As we start to prepare, or continue, to celebrate the 2020 holiday
season, it goes without saying that this will be perhaps one of the most
stressful and difficult ones in recent times. The pressure and influence of the
COVID-19 pandemic has caused many folx in recovery and supporting fields to assess
this year differently. For many in or seeking recovery, the holidays may
already activate any number of traumas or personal “stuff” causing some to be
more susceptible to symptoms of recurrence or heavier use. We may also experience
the effectiveness of our
self-care strategies lessening through this time, which does not mean we are failing,
it instead indicates we are experiencing something new or extra challenging. We
need to remember there are ways to successfully navigate the holidays — and we
can ask family, friends and colleagues to help.
One of the ways we can mitigate the stress of the season is planning
and boosting our self-care before the holidays kick in. We can do this by focusing
not just on engagement in recovery supports, but also on staying on track
with a holistic approach to support our physical, emotional, mental, and
spiritual well-being. Every individual's recovery looks different and with the
help a counselor, mentor, recovery coach, or sponsor we can have a plan ready. (We
also want to consider other factors, like equitable access to services and
promoting multiple pathways of recovery, which includes medications and
Here are some
suggestions that may help you out:
1. Check in with yourself first. A great tool to use is
the P.I.E.S. list. It stands for Physical, Intellectual/Mental, Emotional, and
Spiritual or Social. Looking at where we are at in these areas before we make
connect digitally or in-person is a good way to give ourselves the time and
space to reflect.
2. Take some digital breaks. With so much of our time
and energy taking in place in front of screens, planning some time off from
them can help you reset and take some time to breathe. Gratefully, there are
apps that can help us keep track of our screen time and set reminders.
3. Check in on someone else or volunteer. Checking in on friends,
family or co-workers is a great way to get outside of ourselves in a healthy
way. Service and connection can help us gain perspective and support others.
4. Building your network, part 1. Attending more recovery
support meetings so you are walking into holiday get-togethers with a good
foundation and connection to your recovery. There are several platforms that
offer free digital support meetings such as In
the Rooms. Some in-person meetings have started
back up; be sure to make sure they are following all COVID-19 precautions.
5. Build your network, part 2. Get numbers and social
media usernames of other people in recovery and keeping them available just in case you need some extra support. Also consider helping others by committing
to calling three or four people who might be struggling (see number 3).
6. It's OK to say no and it’s ok to leave. We may at some point felt we had to attend gatherings or events
out of a sense of amends or obligation. If you are compromising your own
recovery or integrity to be around people who are excessively using or making
you uncomfortable, you have the right to decline or leave. Having an exit
plan for gatherings or events and a way to get home that is not dependent on
7. Create your own traditions and meaning. If the stories and
memories of the holidays are not happy or align with you, this is the chance to
make up new ones. There are several alternative practices and ideas out there
that might fit for you. You may also re-examine your current traditions and
find deeper meaning in them. This is a time to give yourself room to create or
commit to something meaningful for you.
8. Brave conversations instead of confrontations. The holidays can be a time to try new tools of boundaries and practicing
emotional intelligence. Even if we are triggered by a family member or lured
into a loaded conversation regarding politics or beliefs, we can simply say
this may not be the best time. You can also do some practicing beforehand with
someone you trust to make sure you are anchored in your responses and personal
9. It’s about wellness, not perfection. We can often be hardest
on ourselves more than anyone else. Work on showing yourself the same, or more,
levels of compassion you might have for someone else. Put your wellness and
recovery first. In the book The Four Agreements, it’s called Always
Doing Your Best. Our best changes from moment to moment and cannot be
compared to anyone else’s.
Again, these are just
some suggestions, and you may have some great ideas to add. The more we do to
meet people where they are at on the journey, the more opportunity we have to
thrive in the survival of 2020. Have safe and happy holidays!
NEW WEEKLY MEETING: The Recovery Coach Connection
This will be a weekly meeting for Coaches and
Peers to learn from others in the field, explore the art and role, and receive
support. In each meeting, we will focus on a topic or bring in a different
guest to share their experience on topics relevant to the recovery coaching field and movement and answer your questions.
Meetings will take place on the second Monday of every month at 8 p.m. CST / 9
Join here: http://www.recoverycoachconnection.com/
Jesse Heffernan is a person in long-term substance use and
mental health recovery. He is a CCAR Core Trainer and Recovery Coach
Professional. Throughout his professional career, he has worked as the Program
Director for one of Wisconsin’s three mental health peer-run mental health
respite facilities, the Outreach and Empowerment Coordinator for Faces &
Voices of Recovery and currently is the Co-Owner of Helios Recovery services.
He lives in WI with his partner and 4 children, enjoying all things in geek
culture, basketball, and coffee. It is his belief that Recovery is the process
of returning to inherent worth and dignity.
About Helios Recovery:
Helios Recovery Services inspires and ignites leaders through training,
consulting, and advocacy that focuses on core elements that help create
healthy, responsible, and thriving individuals and communities.
Learn more at www.heliosrecovery.com and see more recovery related blogs by Jesse