• Adrienne Loker

Tips for a Sober Winter

Written by Matt Markowicz, MSW & Adrienne Loker, LCSW

We all get stressed around the holidays as we attempt to establish some form of stability and predictability: Who is coming this year? When are they leaving? Is it okay to talk about Jim's divorce? Is my mother still counting calories? Did anyone mop the floor yet?

Whether it's the anticipatory adrenaline of the approaching festivities, or the dopamine drop in the aftermath, we all digest some amount of tension. It’s well established that increased #stress leads to decreased activity in higher brain areas, as well as reversion to more habitual responses from the midbrain. In other words, we can sometimes act like emotional children instead of enlightened adults.

For people in #recovery, if this stress is not managed well, they are at increased risk for returning to old behaviors. Family members and loved ones are also at risk. #Relapse for family might look like: shutting down, feeling ready to explode, overfunctioning for otherwise functional people, or engaging in some other less-than ideal #coping behaviors.

It is for this reason that recovery or other important self-care activities are maintained or even increased during this season. It seems like just the right time to take a ‘break’ from recovery, but it is precisely the worst time to pause.

Here's a list of a few simple tricks to keep your recovery live and well:

  1. Maintain morning routines - this allows the reptilian part of your brain to breathe. The more stability you can embrace, the less likely this part of your brain is to respond to stimulation as a threat.

  2. Set plans to check in with members of your #support system throughout the day. This extra layer of insulation shields from old thinking errors that sometimes creep in to justify acting out. Remember that your support system is also probably looking for a break from the hustle and bustle, so calling them is more likely to help both of you now more than ever.

  3. Let your family know what your self-care plans are and how they can help you. Plans are more effective when the whole team is on board.

  4. Identify what you may need to do if stress (or other negative #emotions) become too high.

  5. Lastly, be sure to recap the day or debrief the next morning with someone who knows you well. This is a great time to notice the successes and unexpected joys. Putting to words our internal experience is paramount to integrating the positive lessons learned so that you can have an even more successful holiday season next year.

All of us at Seeking Depth to Recovery wish you a prosperous and joyful New Year!

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