Pavillon Treatment Center offers tips for reducing holiday stress

Published 7:56 am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Editor’s note: Pavillon Treatment Center in Mill Spring, a not-for-profit residential and outpatient facility for treatment of substance abuse disorders, submitted the following tips for handling holiday stress, written by Dr. John Roberts, Pavillon’s medical director. The information was written to help those in treatment for substance abuse disorders, but center officials said the tips may be useful for anyone experiencing difficulty enjoying the holidays.
Stress and stress-producing situations are always a risk, and every holiday season carries with it the increased pressure to get it all done and stay sane at the same time. The season can also be emotionally and physically draining, but if you keep these tips in mind, you can take advantage of the special opportunities to connect with friends and family in a special way:
Recognize there are some things you can’t control about the holidays, such as other people, the calendar, time and the weather.
Become aware of what you can control, including your reactions to others, how much time you’re willing to spend on shopping, dinner preparation, party-planning and, if you’re in recovery, going to meetings.
Make a list of what can be delegated or eliminated to make things more relaxing. Create boundaries as to what you can handle comfortably. If you need help, ask for it.
The phrase “less is more” is used so much as to be almost ignored but it’s still true, so whatever it is, try to keep it simple before it becomes overwhelming.
Go out of your way to reach out to others. You get and give positive energy by doing so.
Don’t create unreasonable expectations for yourself or your family or friends. Maintain conservative expectations.
If you’re in recovery, make sure and go to your 12-step meetings. During the holidays you can often even find marathon meetings. Keep your sober support group nearby and touch base often, even when everything is going well.
Create a stress survival kit: When the stress seems overwhelming, have quick access to friends’ numbers, a couple of movie passes in your wallet, a built-in time for a massage, or a good book, meditation, music, etc.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, ask yourself the following before you leave: Is this visit with this person necessary and/or good for my well-being? Will it be good for me emotionally? Would a different time to make the visit be less stressful?
Think about what is important to you to do and participate in during the holidays. Is it time with family, time at home, helping others or engaging in spiritual activities?
If you’ve experienced a loss in life, don’t try to pretend everything is just like it was. If you recently lost someone, ask yourself, do I need the support of a counselor, trusted friend or prayer partner to talk with? It is natural to feel mixed emotions. As such, the need for support is greater during this time of year.
Rather than follow along with already established rituals again this year, think about creating some of your own, whether it’s lighting a candle to remember someone or volunteering to help others during this time, create your own meaning in the season.
Count your blessings. Take some time to write them down and make sure to reflect on them often during the holidays.
John Roberts, MC is medical director for Pavillon, a not-for-profit residential and outpatient treatment center for substance abuse disorders. Its primary residential treatment center is located in Polk County and its full-service outpatient treatment center is located in Greenville, S.C.
Dr. Roberts is board-certified in psychiatry, neurology and addiction medicine. He received his doctor of medicine from Louisiana State University and completed his psychiatric residency as well as fellowships in substance abuse and anxiety disorders at the Medical University of South Carolina. He has nearly 20 years of experience serving as an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina.