Combating Holiday Triggers During Recovery
Updated: Jan 18
What is a trigger?
According to the dictionary, a trigger is something that causes something else to happen. A trigger is rooted in something negative that happened to you in the past. It can be in a form of scent, people, places, occasions, alcohol, bad substances, or anything that can be a reminder of a painful or traumatic event in the past. During the holidays, there are higher chances that we come across these triggers. There are also instances that we develop new triggers. Because we may be surrounded by things that we were trying to avoid for years. For some, it can be the Uncle who misuses alcohol that made them taste alcohol the first time, their Dad who neglected them for years, or it can simply be just going back home that triggers them. Unwanted triggers show up when you are surrounded by people who know how to push your buttons and now that you are in recovery, you need to learn how to work around them.
How to Handle Your Triggers During the Holidays?
Define your triggers
Before going back home or to an event, make a list of all the things that could potentially make you anxious, stressed, angry, or uncomfortable when you attend this gathering. This way, you are fully aware of what you will come across. It is not recommended that you go on get-togethers unprepared. You are making a list of things that could potentially trigger you because we want to recognize our feelings and tell ourselves that it is valid. Acknowledge your feelings and when you see them coming, you will know when to avoid them.
Organizing your plans and scheduling ahead of time is essential to come prepared. Determine the days where you could possibly be busy, can squeeze in self-care, attend meetings, volunteer, or hang out with old friends. If you see that you will have an overwhelming interaction for a few hours with certain people, make sure to have time for something relaxing and to take the edge off after it.
Ask for help
No man is an island. When you feel like you are triggered by something, reach out to the person you trust the most. It can also help to continue seeing your therapist during the holidays, even if it's through call or video call. Attending 12-step meetings can also make you feel that you are not alone during these times because the holidays may be exhilarating for most, but dispiriting for some. These self-care methods help you cope up with being overwhelmed by the crowd.
Volunteer to help
Offering a hand to help in cooking or preparing can be a good distraction. Volunteer your time to do something for someone. It can be helping your mom in cooking, preparing the fireplace, decorating the table, dropping off foods in your neighborhood, etc. There are a lot of things that can keep you busy, at the same time it is a way to bond with your family or friends.
Keep it realistic
Holidays are never perfect. There will always be setbacks and tiny arguments between family or friends. Never expect it to be smooth or just like last year. Our families and friends grow and change. We must keep an open mind to who they might be now. Traditions come and go, and we can always create a new one- a sober one.
People often change and everyone is not the same. If you understand how your family and friends change and evolve over time, your chances of getting stressed out might be reduced. If we stop worrying about the uncontrollable things in our life, we will understand that life is never meant to be perfect.
Recognize when you are getting stressed out
We all have limits and it is important to note when you need to dial back. Be mindful when you are feeling stressed and anxious, learn your body signals. Not knowing when to stop can take a toll on your mind and increase the chances of spiraling back to substance use disorder. In order to combat these tough times, you have to be familiar with all the things you have to avoid. Being in a room with your parents for longer than an hour makes you nervous? Try to do other things while in the room such as preparing the table, helping in the kitchen, etc. You don't have to torture yourself to make someone else happy.
When all else fails, seek professional help..
Sometimes, even though how much we try we still find ourselves constantly having sleepless nights, unable to function well, and avoiding social interactions. It is best to see your doctor or mental health professional.
Everyone has different stressors and triggers. During gatherings, we must be extra sensitive with the words we use and the topics we open up. Always be kind to each other. When the holidays get too overwhelming, call us at 844-738-9848 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.