Parent Alert | December 2023 | Coping with Holiday Stress

 

Coping with Holiday Stress

The holiday season is a great opportunity to take a break and spend time with family and friends, but it can be a very stressful time of year for many people. This stress is a result of many things including lack of time, financial pressure, family gatherings, social isolation, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The American Psychological Association reported that 38% of people surveyed reported increased stress during the holiday season. Stress can lead to physical and mental illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. It can be hard to recognize if you or someone you know is struggling, especially with how many distractions there are this time of year. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • Lacking the “Holiday Spirit”
  • Being overwhelmed by grief and loss.
  • Feeling pressured to participate in activities, and/or not wanting to be a part of them.
  • Stressed about giving gifts.
  • Lack of sunlight affecting mood or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Feeling alone or isolated.

Processing your feelings and the causes of those feelings is an important first step to making it through this time of year. The next step is to actively work on reducing stress. Addressing the stress and taking care of yourself are the best ways to shift from the holidays being a time of worry and sadness to happiness and celebration. Here are some ideas:

  • Engage in self-care activities such as a favorite hobby or practicing mindfulness and meditation.
  • Stay socially connected with friends and family and talk to someone about how you are feeling.
  • Stay active and spend some time outdoors or find a fitness program you can do at home.
  • Know your limits financially, socially, and mentally. You know what you can handle better than anyone else, and it is important to set limits for yourself.

Coping with holiday stress is not easy, but it is possible. Check out the resources below to learn more, and we hope you have a safe and stress-free holiday season.

Resources

Why are Drugs so Hard to Quit?

The first question many people ask when they hear about addiction is “Why don’t they just quit?”. The answer is that addiction is a disease and is sometimes considered to be the most severe form of Substance Use Disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines substance use disorders (SUDs) as being “treatable, chronic diseases characterized by a problematic pattern of use of a substance or substances leading to impairments in health, social function, and control over substance use.”

SUDs can affect anyone, and the American Psychiatric Association groups symptoms of SUDs into four categories:

  • Impaired Control: A craving or strong urge to use the substance; desire or failed attempts to cut down or control substance use.
  • Social Problems: Substance use causes failure to complete major tasks at work, school or home; social, work or leisure activities are given up or cut back because of substance use.
  • Risky Use: Substance is used in risky settings; continued use despite known problems.
  • Drug Effects: Tolerance (need for larger amounts to get the same effect); withdrawal symptoms (different for each substance).

Individuals with addiction face their own unique struggles and symptoms, but they all experience similar physiological effects. Substances produce long-term behavioral effects by flooding the limbic system in the brain, a.k.a. the reward center, with chemicals that stimulate it. With continued use, the brain adapts to these feelings of euphoria, and develops a tolerance to the substance. This means that someone has to use more of a substance in order to achieve the same effect. This is why people struggling with addiction are constantly trying to “find the next high”.

Dr. Nicole Labor, Medical Director at OneEighty, compares addiction to being stranded in the desert with no water. She explains that you would do anything to get a bottle of water in that situation even if it meant hurting yourself or those around you. This is a great explanation for what millions of people with SUDs deal with on a daily basis. Understanding how addiction impacts someone can help all of us be more compassionate and can reduce the stigma surrounding this disease.
Check out the links below for more information about substance use disorder, prevention, and treatment. After that you can take the Why are Drugs so Hard to Quit? quiz to test your newfound knowledge.

Resources

Talk to Your Kids About the Dangers of Impaired Driving

AAA is estimating that 104 million Americans will be driving while traveling for the holidays. A study cited by Dolman Law Group found that 25% of adults admit to drinking more during the holiday season, and that there are an estimated 25,000 injuries from alcohol-related crashes in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Traffic fatalities are also known to increase during the holiday season with New Year’s being listed on many research sites as being the deadliest day to travel in regard to drunk driving accidents. Many of us will be among the millions traveling this holiday season, and that travel time is a perfect opportunity to talk to your kids about the dangers of impaired driving. Here are some tips from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) to help you with this conversation:
  • Don’t Wait for the “Right” Time – The time is always right to have a conversation with your child about the dangers of impaired driving.
  • Reinforce Expectations – Your child should know the rules and expectations you have in regard to them driving.
  • Help Them Build an Exit Plan – Give your child some guidance for if they are ever in a situation in which a family member or friend offers them a ride while impaired.
  • Show Them You Care – Make sure your child understands that you are having the conversation because you care about their safety, and not because you assume they would ever drive impaired.
Check out the links below for more conversation tips, and some statistics about holiday drunk driving.

Resources

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Copyright © 2023 Turning Point Coalition. All rights reserved.

This publication is developed in part under grant number SP020543-10 from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies, and opinions expressed are those of the Coalition and do not necessarily reflect those of ONDCP, SAMHSA, or HHS.

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