Holiday Stress & Relapse

The holidays always seem so fun and exciting when they are aways off. But sometimes when the days of holiday events get closer, we find ourselves feeling more and more stressed about the things we need to do, bring, wear, say, etc. Sometimes its just stressful getting it all done. For some people its a fun time filled with family and gifts, good food and fun activities. However, as we get older and get more responsibilities, and as the holidays get closer, the holidays can trigger both good and bad forms of stress and emotions. Some people cope with stress by turning to food and indulging so much they may gain weight during the holidays. Others may turn to increased alcohol consumption or drug abuse to handle the burdens they feel are placed on them. Stress is also one of the leading causes of alcohol and/or drug relapse. In fact, whether it’s due to increased stress or parties, alcohol and drug use are often intensified during the holidays, especially on Christmas and New Year’s.

Below are ten preventative things from to prevent relapse during the holidays or during any stressful time.:

Create a Plan

Ask a Sober Friend to be On-Call

Bring a Non-Drinking Holiday Buddy With You

Bring Your Own Drinks

Decide on a Response

Be Smart About Which Events to Attend

Remember There Are Other Ways to Celebrate

Stay Active

Limit Your Time Around Triggers

Tell Those You Trust That You’re in Recovery

Finding outlets for stress can be vital to surviving the holidays without drug or alcohol abuse. Most importantly, if individuals feel overwhelmed, they should ask for help. Taking the time to connect with other people who are willing to offer support can lessen stress during the holidays.


Managing Stress Aids Recovery

Managing stress during recovery from drug or alcohol abuse is extremely helpful in having a good recovery outcome. Stress can manifest in the forms of finances, family, triggers, and many other factors. Also, research shows that those who struggle with drug addictions are more prone to stress. Although stress cannot ever be entirely eliminated from life, certain measures can be taken to lessen or prevent it. It’s also well known that stress is one of the main causes of relapse, so learning to avoid, prevent, or manage stress better is definitely helpful in making a full and successful recovery. Below are a few ways to manage stress on a regular, if not daily, basis:

1- Exercise: Whether it’s inside a gym or outside on the road or a bike, exercise is a great way to boost those feel-good hormones and keep you calm. Even light exercise, such as a leisurely walk will help

2- Think of a phrase or mantra: Repeating a simple positive affirmation or phrase can help you focus on what’s important, breathe, and relax when stressful things arise in your life.

3- Get enough good sleep: Aiming for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night will help your body be ready for the stress it may encounter the next day.

4- Find activities that calm you: It might be reading, walking, listening to music, yoga, or art –whatever you find that calms your soul, do it often.

5- Write out your thoughts and feelings—good and bad: Sometimes seeing the words on paper helps to put stress in its place. It can also help to release stress from your mind and so you can focus on other things and let go of the stress.

Mother's abusing Ritalin to keep up.Moms taking their kid’s Ritalin to keep up

Most moms are overloaded with tasks, many work full or part time, some are still struggling to lose the weight they gained during pregnancies years ago, most are stressed out, tired, some are depressed…the list goes on and on. Some moms have much – maybe too much- on their plates and are turning to prescription drug to cope with the stress of their overburdened lives. In the 60’s and 70’s, drugs like valium became popular coping mechanisms for mom’s stress; in the 80’s and 90’s antidepressants like Prozac were often prescribed followed by a wide range of sleeping pills around the turn of the century. The new drug of choice (“mommy’s little helper”) by many of these overachieving, over stressed moms is Ritalin.

Ritalin is most commonly known for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. This disorder is characterized by a, “continual behavior pattern consisting of hyperactivity and/or inattention with episodes of impulsiveness” ( Stimulants treat ADHD well by increasing dopamine in the brain since those with ADHD are low in dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with attention, movement, and pleasure. Ritalin has a calming and focusing effect on those diagnosed with ADHD.

Interestingly, although Ritalin is prescribed for children with ADHD, emaxhealth reports that, “an inordinate number of female adults are increasingly receiving prescriptions for ADHD drugs. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, over the past decade the number of prescriptions written each year for Adderall has surged among women over 26, rising from a total of roughly 800,000 in 2002 to some 5.4 million in 2010. A particularly significant increase has been for women aged 26-39, for whom prescriptions soared by 750%. One of the reasons for this surge is attributed to an increased use of Adderall as a popular drug that will not only help women cope with stress, feel energized and become more focused, but lose weight as well.”

People magazine recent published an article regarding moms taking Ritalin. The women they highlighted discussed how much they were able to accomplish and how well they performed tasks and stayed focused. They told People that they felt like Ritalin was a miracle drug. However, the women interviewed also discussed the addictive nature of Ritalin and how they had been hiding their consumption from spouses and visiting multiple doctors to get more Ritalin.

Physicians and psycho-behavioral experts agree that many moms are taking Ritalin in an effort to be overachievers and do it all. These moms may face competition in the workplace from their male counterparts, feel pressure to be thin because of social stigma society places on women, and feel pressure to be a supermom for their kids at home. Ritalin can provide relief from this pressure, help these moms focus and accomplish more than they ever could before, and help them lose weight at the same time.

Curious though, is where these moms are getting their Ritalin pills. Reports have surfaced that indicate that women are faking ADHD to get Ritalin prescriptions. And, even more worrisome, some mothers are tapping into their children’s supply or their friend’s children’s supplies of Ritalin. The National Institute of drug abuse reports that, “stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are among the top 10 prescription drugs stolen from pharmacies.”

Ritalin is safe to treat ADHD and while a doctor is supervising use of the drug, but abuse and addiction are high possibilities with Ritalin when not taken properly. Side effects of abusing stimulants such as Ritalin can include: hypertension, increased heart rate, anorexia, weight loss, headaches, and mood changes. More serious long term complications can include: Parkinson’s disease and damaged brain cells.

Ritalin may seem like a cure-all for those moms trying to balance so much in their over-stressed, busy lives. But they must know that taking Ritalin may rob them of all of the things they are working so hard to accomplish and achieve it they become addicted or abuse the drug.


Anxiety SymptomsAm I stressed or experiencing burnout?

Being burned out means that you feel empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. To illustrate the difference between stress and burnout, think of stress feeling like you are drowning in responsibilities, while feeling burnout is being all dried up and done. Another difference between stress and burnout is that while you are usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens. Interestingly, even minor burnout can affect the quality of one’s life, relationships, work productivity, and physical health.  In fact, burnout has been shown to be linked to depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, and even suicide.  When people feel helpless and “dried up” or all of their energy and abilities, they may turn to harmful things to cope.  Recognizing that you are experiencing burnout is key to awareness and/or recovery from harmful habits/behaviors.  Most of us would be wise to slow down a little and say “no” to the many demands placed on us a little more often.

As indicated by, “burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress.  Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. Stressed people can still imagine, though, that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.”

So, what can you do to prevent burnout?  Perhaps it would serve you to simply relax and take a deep breath.  Simplify or cancel the things you can in your life that start the burnout feelings you may be experiencing.  There’s always more time tomorrow and there are lots of people who will help us if we reach out and ask. Push yourself to slow down or take a break. Cut back on whatever commitments and activities you can. And, to truly overcome burnout, give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.

Anxiety Treatment

Stress during recovery

When individuals recover from drug or alcohol abuse, often challenges arise that cause them stressStress during recovery might manifest itself financially (paying for recovery or time away from work for recovery), in relationships (certain people wanting to help you recover and others wanting you to continue in old behaviors with them and also ending negative relationships in order to recover), emotionally (struggling with letting go of addictions can be emotional and stressful) and in many other ways.  Stress can cause diseases, anxiety, depression, and increase addictions. Stress can damage relationships and contribute to unhappiness. Learning about reducing stress, especially during recovery, can improve not just your recovery– but also your life.

The website indicates that there are two kinds of stress: external and internal.  They indicate that external stress is what happens in an individual’s surroundings, and internal stress (also referred to as tension) is what individuals feel. In other words, tension is how you respond to external stress. It is important to realize that external stress is mostly unavoidable. If individuals have to deal with people or go to work every day, the only way they can avoid external stress is by avoiding life. On the other hand, individuals have control over their internal stress, or amounts of tension.

In discussing stress management, it is key to note that the intent of stress management is to reduce tension, not external stress.  That is to say, stress management is learning how to cope with external stress and reducing the negative effects of external stress.   Learning relaxation techniques will also help significantly with responding in positive ways to external stress.  Again, the website indicates a few ways that many individuals create more tension in their lives in responding to external stress.  These include:

  • Going over and over resentments mentally
  • Trying to control things that can’t be controlled
  • Dwelling on the past or the future
  • Focusing on fears

Most tension that individuals experience can be caused by some combination of the above examples. For example, the website points out that guilt is due to dwelling on the past, feeling resentment, and having fear.

Dealing well with stress may be one of the main things individuals need in recovery in order to be happier. If individuals internalize stress and create tension in their lives, they will have emotional and physical consequences and recovery will be more difficult. Tension makes it hard to appreciate recovery and begin to enjoy one’s life. Tension can destroy relationships and force you too feel closed and not open to recovery. Finding peace through stress management is key to successful recovery.

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