Categories
Anxiety Depression Holidays

Helping Your Teen Navigate Holiday Depression and Anxiety

While we usually consider the holiday season a time for joy and cheer, that feeling is not universal. Among people with mental health issues, over half (64 percent) report that the holiday season negatively impacts their condition, with 40 percent reporting that they feel somewhat worse and nearly a quarter (24 percent) reporting feeling much worse. One respondent in a survey for the National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that the “holiday season beams a spotlight on everything difficult about living with depression.”

While millions of Americans are doing their best to find the right time and space to spend with their family, the looming threat and ongoing destruction caused by COVID-19 further weighs on people’s hearts, raising anxieties about seeing friends and loved ones, and reopening fresh wounds caused by the loss of family members. There’s also seasonal/holiday depression, which affects up to 20 percent of people with major depressive disorder (MDD) and worsens depression during the winter months.

If you feel that your family, and especially your teen, are taking things quite hard during this year’s holiday season, then know that you are not alone. Millions of Americans are in mourning this year. The financial impact of a pandemic only further heightens anxieties around finances and finding work, not to mention the pain of missing family during one of the most important social occasions of the year. Understanding how the holidays might affect your teen and make them feel can help you identify the best way to help them.

Understanding the Highs and Lows of Holiday Depression

Seasonal/holiday depression, also referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a mental health condition that affects about 3 percent of the general population. Between 10 and 20 percent of people are affected by MDD, and nearly 25 percent of people are affected by bipolar disorder. Seasonal/holiday depression is a mood disorder characterized by symptoms of depression, especially during the winter months, usually tied to a combination of factors including:

    • Everyday holiday stressors around family.
    • The pressure to be social.
    • Financial stress.
    • Drastically lowered levels of daylight, which can affect the brain and induce a negative mood.

Only about 10 percent of people with seasonal/holiday depression experience symptoms during the spring and summer months, rather than the fall and winter months. Seasonal/holiday depression should not be confused with the winter blues, a separate phenomenon involving a mild dip in mood during the holidays. People with seasonal/holiday depression experience more severe symptoms, including:

    • A marked decrease in self-esteem.
    • Noticeable signs of hypersomnia (excessive sleep).
    • Intense cravings.
    • Rapid weight gain.

While the causes are not entirely laid out, research indicates that the holiday season’s stressors may be exacerbated in some people by disrupted body clocks (circadian rhythm issues) and a lack of sunlight leading to lower production and release of important mood controlling neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin.

If your teen’s mood dips severely over the holidays, then know that their low mood and irritability might not just be in response to recent events but also the winter months’ general effect. Certain protective factors and condition-specific treatments (like light therapy, utilizing artificial UV light) may help them cope better. Unlike the winter blues, seasonal/holiday depression must be diagnosed and treated by a professional.

An Especially Difficult Year

Regardless of whether your teen’s mood is significantly impacted by holiday stressors and a different day-and-night cycle, no one would argue against the fact that this year is filled with extraordinary circumstances. We could all stand to have a little more support during this challenging year.

While some of us might be keen to see it end and are eagerly looking forward to celebrating the coming of a new year and new opportunities, others reflect on the past 12 months’ events with sorrow and pain. Your teen might be reminded of a close friend or relative’s death whenever they feel the “holiday spirit,” or they think your stress from months and months of anxiety and back-to-back bad news, and it is wearing on them as well.

It takes time to recover from loss and pain, in any shape or form. But if the holidays serve up a final stinger rather than a soothing balsam, acting together could help you and your teen find some peace and make the best of things. Here are a few tips for seeking emotional stability and overcoming low moods during these next few months.

Establishing and Maintaining a Healthy Routine

The holidays can feel massively disrupting for many, especially for teens who rely on a steady routine to keep their feet on the ground and manage feelings of anxiety or loneliness. Maintaining a healthy routine even throughout the holidays might feel like it is not doing a special occasion any justice, but it may help your teen feel stable. Elements of a healthy routine might include:

    • An hour or two of exercise.
    • Limited screen time.
    • Working on a project individually or together (like fixing up an old car, learning to cook new meals, finishing a book, or practicing an instrument).
    • Continuing to work or study (or find an equivalent activity).

Having Things to Look Forward To

For many teens who are feeling down during the holidays, these next few weeks might serve mainly as a reminder of what could have been or of the sorrowful events that had come to pass in weeks prior. Having something to look forward to can help serve as a reminder to move on or focus and be grateful for future opportunities. The next date with a friend, a new graduation day, the first day of a new life at school, or even just the new year and what it might bring. Holding onto the hope of something better is essential.

Making a Difference Over the Holidays

The holidays aren’t just a time for gift-receiving – they’re also a time for gift-giving, and sometimes, that gift doesn’t need to be a new phone or a fancy necklace. If your teen is feeling down, helping those in need during the winter months (and during a pandemic) can help them reap the benefits of kindness and gratitude. There are many ways to help, from donating unwanted old clothes to volunteering at kitchens and handing out supplies. See what is being organized in your local neighborhood and pitch in with your teen any way you can.

Warning Signs and Getting Help

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to help your teen is getting them the help they need. Suppose your teen has been making frequent references to self-harm and suicide, has changed drastically in terms of personality and interests, has become entirely recluse and intensely irritable, and is generally unresponsive to all attempts to help reincorporate them into family life. In that case, it might be best to call a professional and ask for help. Convincing your teen to come to see a specialist might be difficult, but they may also be waiting for you to take notice and offer serious help as their thoughts and behavior spiral towards depression.

Categories
Holidays Mental Health

‘Tis the Season to Be Sober and Safe

Despite being the season of holiday cheer, many Americans report being anxious during the winter months. Those fears are slated to grow immensely in the wake of COVID-19, following months of social isolation, fear of infection, and an expected jump in cases. Furthermore, these worries and anxieties are compounded by the growing risk of the winter blues, and Americans tend to drink more in the final months of the year. Alcohol-related deaths surge to an all-time high every December, from drunk driving to alcohol overdose. If your teen has a drinking problem – or if you have recently gotten on the wagon and are understandably anxious about the months ahead – it is essential to formulate a sober game plan for the rest of the holiday season and know what to expect.

Depression, Alcohol, and the Winter Blues

Depression and alcohol have a volatile relationship. While drinking does release neurotransmitters that uplift mood, that positive uptick is only temporary. The long-term picture is far less rosy – alcohol has a fundamental impact on the brain, especially the developing teenage brain, and can lead to low mood regulation, worse mood swings, more significant anxiety, and more severe symptoms of depression.

Long-term excessive alcohol use worsens many different mental health issues. This pairs badly with the winter season, which is generally tied to lower mood in those susceptible to mood disorders, from mild winter blues to more severe cases of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is triggered and worsened (although not necessarily caused) by the change in sunlight towards the winter months, as well as the general stressors surrounding the holiday season.

There’s a lot of research on the co-occurring nature of addiction and mood disorders and how the holiday months impact and challenge sobriety. Even for teens and adults who aren’t addicted, it’s critical to be aware of the general dangers of alcohol and impairment during the holiday season, as part of the significant uptick in fatalities during and around the winter months are caused by drunk driving and myths surrounding alcohol use and impairment.

Avoid Environmental Triggers and Risk Factors

The most important thing is to remove temptation. Given the nature of the holidays this year, families will have an easier time setting their own rules for how they want to celebrate without necessarily inviting everyone over – which means there is no need to conform to typical traditions of alcoholic eggnog, wine, and New Year’s Eve champagne. If you want to support your teen’s sobriety, then avoiding drinks around them is an important step.

For the Sake of Your Sobriety, Take Each Day as It Comes

Holidays are an integral part of our culture to mark and commemorate important events and celebrate with family. However, the pressure of celebration and grandiosity might not help in early recovery, especially when developing a routine that emphasizes steady schedules and the mundane. To that end, try to remember that even on New Year’s Eve, the sun continues to set in the west, the Earth continues to rotate at the same pace it always has, and the day continues to have its 24 hours as it always does.

While the holidays are unique to many of us, a day is a day, and it is essential to stick to the routine and not feel like all of this is building up to some momentous climax. For the sake of this year, and any other time when it is all becoming too much, and the future seems unbelievably uncertain, it is essential to remember that it is your priority to remain sober. There will always be some small part deep inside thinking about how great a drink might be on lonely or hard nights, and it gets louder the lonelier and harder the night is.

But that voice is wrong, and you have countless experiences to recall that prove that it is wrong. Be with friends (physically or virtually), find alternative ways to have fun, commemorate the holidays, and take pride in every sober day. It might help parents understand that making a big deal of the holidays can feel very intimidating to teens trying to develop some sense of normalcy and control over their lives after recovery. It is essential to communicate with your teen and figure out what they think about the holidays and how they feel.

Contribute to Your Own Sober Holiday Traditions

Research shows that doing good and helping others can have a tremendous impact on the human psyche and improve our mood and self-esteem. And if there is any time to do good, it is right now. People are hurting all over the country, and they’ve got a long and harsh winter ahead of them.

Consider doing all you can to contribute to feeding and housing the homeless, providing winter coats and fuel costs, or helping nearby families and people in need. There are plenty of ways to help this winter. Check local newspapers and Facebook groups and check your local homeless shelters and community housing organizations for notices.

If You Experience the Early Warning Signs of Relapse, Seek Help

It would not be an addiction if it were easy. Alcohol relapses happen, and they might happen more often during the holidays. More stressors, more temptations, and given the terrible events this year, more “reasons” to throw caution to the wind. If you feel yourself losing control or relapsed, call for help as soon as you can.

Sometimes, relapse is part of the recovery process, and you learn a little more each time. No one wants to start 2021 on the path to rehab. But you cannot always stay sober alone. Support from loved ones, friends, and professionals can help you navigate the holidays. While it is ultimately up to you to maintain your sobriety, addiction is a powerful disease. Stay sober, strong, and ask for help if and when you need it.

Categories
Holidays Recovery

Staying Sober on Labor Day Weekend

It’s Labor Day weekend, the first holiday of the school year and the one that indicates the real end of Summer and the transition toward Fall. Labor Day represents the culmination of Summer barbecues, eating al fresco, long days and warm nights. Stores already have Halloween swag for sale and it’s still August! I wish I was kidding.

For addicts and alcoholics, long weekends tend to mean parties. But as the path of recovery becomes your own, the meanings of holidays change. They become opportunities for making healthier choices, having sober fun, and making long-lasting connections.

Still, for someone new in recovery, holidays might be overwhelming. Holidays may be the first relatively unstructured time for the newcomer fresh out of treatment, or it may be reminiscent of times past where things went awry. The reality is, recovery requires a shift: a shift in social circles, life choices, and a shift in how we represent ourselves to the world. Gone are the days of calculated debauchery and lost memories.

Here are some helpful tips to help you stay on track this Labor Day weekend (and any holiday weekend from here on out):

  • Get active: Play in the surf, go on a hike, or a long bike ride.  Firing up those endorphins is good for us and positive for our mental health.
  • Go to extra meetings; There are meetings going on at all times of the day—early morning to the infamous late-night meetings.  Often times, there are marathon meetings on holiday weekends.
  • Stay in contact with your sponsor and actively engage with your recovery support system
  • Be of service! Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into action. At 21 years sober, I spend more of my time being of service than I ever did. It keeps me present, engaged, and out of my head.
  • Host or attend a sober event. In sober living? Maybe your house will be up to the task of making an in-house sober fun day – BBQS, pool party, et cetera.
  • Engage in a contemplative practice: yoga or meditation. Yoga and meditation are both a direct route to self-care. They cultivate the engagement of the breath, which helps us stay in the present moment. They both ask that we are present: not in the future and not in the past. This, in and of itself, is profoundly self-regulating.
  • Say “No” when and if you need to. Remember, “No,” is a complete sentence. If something doesn’t feel right to you, “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It’s a boundary and good practice in recovery.
  • Ask for help: You cannot do this alone. Understanding that asking for help is a learned skill, practice whenever you can.  If you are lonely, or overwhelmed, or emotionally triggered, reach out to someone. Work with moving against the discomfort of asking for help – it does not imply weakness, but rather, tells those around you that you are courageous.

And most of all: have fun this Labor Day weekend. Like Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) once said, “Fun is good.” Try to find joy in the little things: a cuddle with a dog, a great cup of coffee, a cool dip in a pool on a hot day, the majestic cloud formations, a sunset, or whatever strikes you. There are nuggets of goodness everywhere. And if you have trouble finding something joyful, do yourself a favor and jot down 3 things you’re grateful for. It will help you find your way. Have a safe and sober weekend

Categories
Holidays Recovery Self-Care

The Memorial Day Holiday Weekend and Self-Care

Memorial Day holiday weekend,  and holidays this time of year, tend to bring up an image of BBQs, beer and parties:  Lots of parties.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is emblematic of the beginning of Summer, despite it being a about honoring those who died in active military service.  When you’re an addict or alcoholic, however, most holidays take on one meaning, and one meaning only: a means to getting high. But when you come into recovery, the meanings of holidays need to change. They need to evolve into opportunities for making healthier choices, sober fun, and creating positive memories.

In the newness of recovery, however, a holiday weekend can seem overwhelming, perhaps daunting. The thought of suddenly having to shift perspectives, change social circles, and ultimately change how we show up on our lives is tough. I challenge you to shift your perspective and begin to look at holidays as an opportunity for self-care.

Here are some helpful tips to help you stay on track on any holiday weekend and also take care of yourself in the process:

  • Go outside! Take a walk with a friend or go on a hike;
  • Go to extra meetings;
  • Call your sponsor;
  • Be of service some examples of being of service are:
    • Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.
    • Give a homeless person a meal.
    • Volunteer at an animal shelter.
    • Offer to help an elderly neighbor with their groceries.
    • Take a commitment at a meeting
  • Host or attend a sober event. For example, have a BBQ at a park – do silly activities like 3-legged races, water balloon fights, or tug of war.
  • Practice meditation or yoga – both are a great means of self-care and they do wonders to regulate your nervous system;
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If something doesn’t feel right to you, “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It’s a boundary and good practice in recovery.
  • Ask for help: One of the hardest lessons to learn when we get sober is that we cannot do this alone. Asking for help is a learned skill for a lot of us. If you are lonely, or overwhelmed, or emotionally triggered, reach out to someone.

And last but not least, Don’t forget to have fun. Find the joy in the little things: the light on a flower, the smell of the ocean, the sand between your toes, your friend’s laugh, a great cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset, or a great movie (or one so bad that it’s good!). Have a safe and sober weekend!

Categories
Communication Holidays

Valentine’s Day: Love and Kindness For All

Valentine’s day:

It’s the day to celebrate love and joy, and connectedness, not just a partnership with another human being.

Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Maybe you’re single, or you just broke up with someone, or heck, you’ve been together with your Valentine for several months or years: can you honor your heart? Can you be of service to those around you, calling everyone your Valentine? Today, in Huffington Post’s “Good News” section I came across this post about students leaving random love notes around for people to find. I was inspired by their kindness and ability to care for others. It is a wonderful way to be of service and it got me thinking about all of the things we can do for each other, like:

  • Pay for the person’s lunch behind you in line.
  • Leave a kind note for a friend.
  • Pick a flower and hand it to the first person you see–just for the heck of it.
  • Compliment someone without expecting something in return.
  • Cook a meal for someone.
  • Write a card for no reason.

 

These are just a few ideas, with the through line being kindness, which means, “The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to express friendliness, generosity, and to be considerate. And perhaps it will inspire you to carry those actions throughout the rest of the year.  Here’s an inspiring quote from Mr. Rogers, a man whose kindness was a visceral part of who he was:

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”

 

Oh and one more thing, as if Mr. Rogers wasn’t already inspiring. Check out this video of a 29-year-old woman who was born deaf but hears sound for the first time after receiving cochlear implants. Grab a tissue; Her joyful, awe-filled reaction is remarkable!! Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

 

 

 

Categories
Adolescence Holidays Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery Self-Care Service Spirituality Teen Activism Wellness

Resolution, Schmesolution: Create a New Year Theme

© 2013 sarit z. rogers — all rights reserved

It’s that time: New Year’s Eve celebrations are upon us! For many, it’s the time of year often met with party plans and resolutions. Parties and resolutions together sound like a juxtaposition and affect some legitimate irony, but nevertheless, they go together for most people every 31st of December. However, if you are in recovery, have clearer eyes and hopefully a wiser mind, things might look a bit different during this time of year.

 

There are several articles offering tips and guidelines for setting up the “perfect” New Year resolutions, 0r embarking on a New Year cleanse, or signing up for a New Year workout plan. The one thing all of these have in common is the idea that you can and will actually commit to changing a bevy of major things just because it’s the New Year. Sadly, many fail or abandon those impassioned resolutions after a few weeks. One article in particular stuck out to me. This article suggests creating a theme for the New Year rather than a resolution. A New Year’s Theme! That is right in line with the New Year Intentions I have suggested in the past. Both of these, a theme or an intention, are something that can easily be created, worked with and maintained throughout the year. Rather than seeking perfection, or a grand, finite accomplishment, a theme or intention allows one to slowly change behaviors and invite the possibility of more long-term, sustainable changes.

 

What might your New Year’s Theme or Intention be for 2014?

 

Kindness: The wonderful quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. You can choose to practice random and not so random acts of kindness throughout the year. Make it a year of being kind when you might otherwise be gruff. Invite some personal curiosity and investigation about what it might be like to respond to difficulty with kindness instead of anger or fear. It’s an interesting one to work with, but everyone can be kind and deserves kindness in return.

 

Mindfulness: Also looked at as keen “awareness,” mindfulness is an astute awareness of reality and the present moment.  It is an acknowledgement that things are just as they are in that moment. If you make mindfulness your New Year theme, perhaps you will begin by investigating the contemplative practices of meditation and yoga. Or perhaps it might mean choosing not to use your cell phone when you are walking around and instead bringing your awareness to your surroundings and becoming more present. It might mean driving without the radio on, or not always having your cell phone nearby. It might mean eating dinner without the television on so you can be more present with your family. Remember, it is not about perfection; this is a practice.

 

Wellness: If you are desirous of changing your health or the way you eat or the amount of activity you engage in, this is a wonderful theme. You might do this by ruling out meat for one day a week, or by eating more greens. You may choose to limit your caffeine, or cut down on your cigarettes or vape pens: eventually you may even quit! You can increase your wellness, that healthy balance of mind, body and spirit, even if you start small. In fact, small changes over a long period of time have a longer lasting effect.

 

Movement: Increase your physicality in 2014. You can start with walking more or riding your bike. If you usually drive to the corner store or to a meeting that’s only a mile away, try riding a bike once a week! The more you do ride your bike or walk, the more it might become a habit. Honestly, there’s no concrete rule about how long habits take to form or break. Instead, look at this as small opportunities for personal change.

 

Service: Make 2014 your year of being of service! Take a commitment at a meeting and keep it for a year. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Volunteer at an animal shelter once a week. Find a cause you believe in and get involved in raising awareness about it. Being of service is the fulcrum of recovery; “We can’t keep it unless we give it away” is one of the most-often repeated sayings relating to being of service. Write it on something you can always see to remind you to get out of yourself and into action.

 

No matter your theme or plan, the New Year is a time of reflection and growth. It is an opportunity to reflect on the past year so we can grow into the new one. May you ring this New Year in with self-care, compassion, kindness, and great joy. We wish you a wonderful New Year celebration and look forward to celebrating and growing with you in 2014.

Categories
Feelings Holidays Mental Health Prevention Recovery Self-Care Stress Wellness

Compassion and Kindness Over Holiday Hustling

We are neck deep in last-minute holiday madness! Traffic is catawampus, and the stores

are loud and overly crowded. I am noticing and experiencing a real hustle and bustle to get things done for the upcoming Christmas holiday, but for many of us, holidays can represent added stress and perhaps anxiety.

 

How about flipping the holiday coin, so to speak, and leaning into the recovery work you’ve been doing around stress and anxiety? Try taking a look at this holiday as an opportune time to work with your discomfort and begin to hold some internal space for it. You may begin to notice some of the other amazing things that occur during this time of year: joy, friendship, abundance, and generosity, community and togetherness.

 

Here are some thoughts on how to do this while also taking care of yourself at the same time:

 

Self-care: You need to care for yourself first before you can care for others. You can’t do anything effectively if you are pulling from an empty well. So, what does that self-care look like for you?

 

Be of service: Do one random act of kindness every day (more if you are inspired).

 

1. Buy a coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks.

 

2. Buy a homeless person a meal.

 

3. Help someone with their groceries at the market.

 

4. Volunteer at an animal shelter.

 

5. Offer to help an elderly neighbor or with their groceries.

 

6. Take a commitment at a meeting. The greeter commitment is a favorite because you get to meet new people.

 

Be kind (to yourself and to others), even when you don’t want to.

 

Practice compassion. “Sympathetic concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others.” There’s a difference between pity and concern: Compassion isn’t a way to feel sorry for someone. It’s an opportunity to show care and kindness to the suffering of others.

 

These small acts of kindness and service during the holidays may actually decrease our focus on stress and anxiety created around the holiday itself. Acts of kindness and compassion facilitate connection with others and allow us to let go of some of that stress and anxiety we are holding onto. Connected action allows us to reconnect with the roots of what the holiday is really about: community, love, and togetherness.  Ironically, all that running around to get last-minute items actually makes us disconnected.

 

So, I leave you with this: a video of two 16-year-olds engaging in random acts of kindness. They dress up as superheroes, wearing tights and capes, and running around paying for people’s food, giving tips to waitresses without even ordering, helping people out when they see they’re struggling to pay for something, and feeding a homeless guy. What can you do this holiday season to practice random acts of kindness? You don’t need a cape and tights, just some willingness to be kind.

 

 

Categories
Holidays Mental Health Recovery Teen Activism Wellness

Practicing Kindness, Compassion, and Generosity Every Day

Kindness (Photo credit: -Reji)

Every day is a day for practicing kindness, compassion, and generosity. In fact, these qualities and practices shouldn’t be relegated to once a year around the holidays. However, that’s often the time when we hear about it the most.  Around Thanksgiving, there’s a flood of people who commit to feeding the homeless. Ironically, that’s the one time of year that the homeless aren’t actually seeking food. The shelters, the food banks, the plethora of good Samaritans are all providing that one hot, nourishing meal. The day after Thanksgiving, however, many of us move on with our lives…until next year, when we commit to feeding the homeless of helping the helpless.

 

What happens if we consciously choose to practice kindness and compassion in this way every day? What if we decide to be of service, and practice kindness, compassion, and generosity as a way of living our lives? Would we be happier? Would we be less stressed? Would our mental health improve or at least be less overwhelming? I would garner a resounding yes to these questions.

 

Consciously choose to be kind, compassionate, and generous…every day:

 

By doing so, we have the opportunity to get out of ourselves and realize that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe. In the AA big book, alcoholics (and I am going to include addicts as well) are referred to as “selfish and self-seeking” or as the “actor, director, and producer” of their own show. By choosing to be kind, compassionate and generous in our daily lives, we have a chance to overcome this state of mind. Being of service is key.

 

Practice Joy:

 

Happiness is contagious. If you can find one joyful thing to focus on or go back to during your day, your day will be brighter. Surround yourself with joyful people, have random dance parties, revel in the little things that bring you joy. I giggle every time I hear my dog snore, or when little kids laugh, or when my son cracks a joke. Joy is everywhere, even when things feel dark.

 

Practice Gratitude:


Pay attention to the little things and find gratitude in that: the way the light hits a flower, the fact that you got a parking spot…right in front, waking up at home with family, seeing your kids, a shared smile with a stranger, or a shared joke with a coworker.  The list can go on. Essentially, begin looking at the seemingly banal and find some gratitude there.

 

Things that have gone wrong or which present difficulty for us is also something to be grateful for: These are often our greatest teaching moments.

 

Thanksgiving may have passed, but your ability to engage in compassionate acts, kindness, and gratitude are alive and well.  These practices contribute to better mental health, a fuller life, and a higher level of optimism. Being present and honoring what’s happening right now is a gift and an opportunity to open your heart.  When you show someone kindness, they are more apt to show someone else kindness. It’s a wonderfully positive domino effect!

__________________________________________________________

Great read and inspiration:

4 Happy Feelings That Are Contagious

Emotions Are Contagious–Choose Your Company Wisely

Categories
Holidays Recovery

Visions Wishes You a Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah

It’s a big night: it’s the night before Thanksgiving and the first night of Chanukah. It’s a holiday mashup if I’ve ever seen one!

 

There is the inevitable stress (walk into any grocery store and you’ll see what I mean), family shenanigans (some good, some bad), and excitement. I won’t lie, the entire week has been focused on making Thanksgivukkah donuts. Really.  What I will tell you is this: try to find some humor in the madness. There is humor and joy or the possibility of both everywhere you turn.

 

There are:

Menurkeys

 

 

 

 

Bad jokes:

Why don’t turkeys fly?
They can’t afford plane tickets!

Why do turkeys gobble?
Because they never learned table manners!

 

Silly videos:

 

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel too vulnerable, remember these tools for self-care:

  • Take 10 deep breaths.
    • Try one of my favorite calming techniques: Breathe in for the count of 5, breathe out for the count of 6. Do this 10 times! If you can, increase the #s, always making the outbreath longer. It naturally calms the mind and resets the nervous system.
  • Take a time out;
  • Make an exit plan
    • drive your own car
    • have secondary plans or a safe place you can go.
  • Go to a meeting;
  • Be of service. It will change your life.

 

From all of us here at Visions Teen, we wish you a safe, sober, and fun Thanksgiving and Chanukah.

 

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”  Charles Dickens

Categories
Holidays Mental Health Recovery

Gratitude for the Thanksgivukkah Holiday

Thanksgivukkah? Yes, that’s right, there’s a rare convergence of two holidays happening this week because of a rare occurrence in the lunarsolar Hebrew calendar, whose dates reflect the moon phase and solar times of the year. I am definitely intrigued by the meshing of Thanksgiving and Chanukah and have been creatively thinking of culinary ways in which to blend the two. Pumpkin-pie cream-filled donuts and latkes are definitely entering this once-in-a-lifetime menu of obscurity.

 

Thanksgiving and Chanukah are holidays that encourage togetherness, and for both of these celebrations, gratitude is the main dish served. Additionally, these holidays invite the possibility of family gatherings. For some, this is exciting and long awaited; for others, it’s tantamount to walking into Mordor. Honoring either of those situations, and the feelings and sensations that arise is going to be key in navigating the holiday.

 

If you are freshly in recovery from mental health issues or substance abuse, and your trauma is in your face, being gentle with yourself is going to be imperative. Honor what you need, how you feel, and create some healthy boundaries for yourself. If going to a particular family member’s house is too triggering, see if you can go to a friend’s house or maybe invite friends over and make your own wild adventure of a meal.

 

If you are the parents of a child in treatment and this is your first holiday together, try to come into it with an open heart and mind. It won’t be easy for any of you, but there is a clear opportunity to create healthy, healing familial change. Both holidays are tied together with the idea of unity, togetherness, and community. Taking baby steps to develop new traditions can be eye opening and fun.

 

We are all grateful for something. Start making gratitude lists and checking them twice. Gratitude lists can be simple, complex, silly, or serious. Gratitude is gratitude and Thanksgivukkah is a perfect opportunity to get grateful.  Chanukah celebrates the miracle of light and the miraculous fact that a day’s worth of oil lasted for 8 days. Thanksgiving celebrates a bountiful harvest. Both of these conjoined make for a celebration of epic gratitude. Yes, epic. Mixing traditions and discovering their similarities is pretty darn cool.

 

So, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week or Thanksgivukkah, use it as a time for reflection on community and gratitude. You never know what nuggets of wisdom or moments of awakening and change will arise.