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How to Not Relapse During The Winter Holidays

by | Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 3:05PM | Published on Dec 1, 2019 | Health and Wellness, Sober Living


For addicts in recovery, there is a big fear of relapsing during the holidays. The holiday season can be quite stressful for people in recovery. Not only is this time of the year incredibly challenging for your mental health, but with everyone freely enjoying alcohol and other substances, it can be tough to stay sober. The threat of winter blues could make relapse an even greater possibility for those in recovery as if the pressure of dealing with family and friends during the holidays weren’t enough.

What’s Winter Blues?

Commonly known as winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder present at the same time every year—characterized as a period of depression that tends to happen during the winter months. Seasonal affective disorder is widespread in climates where there is less sunlight than usual. Generally, this period occurs around the holiday season. As a result, addicts experiencing prolonged periods of anxiety, loneliness, and depressive symptoms are at higher risk of relapsing.

Symptoms of winter blues or SAD include:

  • Depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Hopelessness
  • Fatigue

Some reports say about 39% of those in recovery feel more depressed during recovery. Plus, almost 60% feel more stressed during this time of the year. For an individual in recovery, these are potent triggers that can lead to relapse. 

Man working outHow You Can Prevent A Winter Relapse

One of the hardest things for an addict is boredom, and the cold winter can bring that about because of the lack of outdoor activities. In addition to that, the days are shorter, the plants lose their colorful leaves and turn brown and gray, and the weather is less than hospitable. Don’t let winter be the cause of a substance abuse relapse. Here are some things you can do to get through the winter happy and healthy and prevent relapsing during the holidays.

  • Join a gym. An hour spent sweating away. Your worries are much better than an hour spent drinking them out. Many gyms run specials that make it affordable for any budget. Almost 12% of those in drug or alcohol addiction recovery use this to stay sober during the winter months. 
  • Start eating healthy. While most people take advantage of the holidays to ditch their diets, you should continue to eat healthily. A balanced diet can help keep anxiety and stress levels at bay, thus preventing a relapse. 
  • Find a new hobby. Look online and in your local papers to see about classes going on in your neighborhood. There’s something for everyone from knitting to MMA, and maybe you’ll find some hidden talents you never knew you had.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Because of the shorter daytime hours and darkness, many people tend to keep to themselves in the winter. Instead, throw a party or meet some friends for a movie. The less time spent by yourself, the better.
  • Take on a side job. If you don’t have obligations to prevent you from doing so, why not take on a side job? It is an excellent opportunity to make some extra money and keep yourself busy.
  • Never keep alcohol or drugs at home. The worst part of addiction is the time spent alone indulging in it because it becomes a better option than spending time with friends or pursuing healthy activities. If you don’t have access to your substance of choice, you’ll be much less likely to pick it up.

Other ways to help you stay sober include spending time with family and friends, prioritizing sleep, meditating, and sticking to a strict financial budget. These strategies are great tools to help prevent relapsing during the holidays and throughout the year.

Is it More Than Winter Blues?

Struggling with a seasonal affective disorder is not the same as feeling a bit blue during the holidays. While it’s common for people to feel sad for strained relationships, or stressed about their finances, a full-blown episode of depression requires attention. Make sure you pay close attention to the symptoms above. Any sign of these and you should talk to someone. People in recovery need to be on high alert of any potential trigger that might lead to relapse. 

Stop Relapsing During Holidays

If your mood seems to dip in the winter visibly, think about talking to your doctor. Also, speaking with a therapist about healthy ways to cope with the change in season. While winter may make the world turn a little darker, it doesn’t mean yours needs to.

Our treatment programs at Lighthouse Recovery Institute incorporate group sessions to help you navigate the recovery process no matter the season. If you or someone you know is struggling to stay sober or with relapsing during the holidays, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our dedicated team is here to listen, care, and help you find the best coping solutions to help you power through these stressful times. 

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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