Mindful Recovery Tool for the Holidays

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ~ Victor Frankl


 They’re here…the holidays!  Parties, families, food, gifts, and good cheer.  Depression, stress, anxiety, grief, family issues, and pressure. This is a time we are externally focused, schedule driven, time crunched, and rushed. We often whip ourselves into a frenzy.  Feelings of sadness and loss are made sharper during this time.

If you are in recovery, this is a prime time for relapse. Dealing with any mental health issues, or just feeling the pressure of the season, leave one especially vulnerable.  Research tell us that stress is the number one factor in relapse.  So, having some go to, fundamental and mindfully based tools in your back pocket will be essential.   

Using mindfulness, paying attention, in the present moment, on purpose, without judgment, is a great way to tune in and see what you might be needing to take care of yourself and your needs during this time.

12 Step Programs are chock full of clever and handy acronyms.  H.A.L.T, with its combination of a fundamental approach, 12 step focus, and mindfulness philosophy, is great to use any time to establish stability and presence.   

H.A.L.T.  directs awareness inward, asking us to tune in, compassionately identify how we are feel and what we need, and make a plan.

How to use H.A.L.T as a tool during the holidays: 

H. A. L. T.  The acronym itself asks us to stop.  Take a pause.  Take a breath. Use the action of the word to gently direct attention inward, and see what’s going on.   

H:   Hungry.  When we are hungry, irritability creeps in and decision making can slip. During the holidays, we are often cramming things into our schedule, going to parties where there aren’t many healthy food options, and generally out of our regular eating routine. 

Tip:  Carry some extra snacks in your pocketbook or car, try to go for the healthy party food and stay hydrated.  A quick snack can stop you from falling off a cliff!

A:  Angry.  When we experience stress, anger can set in and quickly lead to a meltdown, creating disconnection from ourselves and our wisdom.  Check in…what is causing you to feel angry, and what do you need for support? 

Tip:  Plan ahead!  Identify possible pitfalls and strategies to deal with people/places/and things you know will cause you anger.

L:  Lonely.  Holiday cards, picture perfect social media posts, believing everyone is having a perfect season can make us feel lonely.  Grief is also strong during this time, missing family or friends who are no longer with us.  Loneliness may set in, and we can start to feel blue.

Tip:  Talk to your sponsor, support system, and friends in recovery about how you are feeling.  Say yes to plans, even if you don’t want to, so you don’t get caught alone without support.

T.  Tired:  A healthy day is built on a good night’s sleep.  With schedules stretched to the limit, and stress levels soaring, we must make it a priority to get our sleep.

Tip:  Commit to your sleep schedule.  And take a nap if needed.   Research says a twenty minute nap has loads of benefits. 

Don’t make it complicated.  Starting with the basics is often the best place to focus our attention.  Don’t sweat the small stuff, it works if you work it, one day at a time.  Well, you get the point!

Alyce E. Wellons, LCSW:   Alyce is a psychotherapist in private practice for over 18 years in Atlanta. She works with individuals and couples in short and long term psychotherapy.  She practices at the intersection of theory and neurobiology with mindfulness and body-based modalities, believing one can tap into the body’s natural capacity to heal itself. She believes in the respectful use of humor and laughter as a way to connect and navigate difficult passages. You can reach her and learn more about her therapy, retreat, and CEU offerings as well as her find social media links at www.alycewellons.com