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With the holidays right around the corner, the stress level for many of us is about to rise. Not only is there more to do, but the holidays often involve additional time spent with family members or other people, and that can be difficult for some of us. There are also increased temptations and opportunities to overeat or drink too much at holiday events.  For someone in recovery from an addictive disorder or mental health issue, it can be a time of potential relapse into old behaviors.

Stress can result from anything that:

• worries you
• threatens you
• excites you
• hurries you
• angers you
• frustrates you
• challenges you
• frightens you

Increased stress and anxiety bring a greater need for self-care, so here are a few tips to help stay mentally and emotionally fit this season:

Take a break to just breathe. Practice breathing in for a count of four and breathing out for a count of six, and repeat that sequence 10 times. This can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure to reduce your body’s stress response. Call on this breathing exercise whenever you’re feeling increased stress.

Exercise for 30 minutes at least three times each week – walk, run, ride a bike, swim…Physical exercise is the best natural antidote for stress!

Fuel Your Body
Balanced, nutritional eating habits and healthy sleep hygiene (including 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night) helps you handle what life brings your way.

Talk about what’s stressing you with friends or family members you can trust.  A 12-step meeting is a great place to connect and communicate with others.

Keep a journal to record your feelings and experiences. Getting your thoughts on paper keeps them from rattling around inside and building up like a pressure-cooker.

Give thanks
Write down two (or more) things each day that you’re grateful for. It’s difficult to stay negative when you are in the midst of gratitude.

Take time each day to connect to your Higher Power – for example, meditate, read inspirational passages or books, spend time in nature, attend church.

It really is the best medicine. Spend time with a friend or family member who makes you laugh, watch a comedy, or play a fun game.

Remember that stress can result from positive, as well as negative, situations. Learning to identify and manage stress can help reduce anxiety and allow us to appreciate positive experiences during the holiday season and all year long.

Jackie MacKay, M.A.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist Candidate

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”     –William James