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Recovery blog

Holidays and Special Occasions: Finding the Right Tools for the Job

By: Sarah Bateman, LCSW

Posted on December 04, 2017

Eating three balanced meals a day plus snacks can be hard enough to manage. Even for people doing well in their recovery, there are decisions, conflicting or negative thoughts, planning, scheduling and financial strains. And if every regular day has the potential for that much stress, it can be that much harder to manage when there is an additional change from the usual routine. So when holidays and special events come around, it is essential- even for those in a good place- to do some extra planning. It's important to have the right tools for a job, and it can be helpful to think of changes in routine as a new job, for which you may need to find some new tools.

First of all, it is important to try and figure out what is stressful about the change, and break it down into specific triggers. That way it can become less overwhelming and you can try and focus on problem-solving instead. Additionally, changes can be a great time to practice reframing your thoughts from negative to positive and practicing your ability to cope. Instead of telling yourself it's too much, you can't do it, or you're not good enough, say, "This feels like too much right now, so maybe I need to try something new."

Is it the food? Maybe you need some help planning for how to navigate a holiday meal or wedding buffet table. A dietician can help you make a plan for how holiday treats can fit in to your meal plan and meet your exchanges, or how to practice some flexibility and allow yourself to enjoy foods that you would not eat every day.

Is it the change in schedule? If so, you might need to focus on your planning and structuring or your ability to delegate. Some people struggle with too much free time and others have a hard time juggling extra responsibilities in their already busy days. This can be a great time to ask for help, examine your priorities or challenge your perfectionism, or try a new activity or hobby.

Is it the family? For many people having too much time with family over holidays or at special occasions can be difficult, and for many others, not having enough family or supports can be lonely and triggering. For some, it is helpful to remember that friends can be the family that they choose. For some it can be helpful to remember to use their voices when they are with their families. Again, breaking it down into what is specifically challenging for you can help you to find the tool that will be helpful.

Finally, it can be useful to try and get out of your own head and focus instead on what the celebration is about. Are you dreading a holiday meal or gathering? Try to think about the meaning of the holiday and why you celebrate it. If you've had bad associations with it in the past, try to identify what you'd like to get out of it this year and focus on ways you can do that. Are you nervous about going to a wedding? Try focusing instead on celebrating the people and how you can help make it a happy occasion for them.

When a regular day is overwhelming, a holiday, special occasion or change in routine can feel like too much. But with a little empathy for yourself first, you can work on breaking it down, trying to find positive tools to use for specific triggers and challenging negative thoughts into an opportunity to look for new tools, that may be useful for your new job.

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