The holiday season has arrived and for most us, our stress levels are rising. Work and family events, school programs, shopping, cooking, out-of-town visitors and traffic all conspire to make the holiday season a challenging time of year.
For some of us, all this added stress puts us at greater risk to circum to our urges to over indulge. Some may chose drinking to numb out and turn off our brain’s constant chatter and worry. We may also fall into other old habits such as decreased sleep, grabbing the quick meal vs. cooking a healthy meal, returning to or increasing smoking or other addictive behaviors such as excessive gambling, overeating or overspending. It may sound like a good solution at the time, but if we don’t remain present and alert in our lives, we begin to make poor decisions or make no decisions at all. Beware: you may have worked all year to change old habits and replace them with healthy supportive behaviors only to compromise months of effort for fleeting relief.
Here is a list of eight things that can help you stay on track through the coming holidays.
1. Get seven to eight hours of sleep. This is your foundation for dealing with all the world has to throw at you. When we get sufficient sleep, we have more energy, think clearly, are less emotional and more productive.
2. Start or maintain healthy eating habits, and avoid overeating. Feeding your brain and body a healthy diet prevents fatigue and supports focus and concentration. High carb, sugar and caffeine diets can cause anxiety and sluggishness.
3. Don’t skip exercise because it provides great stress relief, increases energy levels and helps clear thinking. Remember, those who exercise regularly require less sleep.
4. Avoid heavy drinking. There are simply too many consequences like DUI’s, embarrassing behaviors and loss of time. If you are self medicating with alcohol, now may be a good time to ask for help to deal directly with the emotional stressors and other life issues you may have been avoiding.
5. Learn to say “No,” if this is hard for you to say, try “Maybe,” “Let me check” or “I’ll get back to you.” You’ll find your thoughtful decline easier to express and more easily accepted.
6. Use your support system. Tell someone you trust your concerns, fears and challenges. Just talking about it can be a relief. It may also be helpful to seek professional help. Remember to include your doctor, therapist and your sponsor as a part of this team.
7. Delegate some responsibilities. Focus more on the task getting done, than who does it.
8. Try this exercise: Make a list of activities and expectations for the holidays; review the list and divide it into “I Want to do,” “Should/Must do” and “Others expect this of me;” decide what is most important and cut some activities; check with others regarding expectations, you may find the expectation died long before the tradition did.
Gigi Veasey is a licensed clinical social worker, licensed independent substance abuse counselor and executive director of Alcohol Recovery Solutions, Inc. and GNV Counseling Services in Ahwatukee Foothills.