For many people, winter holidays are stressful, and holidays during a pandemic can be even more stressful. For individuals who are in recovery from alcohol and other drugs, or who are challenged by mental illness, it can all seem overwhelming.
“It’s important to have a plan to address stress and monitor your mental health and substance abuse symptoms,” says Andrew Mendonsa, clinical psychologist and a manager in Sacramento County Behavioral Health Services. “Remember, put your own sobriety, recovery and mental and physical well-being first.”
While some stress may be unavoidable, here are some tips that everyone can use to maintain positive mental health during the holidays.
Know Your Triggers. For those early in recovery and sobriety, this means not being around alcohol or other drugs or being around places or people where or with whom you used to use or drink.
For those with mental health issues, be aware of how stress can impact your diagnosis. Are crowds activating for you? Are you hiding your authentic self? If doing something means days and weeks of your life ruined, don’t do it. Set boundaries and stick to them.
Make Self-Care a Priority. Know your limits and know yourself. If you are not in the right headspace to be around family and friends, kindly excuse yourself. Those that value you the most will understand.
Exercise or Meditate. Physical activity and meditation can boost your mood in both the long and short term. Stress shows up in your body as well as your mind so give both something else to do.
Address Loneliness. Many people feel lonely around the holidays. It’s helpful to make an effort to call or video chat someone who is important to you. Remember to check in with others through email, text and social media.
Eat and Drink Healthfully. Eat healthy but allow yourself to splurge a little. And be sure to stay hydrated.
Above all, Mendonsa recommends that you reflect on what matters most to your happiness.
“Promoting an attitude of gratitude makes all the difference,” Mendonsa says. “Practice generosity and gratitude. Forgive and let go if someone says or does something accidentally. Forgive yourself, too.”
Sacramento County Behavioral Health Services
is available to help during the holidays. If you need substance abuse help, please call (916) 874-9754 and for mental health help please call (916) 875-1055. You can also reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at (800) 273-TALK.