Triggers This Holiday Season: 5 Tips To Help You Through Them
For many people in mental illness and/or addiction recovery, the holidays bring about a slew of memories and emotions. Our emotions are key informants to what we’re feeling about a particular person or situation, and it’s important that we tune into those when we can so that we can practice ultimate self-care and ultimately avoid setting back the progress we’ve made. In recovery, relapse triggers are anything that causes a person to want to initiate addictive behavior. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) emphasizes that triggers can be both external or internal – below are some examples:
External: Exposure to substances, people (maybe individuals a person used to “get high” with), environments where drugs are being used or were once used when a person’s addiction was active, stressful situations, certain dates that remind a person of their old substance use or that trigger upsetting emotions, smells, etc.
Internal: Anger, loneliness, anxiety, exhaustion, frustration, depression, being overly-confident or feeling extremely happy, rumination, etc.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides several suggestions for this holiday season to help you stay on track:
- Start thinking about how the holidays affect you. What do you typically experience? Take some time to notice your mental and physical responses so that you can create an action plan to help you through this time.
- Ask yourself what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of coping mechanisms. By strengthening what works for you, there’s a high chance that you’ll have the tools you need if you do run into a trigger.
- Talk with your therapist and healthcare team about what bothers you. In doing this, you can create an action plan for additional support.
- Pay close attention to getting proper nutrients and exercise. In doing this, your mind and body will be more alert to respond to certain triggers more effectively.
- Create a meaningful ritual to get you through the holidays. This could be with your treatment team or on your own, and may involve writing down a list of things you are grateful for, meditating with a certain focus in mind, or simply cooking yourself a healthy, delicious meal.
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