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Posted by Ric Staloch, recovery specialist
Can you believe the holidays are here already? It doesn't seem that long ago that I was writing on this same topic. For those of us in recovery, it is important to know that there is a direct link between stress and relapse. Knowing that, we can understand the importance of managing our stress. And for many, the holidays can come with a lot of stress.
So, whether it’s getting together with family you have not seen in a while, dealing with the increased traffic and shopping crowds, or the financial expectations the holidays bring, we need to keep our stress levels down. We need to have a plan. Here are a few tips that will help you come up with your personal plan to enjoy the holiday season.
How do you want to celebrate the holidays? What makes the holiday important to you? Are there events and things that you feel are well worth your time and energy? Prioritize the way you want to celebrate and what you want to accomplish. By doing so, you may also realize there are things, events and the preparation that you can eliminate. It’s okay to say a polite “no thank you.”
Tell yourself this is a new year and understand that some of your old memories are going to be impossible to recreate. Some of the memories that are not so good are in the past. They can’t be changed but also don’t have to be repeated or replayed in our heads. This year you are going to create this year’s memories, and a sober you will create better memories. Keep it simple and don’t forget about service work.
Beware of the stresses of shopping. Worrying about money and fighting the shopping crowds can zap all the fun out of the holiday season. People who focus on gifts generally feel less holiday cheer than those who spend time with close friends and family. The greatest gifts you have are your time and talents.
That brings to mind my Grandpa Murray and Grandma Doris. Every year my seven siblings and I would eagerly wait for them to come down from the Twin Cities to celebrate Christmas with us.
Their car would always be packed with gifts to the point there was hardly room for them in the car. Although I received many wonderful gifts from them, what I remember most is the time they would spend with us. Learning how to trap shoot and hunting with my grandfather. Riding in the car with him and how he could create an adventure just taking me to town and picking up groceries for some special meal he would fix us.
Stories my grandmother would tell me about when she was young and when my mom was little. She always made me feel cared for and special. It was the little things she did and the time she made for me that let me know I was special to her and that I was loved. Those are things money can’t buy.
Be creative in your gift giving. Make certificates for a meal you prepare for them or a manicure you provide. Create a family quiz for all to take. Even doing a chore they dislike can put a smile on someone’s face. Making time for those special people in your life will help you feel good long after the holidays have passed and create wonderful memories for them. It’s your presence not the presents that matter most.
Don’t forget the basics. Be honest, be grateful, eat healthy and get enough sleep. Don’t isolate yourself. Get busy living.
Remember what is really important to you. Utilize your support systems, meetings, meditations, your higher power, family and sober peers. Stay committed to your goal of sobriety, and be aware how your life is getting better.
With that said, I wish you all a happy holiday and a wonder-filled New Year.