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Staying Sober During The Holidays

 

 

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The holidays can be a difficult when you’re trying to stay sober. This is  especially true for people who have recently stopped drinking or using drugs.  . Here are a few ideas on how to help you with your sobriety during these times.

Meetings

If you attend meetings regularly,  keep attending them

The holidays can be a stressful time when trying to “fit in” seeing family, buying gifts and all of your regular activities. But if going to a meeting is helping you stay sober than it is important that you continue going.

A good idea is to have your meetings planned out. That way you can make your schedule around your meetings and be prepared. This makes it much easier to get to all the places you need to without getting stressed out.

Parties

If you plan on attending parties , try to bring a friend who will not be drinking.  If you make the decision to attend a holiday party, always remember that you can leave at any time.  Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings or what people will think.

Seeing the Family

Families are often a trigger for many struggling in sobriety. Make sure your family knows where you stand with your sobriety. If you find yourself struggling, call a sober friend or sponsor  and talk to them about it.  Don’t ever feel guilty if you feel you need to remove yourself from a family situation. This may be uncomfortable for you in the short term, but it is important to look at the big picture.

Talking to Someone

Talking to someone is always a good idea.  No matter what the circumstances, having someone to talk to can change your perspective.

Remove Expectations

The holidays bring with them a variety of expectations, whether they be on you or on someone else. Don’t let these presumptions deter you in any way. You can’t pretend to know anyone else’s situation and you can’t expect them to know yours. Keep it simple and enjoy the season.

 

Help Someone Else

 

When you make someone else’s life better, you will be filled with a feeling of joy and purpose.  You will be amazed at what this does for your own life.

Enjoy the Season

Try and enjoy what’s going on around you. People are festive this time of year and instead of resisting that feeling, embrace it.  Joy spreads.

Stay Away from Things that Recall Bad Memories

This is the time of year for reruns of old movies and Christmas songs that may jar certain feelings. You know what is going to stir up these emotions.  Try to stay away from  people, places and things which may cause you to use.  .

Down Time

The holidays provide a lot of down time. Don’t use these days to dwell, instead try and find a way to help someone else, go to a meeting or do some shopping for yourself or someone else. Find something productive to do with your time.

Use Your Resources

There are many tools at your disposal to stay sober, many of which I listed here, use them.  Help is there  but you just have to reach out.

Tips for Avoiding Holiday Drama

 

 

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Watching TV and movies often gives us the idea of a perfect holiday where everyone gets along and it’s all joyful and peaceful.  This is very rarely the case in real life.  I’ve complied some tips to help you avoid the almost inevitable  holiday drama

 

1. Don’t expect to heal old wounds

Don’t use holidays as a time  to repair old childhood wounds, with difficult family, keep conversation simple. Don’t  get drawn into their drama. Don’t apologize or defend yourself.  Stay near the people you like and that like you and  don’t forget to breathe.

2. Don’t expect people to change

Don’t expect people to be any different from who they are, whatever or whoever irritated you last year, will probably do so this year.   Hoping people will be different this year just sets you up for disappointment.

3. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries

If someone tries to push your buttons, remind yourself not to personalize it. How people act and behave is a reflection of who they are and has nothing to do with you.

4. Plan ahead

Set limits ahead of time about things like how long you might stay at a family function.  Try and have some go-to coping strategies in mind before you get there.

5. Control what you can control

Whether your family has  hurt you or regularly offends you,  try to use holiday time to become an even stronger person.  Remember no one can touch your thoughts, so think what you want, laugh to yourself and give yourself compassion.

6. Look for joyful moments

Remember this is real life not a  movie.  Throw away the idea of achieving perfection, but create moments that are special to you.

Depression and the Holiday Season

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Feeling down during the holidays can be hard especially since everyone seems so happy.  Believe it or not many people who you seem happy during the holidays are also stressed and depressed.  So if the family gatherings, the endless parties, and the shopping get you down, you’re not alone. However people with depression need to be especially careful when coping with holiday stress. . Here are some tips to reduce stress and hopefully  find holiday joy.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Emotions

1. Have modest expectations. Don’t worry about  what the holidays are supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel.  Don’t worry about holiday spirit and take the holidays as they come.

2. Do something different. If the  prospect of the usual routine fills you with dread rather than  joy try not to  surrender to it. Try something different to get into the spirit.

3. Lean on your support system. During the holidays, take time to get together with your support team regularly or at least keep in touch by phone to keep yourself centered.

 

4. Don’t assume the worst.  Don’t start the holiday season anticipating disaster. If you try to take the holidays as they come and limit your expectations you may enjoy them more.5. Forget the unimportant stuff. Don’t run yourself ragged just to live up to holiday tradition. Give yourself a break.

6. Volunteer.  Consider taking time to help people who have less than you. Try volunteering at a soup kitchen or working for a toy drive.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Family

7. Head off problems. Think about what people or situations trigger your holiday stress and figure out ways to avoid them.

8. Ask for help .  People may be more willing to help out than you expect; they just need some guidance from you on what to do.

9. Don’t worry about things beyond your control. You can’t control others but  you can control your own reaction to the situation.

 

10. Make new family traditions.  While it’s nice to keep old traditions, you can also add new traditions for the holidays.11. Find positive ways to remember loved ones. Holidays will remind you of the loved ones who aren’t around anymore, try to do something to celebrate their memory.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Parties

12. Don’t overbook.   Don’t say yes to every invitation.  Think about which parties you really want to attend.

13. Don’t stay longer than you want. Going to a party doesn’t obligate you to stay until the end.  Stay as long as you can and leave when you are ready.

14. Have a partner for the party. If the prospect of an office party is stressful, talk to a friend and arrange to arrive  and leave together.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Shopping

15. Forget about the perfect gift. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed,  don’t worry about finding the absolute best gift.   Remember: everybody likes a gift card.

16. Shop online. Save yourself the inconvenience, the crowds by doing most of your shopping online.

17. Stick to a budget. The cost of holiday shopping can grow very quickly,   try to stick to a budget.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Self-Care

18. Stay on schedule. As much as you possibly can, try to stick with your normal routine during the holidays.  Disrupting your schedule  can make your mood deteriorate.

19. Exercise. While you may not feel like you have the time to exercise during the holidays, the benefits are worth it.

20. Eat sensibly. When you’re facing a dozen holiday parties and family gatherings between now and New Year’s, it’s hard to stay committed to a sensible diet. But try. . On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up if you go overboard some days.   It’s not a big deal. Just get back on track the next day.

21. Try a sun lamp. As the daylight grows shorter, lots of people feel more depressed and sad.  A sun lamp may help to improve your mood.

22. Give yourself a break. “The holidays can make some people dwell on their imperfections, their mistakes, the things they’re not proud of,be  gentle with yourself. Remember it  is the season of kindness and forgiveness, so  save some of it for yourself.

Say No to Respectability Politics

 

 

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As a Black woman,  it has been implied  to me that because I “spoke so well” and “behaved myself”, I wouldn’t have it as bad as other Black people who “didn’t” however  despite all of that, I  have faced  microaggressions and been called the n word as I walked down the street on my way to lunch.  As a woman, I was told to not dress in certain ways so men wouldn’t harass me however I have been cat called on the street even when I was 9 months pregnant.

Respectability politics is a term coined by author and professor Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham in her 1993 book Righteous Discontent The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880–1920. While the term is relatively new, the concept is old.  It is telling an oppressed group that in order to receive better treatment from the group in power, they must behave better.

 The practice of respectability politics is a problem because it shifts blame and responsibility from the oppressive group to the oppressed.  Respectability politics tells us that the oppressed group must police themselves in order to stop being harmed.  This is of course not true because no matter how you carry yourself there is a chance that someone will exhibit racist, sexist or negative  behavior towards you. I’m a Black woman who probably would be defined as respectable however I have experienced racism and sexism no matter what I’m wearing or how I’m speaking. Dressing a certain way or speaking a certain way won’t save you so just be yourself.

Social Media and Anxiety

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Do you get anxious when you cannot check your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? Social media anxiety is a condition that is similar to social anxiety disorder and is estimated to affect up to 20% of social media users.   According to the experts, almost 20% of people with social media accounts cannot go more than three hours without checking them.  I used to have difficulty with constantly checking my social media but I have begun to spend less time online and I do feel my anxiety has lessened.

Comparing yourself to others on social media can often lead to anxiety.  This is referred  as the compare-and-despair factor.  Looking at pictures of people on fancy vacations and seeing posts where people seem to be happy and carefree all the time  may cause you to feel like your life is boring in comparison.  However remember what people post on social media is only a small part of their life, you don’t truly know  what’s going on from pictures and posts.

Comparing can also lead to anxiety when it relates to followers or friends. For example, some people are often trying to get the most followers or friends, remember that having lots of friends and followers doesn’t indicate your worth as a person.  I recently deleted over 200 people from Facebook.

Another social anxiety  sometimes triggered by social media is the fear of missing out, (FOMO).  This is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which you’re absent”. This is characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.

While there is nothing wrong with using social media, it is important to not neglect other areas in your life to be on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  A good technique is to set a specific amount of time when you will be on, for example 30 minutes per day.  Also if you delete the apps from your phone, you will probably spend less time on social media sites.  Cutting down can be difficult at first but once you do, you may find your anxiety lessened and you will also spend more time with others outside of the internet.

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To Be a Black Woman with Anxiety

 

 

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Anxiety is one of the most common reasons for women to seek therapy.  For Black women, anxiety is  often more chronic and the symptoms more intense than white women.

To understand anxiety and Black women,  you need to understand how Black women are viewed.    There are three basic images which we see of Black women, the Strong Black Womanthe Angry Black Woman, and the Overly Sexual Black woman.. These images affect how other people see Black women and how we see ourselves. They also play a role in the development of anxiety.

Strong Black Women -There are some  positive aspects about being a Strong Black Woman, but there are  also many negatives.   A Strong Black Woman  will keep going even when she knows she should stop, this places her mental and physical health at risk.

An Angry Black Woman  is perceived as a woman who is always ready to  “cuss” you out. I have found that many women who are perceived this way are actually very anxious.  The anger is often an outward expression of their discomfort with the negativity associated with anxiety.

The Overly Sexual Black Woman  used to be referred to as a Jezebel, which comes from the Biblical Queen who  was said to have turned her husband against God.  Since slavery, Black women have been sexualized in derogatory ways  Today  this is often seen  in rap and hip-hop videos.

Social Anxiety 

In workplaces, college and professional  settings around the country, Black women often find themselves to be  the only one.   In these situations, we  have  often been taught that we have to be twice as good, that we are representing the race and that we are being watched more closely than our white counterparts.  These beliefs along with the Strong Black Woman image often increases the risk for social anxiety.

PTSD

The rate of sexual assault among Black women is  reported to be 3.5 times higher than that of any other group in this country. Black women are also less likely to report their assault. Many never share with anyone what has happened to them. The trauma  will remain untreated and the symptoms  will worsen.

Racism is another   form of trauma that  affects Black women.  Trauma in the form of racism can be directly or indirectly experienced. Driving while Black, shopping while Black, and racial micoraggressions are direct examples of racial trauma.  Indirect examples are videos of unarmed Black women and men being killed.

Thankfully, the stigma associated with seeking help for anxiety  and other mental health issues is disappearing.  Remember that with the help of a good therapist you can reclaim your life from anxiety.  I was able to reclaim my life and so can you.

 

Beginning Therapy

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It’s not too difficult to  find a therapist but it can be difficult to know if you’ve found one who is right for you.  The first step is often going on the internet and looking at Psychology Today, Therapy for Black Girls or other therapist directories.  After you find a therapist it’s important to see if they are the right fit for you.  Here are some questions to ask yourself  to see if you’ve found the right therapist for yourself.

1. What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist? Do you feel safe and comfortable?  Is the person down-to-earth and easy to relate to or does he or she feel cold and emotionally removed?  Is the therapist arrogant?   If a therapist  doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, that’s okay; there’s absolutely no contract or rule requiring you to continue working with any therapist. However,  If you find yourself reacting negatively to every therapist you see, then the issue could be yours and may warrant your sticking it out with a therapist in an effort to work through your fears  of beginning therapy.

2. What’s the therapist’s general philosophy and approach to helping? Does your therapist  approach people in a compassionate and optimistic way? Does he or she believe humans are born loving and lovable?

3. Can the therapist clearly define how he or she can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy?  A therapist should be able to  explain how they can help and  be able  to give you a basic “road map,” to their approach.

4. Can your  therapist accept feedback and admit mistakes? A good therapist  is open to feedback and to learning that something he or she said hurt or offended you. Good therapists are willing to look at themselves and to honestly and openly admit mistakes.

5. Does the therapist  encourage dependence or independence? Therapy doesn’t solve your problems; it helps you to solve your own.  Therapy doesn’t soothe your overwhelming feelings; it helps you learn to soothe your own feelings.  If your therapist never encourages you to access your own resources, it is more likely you will become dependent on your therapist to help you feel better, rather than learning to depend on yourself.

6. Does the therapist have experience helping others with the particular issues for which you are seeking therapy? The more experience a therapist has addressing a particular issue, concern, or problem area, the more expertise they have developed.

9. Does the therapist make guarantees or promises? It’s important for a therapist to provide hope but not give  absolute unconditional guarantees.

10. Is the therapist  licensed? Licensure means  that a therapist has engaged in postgraduate counseling experience which, depending on the state of licensure, may include up to 3,000 hours of required supervised experience. It also means the therapist has passed a licensing exam. There are many unlicensed therapists who have years of experience and do excellent work, but licensed therapists  have (generally but not always) undergone more extensive supervision than unlicensed counselors. You can contact your state professional licensing board to verify the licensure of a provider.

11. Have any complaints been filed with the board? To see if a therapist has a record or is under investigation, you can check with your state licensing board for their profession.

Remember the most important thing is the relationship, if you feel comfortable and have a good rapport with your therapist then you know you’ve found the one for you.