American Addiction Centers has released five tips to help those in recovery stay sober post-holidays and throughout the winter months.
After the holidays, many people experience a letdown when feelings of sadness or depression can increase. Common post-holiday letdown symptoms include fatigue, loneliness, sadness and reduced motivation — all potential triggers for relapse. In fact, the third Monday in January, known as “Blue Monday,” is widely recognized as the most depressing day of the year.
Another factor contributing to post-holiday letdown is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as the “winter blues.” Lack of sunlight experienced in winter months can lead to reduced chemicals (serotonin, dopamine) in the brain that are associated with positive moods. In addition, many people have a tendency to cut back on exercise and socialization, preferring to “hibernate” inside instead. It is estimated that SAD affects six percent of Americans while another 14 percent experience the winter blues.
“Shorter days and colder weather can make winter a difficult time for many, especially those in recovery, which can lead to relapse,” said Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, AAC chief medical officer. “It’s important to take steps to look after your mental and physical health, and with a bit of preparation and the right mindset, you can avoid falling into a damaging pattern that could compromise your sobriety.”
AAC’s Five Tips to Beat the Winter Blues include:
- Prolong the joy. Extend the uplifting mood of the holiday season by bringing some of the typical holiday experiences into the new year (i.e., plan a get-together in January or February). Planning a social event is half the fun, and since it will not be competing with other activities that crowd the holiday season, you can prepare with less stress.
- Continue the sentiment of gift-giving. Incorporate a “pay-it-forward” attitude into your daily life. Give gifts of time (spend an afternoon with a relative), assistance (help out an elderly neighbor by plowing snow) or sharing (volunteer at a homeless shelter). Such gifts cost nothing and can boost a sense of wellbeing.
- Reframe your attitude about winter. Choose to view this time of year through a more positive lens and find useful ways to spend your time. Consider working on indoor tasks you may have been putting off like cleaning out the garage or a closet. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when you are done, and this will boost your mood.
- Capitalize on your inside time to enjoy yourself as well. Have a weekend movie binge, try new recipes or pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read. Alternatively, try embracing wintertime activities like ice skating or skiing with friends. Once you start, you may find you can enjoy spending time outdoors even when it is cold.
- New Year, New Outlook. With the right attitude and proactive planning, you can avoid the winter blues and post-holiday letdown. Approach the new year with exuberance rather than reluctance, and this positivity will strengthen your commitment to recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call (866) 665-8980.