The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. And yet, for some, the holiday season brings increased stress and risk for behavioral health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there is an annual spike of drug and alcohol related deaths between December and January. Studies also show that binge drinking is highest during the winter holiday months, with 44% of people binge drinking on New Year’s Eve, and 21% during Christmas. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, during a two-hour time period. So what is the reason behind these troubling trends?
Drinking and drug use during the holiday season is heavily influenced by how holidays are viewed in American culture. The arrival of November and December means that the year is behind us—we did it, we survived! Many take this time to celebrate all they have achieved and overcome throughout the year. But while some enjoy spending time with family during the holidays, others experience family conflict, which can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms—like misuse of drugs and alcohol. Sixty-three percent of Americans report feeling stressed or overwhelmed during the holidays due to the financial and family strains that accompany the holidays. Others may not have family or friends to spend time with, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. In addition to all the stresses that occur during a normal holiday season, 2020 has another sobering concern: COVID-19. Many of us are faced with the reality of unprecedented loss this year—loss of jobs, financial security, and loved ones.
It is important to remember during this time to be gentle with others—and yourself. Remember to practice self-care during the holidays, whether that means walks in the park, calling friends, taking bubble baths, doing some yoga, or watching Hallmark movies. Self-care is your defense against the stress and strain of the holidays, and caring for yourself will allow you to better care for others during this busy season. Try to practice gratitude by reminding yourself of a few reasons you are grateful—for your family, your home, and the beautiful world around you during the holidays. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, sleep better, and even have stronger immune systems. Gratitude and self-care exercises do not need to be a planned-out affair. Rather than feeling obligated to set aside a chunk of time for these practices, try to implement them throughout your day. Try some light stretching while you brush your teeth in the morning, some gratitude while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, or a bit of journaling before you tuck yourself into bed at night. A little bit goes a long way.
If someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol issue this holiday season, connect with MCF to find recovery services and support for your loved one and yourself. Simply call 410-730-8267, or email [email protected]
Wishing you a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season from MCF!