Tips for Coping During this Holiday Season

This blog post was contributed by CHOICES counselor Alejandra Ortiz.

Our holidays this year look quite different from a year ago. The holiday season is typically when we come together in community to share time with one another. This year, while families cannot physically come together, there are other ways we can cope with the stress and depression that social distancing guidelines may cause.

1. Acknowledge your feelings.

It is okay to take time to cry and express your feelings. Don’t force yourself to feel happy just because it is the holidays. It important for you to share how you feel. You may feel disappointment, sadness, or grief, just to name a few. Reach out to someone who can validate your feelings and help you move through them. If you are feeling lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events or communities. Try reaching out to a loved one through text or video calls.

2. Keep active.

Physical activity boosts mood both in the short and long term. Go for a 10-15 minute walk to increase your mood and calmness. You can be artistic and bring your camera to take some scenic pictures. Have you visited some of these parks around Houston?

  • Memorial Park
  • Buffalo Bayou
  • Houston Arboretum
  • Discovery Green
  • Hermann Park
  • Gerald Hines Waterwall Park
  • Terry Hershey Park
  • White Oak Greenway

Remember, with keeping active, it is also important to eat, drink water and sleep well. Make sure you are staying hydrated, eating balanced meals and maintaining a sleeping schedule. Also remember that while alcohol might lift your mood and reduce anxiety at the time, in the long term, alcohol increases the risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

3. Keep your expectations realistic.

Hearing how everyone is spending this holiday season differently this year could lead to potential disappointment and additional stress. A way to eliminate this is by setting clear expectations and boundaries with family and friends. In addition, it is important to respect everyone’s level of comfort during these difficult times.

If you feel you need professional help with managing depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our highly-experienced counselors will confidentially discuss your unique situation and quickly get you the help you need.

Why Do People With Mental Disorders Turn to Drugs?

Many people diagnosed with a mental disorder start abusing illegal drugs to either fight the symptoms of their illness or deal with the side effects of the medicine used to treat their illness. Scientists have long made the link between mental health disorders and substance abuse. In fact, the co-existence of both is referred to as “co-occurring disorders.”

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)8.2 million adults over the age of 18 had co-occurring disorders (see a diagram from the survey below).

Consider schizophrenia. About 50 percent of people suffering from the disorder have also abused illegal substances at some point during their lives, according to the article “Treating Substance Abuse among Patients with Schizophrenia” published in Psychiatry Online. 

 “It is widely assumed that patients with schizophrenia use substances to reduce psychotic symptoms and alleviate the sedating side effects of neuroleptics. However, the most common reasons given for use of alcohol and other drugs are to “get high” and to reduce negative affective states including social anxiety and tension, dysphoria and depression, and boredom.”

Researchers have made a connection between schizophrenia and marijuana use in particular. Use of the drug causes symptoms of schizophrenia – like hallucinations and paranoia – to get worse.

Teens dealing with a social anxiety disorder are more likely to start using marijuana at an earlier age, according to a study from Case Western Reserve University School.

What are reasons for the connection? There are young users who take the drug to appear more fun and to “alleviate the social anxiety of making friends,” according to the recent “Canadian Youth Perceptions on Cannabis” report, where interviewers spoke to youth participating in the study. In addition to that, both “cannabis intoxication” and withdrawal from the drug can lead to anxiety.

Regular cocaine use is also linked to anxiety disorders and stress.

If you or someone you love suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder, contact The Council on Recovery.

[From Get Smart About Drugs, a DEA Resource for Parents, Educators, and Care-Givers]