Holiday Stress

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year--Or Is It?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year

There’ll be much mistletoeing

And hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

This upbeat holiday song, first performed by Andy Williams in 1963, conjures up images of happy couples and families gathered together to celebrate. But for some people and for many reasons, the holidays can be a very difficult time. If you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious during the holidays, you aren’t alone.

The Trappings of the Holidays

The holidays are filled with activity. We shop for presents, we wrap them, and we ship them, hoping that we have found the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We send cards and letters to friends and family near and far.  We decorate our homes, we bake, we go to parties and concerts, and we travel to be with our families. We cook elaborate holiday meals. All of this activity can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. This activity gets dropped on top of our normal lives and can cause stress and anxiety. All of this activity costs money as well. If you have already been struggling with money issues, the added costs associated with the holidays can add to your stress level. The prospect of the holidays may fill you with anxiety as you try to stretch your budget to include gifts for loved ones. If you have children you may feel guilty and sad at the prospect of not being able to get your children everything on their list to Santa.

Changes this Year Because of COVID-19

COVID-19 will bring changes to the holidays this year. Most of the usual holiday performances have been canceled or reconfigured to be presented virtually. Due to health considerations, you may not be able to travel to be with family this holiday season, or it might not be safe to see your grandparents. Your family may decide to hold a smaller event this year, perhaps limited to people in the local area, and connect with other family and friends virtually. Whatever your family decides, it is important to realize that the holiday may look and feel different this year and to acknowledge and process the emotions that you may have surrounding the changes to holiday traditions.

Relationships and Family Issues

During the holidays, we are encouraged to spend time with loved ones--friends, partners, and family. If you are not in a relationship, the holidays can feel especially lonely as the media bombards us with images of happy couples at festive gatherings. If you are divorced with children, holidays can be logistically complicated as children are shuttled from gathering to gathering. Any issues you may have with your family can bubble up to the surface. If you are not able to be with your family, you may feel a sense of loss and loneliness. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you may feel the loss acutely during the holidays. “Firsts” are difficult--the first Christmas, New Year’s, birthday--after the death of a loved one. Even if the death occurred a number of years ago, you may find that you remember the loss more at a time when there is so much emphasis on family and relationships.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues

If you struggle with depression or other mental health issues or have issues with substance abuse, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time. The additional demands placed on our time and resources lead to stress, which in turn can cause feelings of anxiety and sadness which can exacerbate mental health issues. Also, if you are a person who tends to use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions, you may find yourself drinking or using more. If you have chosen a sober lifestyle, the stress of the holidays, and the prevalence of alcohol at holiday events may make it more challenging to remain sober.

Tips to Cope With the Holidays

Although the holidays can be difficult, here are some tips and techniques that can make the holidays more manageable.

  • Say no to some invitations. You don’t have to go to every event you are invited to.
  • Make time for self-care.
  • Make sure that you are eating well and exercising regularly.
  • Set a budget. If you are part of a large extended family, suggest that gift-giving be limited to children or draw names for a gift exchange. Or follow the example of the British royal family and exchange gag gifts!
  • Do something for someone else. Volunteer with an organization, help a neighbor or do something kind for a stranger. You will feel better.
  • Most importantly, acknowledge your feelings. Talk to someone who will listen without judgment or write in a journal. Find a safe outlet for your emotions, rather than bottling them up inside.

If at any time during the holiday season your feelings seem unmanageable, remember that it’s okay to ask for help. 

At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that the holidays can be a difficult time for people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. We have programs that can help those who are struggling with mental health challenges and addiction to drugs or alcohol. We are a licensed co-occurring treatment center, which means that we offer treatment for the mental health issues that very often are at the root of addictive behaviors. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore, rooted in the 12-Step philosophy, and offer many alternative therapies to complement the more traditional talk therapy. Alternative therapies we offer include sound healing, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, reiki, art, and music therapy, horticultural therapy, and equine therapy. We offer each client a customized treatment plan based on their needs, drawing from these therapeutic treatment modalities. If you are struggling with an addiction and are ready to begin your recovery journey, call us at (833) 801-5483.



Is It Safe to Go to Rehab During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

If you or someone you know is contemplating treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, you may be wondering if it’s safe to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. The answer is yes, treatment facilities are taking numerous precautions to ensure the safety of their patients and staff members. In fact, it may be a really good time to seek treatment.

A Booming Business

According to experts, more people are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the stresses brought about by COVID-19. People are planning quarantine cocktail parties and Zoom Happy  Hours. Friends have raised a glass to each other via FaceTime. According to a piece that ran on Morning Edition on National Public Radio (NPR) on September 11, 2020, alcohol sales have been an economic bright spot during the pandemic. Alcohol sales outside of bars and restaurants are up 24 percent over this time last year, and restaurants have been allowed to sell alcohol with take-out food orders. Drizly, an app-based alcohol home delivery service, raised $50 million in August to expand its operations, and a company spokesperson said that sales are up 350 percent over this time last year.

This boom in alcohol sales worries Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, who is a researcher with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Leggio says that because alcohol is more socially acceptable than other drugs, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol seems less risky to people than street drugs (although the use of opioids, meth, and cocaine has also increased). Another point of concern is that, according to Leggio, alcohol-related illnesses kill 88,000 Americans per year, which is more than all drug overdoses combined for the same time period. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol have an increased risk of respiratory infections and an increased risk of complications from those infections. Additionally, there is concern that after the pandemic ends, that pattern of excess drinking may continue.

What Precautions Are Treatment Facilities Taking?

Drug and alcohol treatment centers are considered essential services and so have not been required to shut down during the pandemic. In fact, as more people turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism during the pandemic, treatment centers are more needed than ever as people struggle with addiction and other mental health issues.

At many treatment facilities, health precautions begin before a patient is even admitted. Perspective clients are screened for risk factors, frequently through a questionnaire that asks if they have traveled outside the United States recently; if they have passed through an airport; if they have had a cough, fever, or shortness of breath in the past seven days; if they have experienced a loss of taste or smell; and if they have been in contact with anyone who is or may be COVID-19 positive. Many treatment centers check the temperature with a forehead thermometer of anyone entering the facility. If their temperature is higher than 100.4 degrees, they will not be allowed to enter. 

Disinfectant wipes, masks, and gloves are available for everyone in the facilities, staff, and patients alike. Cleaning and disinfecting routines have been heightened, with high-touch surfaces being disinfected frequently throughout the day. Masks must be worn when in common areas. Social distancing is enforced, and handshakes, hugs, and the like are not allowed. Many facilities are prohibiting visitors and visits off-site have been scaled back.

Treatment facilities have also developed protocols to follow if a patient should become ill with COVID-19 while in treatment. Clients in an out-patient program would need to return home and participate in their various therapies via Telehealth services or a Zoom meeting or some other remote access modality. They would be required to contact their primary care physician or go to urgent care. They would need to be free of a fever for 72 hours and be cleared by their doctor before returning to the program. Clients in a residential program who become ill with COVID-19 may be quarantined in their residence, sent home and offered Telehealth services, or taken to a local hospital if their medical situation warrants that level of care.

As in many other organizations, many staff members at treatment centers can work remotely and are doing so. Whenever possible, group and individual therapy sessions are being conducted through telemedicine. If groups meet in person, social distancing guidelines are being observed. Some treatment centers that offer residential care are limiting off-site visits for clients to medical appointments.

Treatment Facilities May Offer More Precautions from COVID-19 than “Civilian” Life

Some experts feel that, for a person addicted to drugs or alcohol, a treatment facility may provide more protection from COVID-19 than they would have in their day-to-day life because they will be in a controlled environment. People struggling with addiction won’t be abusing drugs or alcohol and engaging in risky behaviors that frequently coincide with substance abuse. If you are or someone you love is considering entering a treatment program, don’t let COVID-19 deter you.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more people are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the stress as the world grapples with this illness. Alcohol sales, excluding bars and restaurants, are up 24% when compared with the same time period in the previous year. Some experts worry that people are drinking to excess to ease the stress and boredom from the pandemic. While not all of this excess will result in addiction, some will. There is concern that when the pandemic ends, the excessive alcohol consumption will continue. At the same time, there is concern about whether or not it is safe to enter a treatment program during the pandemic. Rest assured that treatment facilities like Enlightened Solutions, located on the New Jersey shore, are monitoring the pandemic closely and taking precautions to safeguard the health of clients, staff members, families, and the greater community. If you or a loved one is concerned about drug or alcohol use, call (833) 801-5483.


staying sober during quarantine

4 Tips for Staying Sober Under Quarantine

In hopes of containing the spread of covid-19, or the coronavirus, state and federal governments are asking people to stay home and avoid public gatherings. Some state and local governments have even closed restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and other public-serving businesses to help stop the spread of the virus. This can be a trying time for anyone in recovery for a number of reasons. First, it suggests that attending 12-Step meetings is probably not a good idea, especially for people over 65 and people who have frequent contact with anyone over 65. 


The virus has also closed many church services, which are an important part of many people’s recovery plans, as are other spiritual gatherings like group meditation and yoga classes. It’s also a good idea to stay away from the gym. Staff and other members frequently wipe down seats and benches but rarely disinfect bars. It can also be hard to keep appropriate distance from people who are breathing hard and grunting. In other words, some major components of most recovery plans such as fellowship and exercise will have to be modified in the coming weeks or months. Here are some tips for staying on track with your recovery during quarantine.


Connect Virtually

The good news is that we have more ways of communicating over long distances than we have at any other time in history. In fact, until a few weeks ago, one of the problems we seemed to hear the most about was that we’re all so socially alienated and we rely too much on social media and texting to stay in touch with friends and family. We’ve lost the ability to connect in person and hold a real conversation. Under the current circumstances, that would seem to be a feature rather than a bug. 


However, the fact remains that real-life connection is important for emotional health, and that’s doubly true for anyone recovering from addiction. So what are you to do if you can’t go to meetings? Ideally, your group will have already discussed the possibility of quarantine and have formed a backup plan, such as an online forum. One thing to consider is that it’s very hard to remain anonymous on online platforms like Facebook or Google Hangouts. However, AA does offer virtual meetings via Zoom and other mutual aid programs such as SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and LifeRing also have a large online presence, so you might take this opportunity to give those a try if you’re not already familiar with them. 


There are also a number of online communities you might stay in touch with. If you’re part of a sober Facebook group, that might be a good resource--although, again, probably not anonymous. There are several good addiction subreddits that offer both more anonymity and a larger community. These generally have a positive atmosphere and people respond quickly. 


Exercise at Home

Staying active is an important part of every recovery plan. Being quarantined at home is like some strange combination of a holiday and a sick day and you might feel tempted to just sit on the couch watching TV all-day. If anything, exercise is even more important now, since it keeps your immune system strong and helps you cope with the stress of uncertainty. 


At the moment, it’s generally considered safe to bike, walk, or run outdoors, assuming there aren’t many people around. There is less risk of contagion in open areas. Just don’t stop and chat with the neighbors, or stay at least 10 feet away if you do.


There are also plenty of ways to get a good workout without even leaving the house. There are bodyweight alternatives to lifting weights. There are even bodyweight HIIT routines that can get your heart pumping without taking up much space. These can be found online or on YouTube. If yoga is more your style, there are also tons of yoga videos on YouTube. Yoga with Adrienne is probably the most popular, but there are plenty of options to suit your taste. It may not be as good as your sweaty Bikram class, but it will keep you active and flexible. 


Use This Experience to Work With Challenging Emotions

One of the biggest challenges for many people won’t be the inconvenience, per se, but the emotions the pandemic may give rise to. It’s likely that we will all know someone who will be affected by the virus; perhaps we will even get it. The uncertainty is stressful in itself. If you have struggled with anxiety or depression in the past, this is certainly a situation that will get your mind churning. 


One way to cope is to use these challenging emotions as a sort of exercise. For example, it’s a good opportunity to practice mindfulness. It’s tempting to try to push away your anxiety about the future, to distract yourself, or tell yourself it will probably be fine but it’s also a serious situation and it’s normal to be apprehensive. Instead of pushing those feelings away, try accepting them and examining them nonjudgmentally. For example, notice where in your body you feel that anxiety--your stomach, perhaps? What thoughts are coming up? Try to notice them without getting caught up. Finally, take some time to consider that a lot of people are probably feeling the same things you are. Concern for others is often a good way to cope with our own anxieties. 


While this can be an opportunity to practice coping with challenging emotions, it’s not a good time to be skipping therapy. If you’re seeing a therapist, call and discuss ways of conducting your sessions remotely. Many people have been having their sessions over the phone, on FaceTime, or on Skype. If you’re not currently seeing a therapist but feel like you need one, you can probably find one who will work with you remotely.


Stick to Your Recovery Plan as Much as Possible

Finally, remember that you can still do a lot on your own. As noted above, you can exercise at home. You can also read about addiction and recovery, you can write, you can meditate, you can eat healthy, you can spend quality time with your family, and you can relax in whatever way works for you. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do right now, focus on what you can do. This might even be an opportunity to work on some parts of your recovery that might not otherwise get enough attention. 


With any luck, this post will have an incredibly short shelf life but at the moment, no one has any idea when life will get back to normal. In the meantime, we have to do what we can with what we have. With a little ingenuity, that can still be quite a lot. Stay safe, stay connected, and stay on track. At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that long-term recovery requires healing the mind, body, and spirit. Our programs are built on the 12-Step approach and incorporate a diversity of healing practices. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.