start to feel too much, it’s about finding ways to decompress, meditate, talk to someone, or distract yourself.
3. Radical self care
You can boost your mental health by taking some time out just for yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in maintaining relationships with others: whether it’s your children, work relationships, family, or close friends. Before you know it, your diary is full of commitments and activities that involve other people, and you realise you have no time alone. There are many benefits to taking some time out of your schedule, where there is no pressure to be ‘productive’. Where you can just be. It might mean carving some time out, in advance, just for you. Why not snuggle up on the sofa and watch a cosy film, make a mug of hot chocolate, or read your favourite book or magazine. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive, or time consuming, but even just 30 minutes of time for yourself is so important and trust us, you will reap the rewards!
4. Reach out to others
Loneliness is a dreadful thing, and it can be especially powerful at Christmas. Many of us won’t be able to spend time with our loved ones as we would like this Christmas. The pandemic, social restrictions, and risks of transmission mean loneliness will be more prevalent than usual at this time of year. Others simply don’t have a close-knit family unit to celebrate with, or friends and loved ones living nearby. Or maybe you’re surrounded by a room full of people, but still feel alone. Whatever you’re facing, everything is easier when you reach out for help from others.
Those of us in recovery, or struggling with addiction, face a particular threat from isolation and loneliness: it’s a common trigger for relapse. It’s so important to connect with your support network, who can provide comfort, kindness and human connection. You may not be able to meet up in-person, but thanks to advances in technology, there are so many ways to connect. You could use a social media platform such as Facebook or Instagram, or do a video call on Facetime or Zoom. Even just a regular telephone call can make you feel less alone and remind you there are people who care.
5. 12 step meetings
For addicts and alcoholics, Christmas is a time to be especially vigilant with a recovery programme. By structuring your time with regular meeting attendance, your risks of relapse are reduced and you are bound to feel better by connecting to those who have similar experiences and feelings to yours. Why not research what’s on in your local area? All of the 12-step fellowships will provide information about both online and in-person meetings on their websites. From Alcoholics Anonymous to Cocaine Anonymous to Narcotics Anonymous.
The benefits of exercise and physical movement have long been known, and it remains one of our top tips for self-care. You will always feel better after moving your body and spending time in nature and the outdoors: anything from a brisk walk in the park, to a run along the river, a game of tennis or football with friends, or a relaxing yoga class. Exercise connects you to your body, and is scientifically proven to release feel-good endorphins that provide a natural, mood-enhancing high. Yes it can be difficult to muster the energy to go outside when it’s winter, and the dark and cold is unappealing, but getting some natural light during the day really can improve mood. Take some time out of the festivities to move and connect with your body and you’re guaranteed to feel the benefits.
7. Sleep hygiene
Sleep is essential for our mental health. The benefits of getting a good night’s sleep are numerous; it reduces stress and anxiety levels, improves mood and productivity, can aid weight-loss and reduce your risk of physical health problems such as stroke or heart disease.
8. Power of positivity
As addicts and alcoholics, many of us are hard-wired to look at the negatives in life. It is important for us to challenge our automatic negative thinking, by practicing gratitude and focussing on what we do have in our lives and on what is going right. Try writing down all the positives that have come from this year, no matter how small, as well as all the things you are grateful for in life. These might be your recent achievements, challenges you’ve overcome, people you’ve helped, or relationships you have developed.
We're here to help
If you’re worried about coping with Christmas, staying sober, or are looking to get into recovery, we want you to know you’re not alone. The Providence Projects is here to help anyone struggling with a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction. Perhaps you’re concerned about a loved one or friend, and are seeking advice and guidance. Give us a call today on 0800 955 0945, to speak to one of our team of counsellors and addiction experts. We can talk you through your options and explore the bespoke rehab and detox programmes we can offer. Remember, addiction is a treatable illness. We believe anyone can recover, with the right attitude, support and professional help.