Steps to Personal Peace During Holidays
| Holiday Expectations …
To say that holidays bring unrealistic expectations is the understatement of the century. While most are not told directly that each ‘holiday’ moment needs to be as perfect as a holiday special – the pressure is there for everyone.
The holiday season actually starts just before Halloween (!) when retail stores put their holiday decoration aisles in place. Well before Thanksgiving, malls are decorated with visions of Christmas.
By the time December arrives – whether we realize it or not – we are primed for the ‘perfect holiday’ illusion for another year. In this shared cultural illusion – incredibly dysfunctional families are peacefully reconciled with all family members, with all long-standing problems resolved. Children and significant others excitedly receive ‘perfect’ (and perfectly well-received) expensively life-changing presents. And massive amounts of alcohol can be consumed with good cheer and with no ill effects.
It’s all magical – it the holidays!
And Then There’s Reality
While some dysfunctional families can put on a ‘good face’ for a few hours – after that, the masks drops and the habitual dysfunction begins. Again. Just when it seemed that this year would be different.
Other families are so dysfunctional (and/or the triggers produced too fresh) – that family members in this situation ‘dis-invite’ themselves from attending holiday functions. And from participating in the inevitable manipulative and argumentative interactions.
And there there are those recovering from addictions that are no longer invited to holiday family gatherings. In some cases, this is only a continuation of their life-long role as family scapegoat. The feelings produced are by this situation are – difficult.
May Peace Be Yours This Holiday Season!
December is a month of change and celebration. This month affords everyone the opportunity to quietly reflect within to assess where one is in their life.
This is the month of the Winter Solstice; and the month of holiday celebrations for many faiths and traditions. It’s an ideal time to reflect and seek peace.
Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired – Negative Emotion Triggers
Any negative emotion can lead to relapse. In the course of each day, those in addition recovery mindfully avoid these triggers.
During holiday pressures with accompanying high levels of stress – skillfully handling negative emotions is extremely difficult. The holiday season is the Iron Man marathon of maintaining emotional balance.
The winter holidays demand great patience, calmness, inner peace, wisdom and compassion. For those of us who are not saints – let’s look at how to stay sober (and mostly calm) during the holidays.
Be Aware of HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired
Be aware of your feelings! Cravings occur when experiencing negative feelings. Notice what is happening in your physical and emotional being. If feeling hungry, angry, lonely or exhausted – take positive action. Get plenty of rest, watch your nutrition, get exercise. And at all times – maintain mindfulness.
Holiday Sanity and Sobriety
Before the end of Daylight Savings Time, the holiday commercials were annoyingly – though cheerfully – reminding us that the best meals, the best gifts, and the best of times were ours to be had. But only if we acted quickly and got our acts together in time for the Black Friday rush.
We get pulled into the fantasy: Holiday magic can happen if we scramble to do all things – and be all things – to all too many people. The grief and sadness that can accumulate on a person’s emotional platter can be significant.
Psychology Today suggests that if you are suffering this holiday season – due to grief, personal struggles, or relationship failings – here are a few suggestions for helping you cope with any grief or sadness you may be experiencing:
Eight Steps to Personal Peace and Sobriety During Holidays
- Do not completely isolate yourself from other people.
- Allow yourself space to acknowledge any losses you’re processing and any pain these losses have produced. A word to the wise: Do not let yourself use loss or grief as excuses to escape through alcohol or other addictive substances.
- If a particular holiday ritual is just too painful to enact this year, accept that your limits and forgive yourself.
- Create a special new holiday ritual that honors your self-awareness and the present moment.
- Light a special candle and offer a silent or spoken tribute to your Strengths and the Qualities you possess that will help you weather this period.
- If you feel that you “need” to get a shot of holiday spirit, engage in an activity that brought you pleasure in earlier years. When you were a child or young adult – did you enjoy walking, or reading, see movies; simple activities that brings pleasure. If your first attempt fails, try something else. Don’t judge yourself – just accept yourself.
- Fact: It is truly always darkest before the dawn. But once the first day of winter arrives, the days begin lengthening as nights begin to shorten. Your discontent may wax and wane, but there is a natural rhythm to the phases of the moon and in life. Spring is coming.
- Be aware of and honor your feelings. At the same time, try not to become trapped in negative emotions. Negative emotions emotions close us to the possibility of experiencing simple and spontaneous moments of hope or joy.
Holiday Negative Emotions
Everyone must cope with the challenges of maintaining a positive attitude during the holiday season. For those recovering from addiction, emotional balance is especially critical.
Holiday Negative Emotion Triggers
- Family pressures
- Financial stress
- Relationship stress
- Parties that include alcohol and drugs
- Colder weather; rain, snow, wind, etc. SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, or loneliness. Heightened feelings of anxiety and depression during the holiday season can sometimes seem overwhelming. Take positive actions.
Mindfulness – Key to Maintaining Emotional Balance and Inner Peace
Simply stated, mindfulness training begins with being aware of what’s going on in the present moment. And by being aware of and having more control of thoughts and actions. Mindfulness enables awareness of habitual reactions and habitual emotions. Having awareness allows us to avoid emotional potholes.
At Arrowhead Lodge Recovery, we discovered that practicing mindfulness actually prevents relapse and helps one stay in recovery. We also learned that mindfulness literally helps heal the brain heal from the destruction caused by substance addiction.
Some of the benefits of mindfulness include: Calm awareness, ability to change one’s thinking patterns, improved sleep, tranquility, increased interpersonal skills, better concentration, stress reduction, reduction in anxiety symptoms, relapse prevention and better coping skills.
For more information on the benefits of mindfulness in addiction recovery, see:
Harvard MRI Study Evidence of Meditation’s Cognitive Benefits
How Addiction Hijacks the Brain and Mindfulness Restores Sobriety
Spiritual Experiences Activate Brain Reward Systems
Mindfulness in Addiction Treatment
New Study: Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Pain
Mindfulness Meditation – The 10th Step
Spring is Coming: Light in the Darkness
Winter may bring the bitterest weather, the deepest hibernation of life, and leafless, barren trees may stand stark against the winter sky.
When the first day of winter arrives (Dec 21, 2016), the days begin lengthening as nights begin to shorten. Personal moods and discontent wax and wane; there seems to be a natural rhythm to the phases of the moon and in life.
Spring is coming.
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Arrowhead Lodge Recovery Rehab Program: Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual
Arrowhead Lodge Recovery is a gender-specific addiction treatment center for men over 30; located in Prescott, AZ.
We treat addiction in the whole person: cognitive, physical and spiritual. We use mindfulness and meditation as tools to assist in addiction recovery. Mindfulness and meditation are also used to help clients deal with chronic pain.
Each of our clients receives individual therapy and counseling; as well as group therapy and counseling. We use a multi-disciplinary addiction treatment approach to treat the whole person, implemented by licensed professionals.
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