12 Days of Sobriety Challenges, I Mean Christmas: Part 2
by Kyle Beard on Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
If you are reading Part 2 of this blog series, I hope you found the first part helpful for staying sober and less stressed during this season. We are another week into the holiday season (9 days from Christmas as I write this) and the craziness of the season is in full force. The first part of this series emphasized four techniques to help you stay sober and/or survive the stressful holiday season by making a decision of sobriety, remembering you are a priority, finding nurturing activities, and saying “no” when needed. My prayer is that those who read this spent the past week practicing these simple but powerful ways to proactively face the holidays.
The theme of “being proactive” overshadowed the first four techniques, while today’s Part 2 will take a look at the importance of one’s physical health, particularly during stressful times such as the holidays. The longer I work in clinical counseling, my belief in the connection between the mind, body, and spirit grows every day. When one’s physical body is ailing, our emotional and spiritual states are deeply affected. Here are four ways to keep your physical integrity sound this holiday season, and the second set of 12 Ways to Stay Sober over the Holidays:
- Sleep – Medical and psychological research continues to reinforce the affect a good night’s sleep has on the human body and mind. You may be feeling the pressure of a impending business deadline, the obligation to clean the house perfectly for company, the stacks of presents needing to be wrapped, or some other reason that causes you to stay up hours later than normal. After staying up late dwelling on these imminent deadlines, the next day you feel fatigued, cranky, short tempered, snappy, impatient, and more. We all know this feeling. If this is the way you wake up in the morning, how much more difficult will the stress of the holiday season be? Similar to the first technique of the series, make a conscious decision to value your sleep this holiday season. Everything from time with family, to cleaning the house, to holiday traffic, to keeping sobriety, are handled better with a good night’s sleep.
- Eating Habits – The homemade cookies or sweets may already be on the counter (gluten free shortbread cookies is on ours). Your holiday favorites are staring you down from the kitchen every time you walk by. One moment you’re walking past the kitchen, the next you just ate five cookies with a glass of milk to wash them down. What we often neglect to remember is the sickness we feel minutes or hours later from the sugar rush. When our body receives such a shock to the system, we can become tired, irritable, etc., very similar symptoms to lack of sleep discussed above. What can you do this holiday season to prevent this? Here are a few examples of how to be conscientious of this temptation: place cookies/sweets on a small plate with appropriate portion sizes, eat well balanced meals including fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, don’t gorge yourself to feeling uncomfortably full (the food will be there in a few hours too). Being conscientious of one’s eating habits can help everyone stay in a healthy place physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Exercise – Some of you may have cringed just reading the word. As I mentioned in nurturing activities, the holiday season has a knack for shaking up one’s normal life routine. In the early 2000’s, a research study came out about the affect of exercise on mental health, particularly in depression. The researchers found that if everyone who is clinically depressed in America (which is millions of people), exercised 3 times a week for 30 minutes, roughly 45% would no longer suffer from depression. The act of exercise releases powerful hormones such as endorphins, adrenaline, and dopamine, which are natural chemicals that make us feel happy. My translation – exercising during the holiday season can greatly impact one’s stress level, depression, and general happiness. Some people reading this may not be heavy into exercising, which is no problem. A few simple ways to exercise around the holidays could be: walking around the street, yoga in your house, utilizing a free exercise app at home, carving out time for the gym (don’t forget to inform those around you in advance), playing outside with your kids/nieces/nephews, or even going bowling with the family. Exercise does not have to be intense, but any activity to get your blood pumping and body moving. Finding a way to bring the family or kids involved or add laughter can make the activity easier to pursue and more enjoyable for everyone. This will give you time with your loved ones and needed movement to stay healthy.
- Practice your Escape Plan – This idea does not apply as directly to physical health as the others listed above, but it is integral to staying sober or lowering stress at any time. For those unfamiliar with the idea of an Escape Plan, the concept is rather simple. Regardless of how strong our boundaries and nurturing activities are, there will come a time when we are tempted. This temptation can involve acting out behaviors involved with an addiction, or it can simply be a temptation to act in a way that hurts others and ourselves. Since we know that temptation will come at some point in the future, I encourage all of my clients to create an Escape Plan. In times of temptation, fMRI scans have shown that part of the prefrontal cortex shuts down, which is our rationale, decision making part of the brain. Since in the moment of temptation we can’t make sound, rationale decisions, a pre-made Escape Plan takes the decision making aspect out of the equation.
When tempted, you simply pull out the Escape Plan, and follow the list. To begin creating your Escape plan, choose activities that help ground you in the present. Examples of this can include: look at a picture of your family, read a quote that strikes you, get up to get a glass of water, go on a walk, read recovery literature, call a friend who knows about your recovery or struggles, attend a 12 Step meeting, and more. The most difficult part of the Escape Plan is practice! If the logical part of our brain partially shuts down when tempted and you have never utilized your Escape Plan before, how do you think it will go once you are in the throws temptation? As of today, there are 9 days till Christmas. Take the next five days to practice every day. When you become stressed with something at work or home, take out your escape plan to practice some of the activities. Learning the “muscle memory” of utilizing your Escape Plan during relatively low times of temptation will help solidify the practice for when greater temptations arise.
There you have it, four more practical techniques to help stay sober through the holidays. Take the time this week to practice these physically focused techniques because we know the holiday stress will be climbing. Practicing your Escape Plan is a particularly powerful way to solidify a healthy response to temptation or stress, for regardless if the holidays are upon us or not, difficult times are part of life. I challenge you to be prepared for when they arrive. Take time this week to practice these four ideas to help you staysober over the holidays. If this blog helped you think differently about the holiday season, please share it with others. It may be a great conversation started with one’s family this holiday season.
About Kyle Beard
Chris Simon founded Restorations Therapy Center to help those struggling with sexual addiction to discover health and wholeness for themselves as well as for their marriage and family. The havoc addiction brings is not compartmentalized to one area of life, but influences marriage, family, work, friendship and more. Chris experienced the turmoil of addiction in his own life. Through his own recovery journey, he strives to help others in the throes of addiction to experience the freedom and joy he lives today.
Chris received in Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health, working solely with individuals struggling with sexual addiction his entire
career. He trained under Dr. Tom Olschner, a psychologist working with sexual addictions for over thirty years, gaining a breadth of experience and knowledge from a renown therapist. A Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) is the only certification in existence for sexual addiction recovery, which Chris has pursued with fervor.
You can contact Chris via email at Chris@RestorationsTherapy.com or telephone at (720) 446-6585