The winter months can be tough for those who are sober. The days are shorter and the weather keeps us inside more often. The winter months also signal that the holiday season is upon us and with that the influx of parties and gatherings with friends, family, co-workers, and loved ones.
This time of year can test all of our sobriety with a variety of triggers and environmental factors. There is also Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that can rear its ugly head during the cold, winter months.
Whether you are looking to get sober, have recently relapsed, or are just simply looking to learn new tips on how to stay sober during these tough winter months, come see us at Sana Lake Recovery in Dittmer, Missouri. We offer personalized recovery plans including:
- Inpatient treatment
- Outpatient Treatment
- Partial Hospilaiztion
- Medical Detox
- Addiction Therapy Services
Keep reading to learn more about why this time of year is such a hard time to stay sober as well as some things you can do to have a happy, healthy, and sober holiday season.
What Are the Winter Blues?
“Winter Blues” is a term used to describe a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that only occurs during the winter months. People often experience the winter blues when the weather makes it tough to go outside and they feel trapped in their homes.
The lack of sunlight, coupled with the stress that typically comes during the holiday season can be the perfect storm to drive someone to either start using again or strongly consider it.
While only roughly 10% of Americans experience the winter blues, it can pose a particular problem to those who are in recovery.
If you are suffering from the “Winter Blues” you may experience the following symptoms:
- Constantly feeling tired
- Feeling depressed or sad
Seasonal-Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. SAD is the medical term used as the diagnosis for the “Winter Blues.” Someone suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder will experience their symptoms during the same time every year. While most people who suffer from SAD experience these symptoms in the fall and winter months, some people suffer from SAD during the spring and summer months.
For those suffering from fall-winter SAD, their symptoms will begin as the calendar turns to fall and will continue to get worse as winter rolls around. After peaking in the winter, symptoms will begin to subside as the calendar shifts toward spring. They won’t experience any symptoms during the spring and summer months.
Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder can include phototherapy, psychotherapy, and certain medications.
Symptoms of Seasonal-Affective Disorder
As we mentioned, symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder will typically start to pop up in the fall and continue into the winter. Some common signs and symptoms that you might be suffering from SAD include:
- Losing interest in activities
- Having trouble concentrating
- Feeling depressed, hopeless, or worthless
- Having little to no energy
- Feeling sluggish
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Craving unhealthy foods such as sugar or carbs
- Unwanted weight gain
- Having suicidal thoughts
Reasons for Addiction During the Winter
Someone suffering from SAD might not even know that they are dealing with the condition. They might just think that they have the “winter blues” or that they feel the way they feel because of the changes in the weather. While this is all true, it is also a sign of a mental health condition.
Unfortunately, most mental health conditions don’t get treated, at least not right away. Many people might not fully understand what is going on with them or be too embarrassed to ask for help. As a result, they often turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate so that they can feel better.
This is especially true during the winter months. With winter comes the holidays and the various social gatherings and family commitments. If someone isn’t quite feeling like themselves because of their “winter blues” they might rely on drugs or alcohol to get them through these next few months.
Using and abusing drugs and alcohol in this manner can lead to an increased risk of dependency and addiction.
How To Stay Sober and Fight Off the Winter Blues
For those who are in recovery, the winter months can be the toughest test of the year when it comes to maintaining their sobriety. Between the “winter blues” and all the holiday parties and social gatherings, temptation and triggers can be at an all-time high.
If you are in recovery, it’s important to remember that the answer to staying sober this time of year isn’t just to lock yourself in your house for the next few months and not come out. If anything that can just make matters worse and make the temptation even greater.
Below are some helpful ways that you can stay sober and fight off the “winter blues” this holiday season.
While the sun does typically come up earlier in the morning during the winter months, it also sets much earlier in the day. For most people, the sun is already starting to set by the time they get done with work for the day. This allows for few opportunities to be in the sun, especially during the week which can help lead to those “winter blues.” Even if the opportunity is there to get outside and enjoy the sun, winter temperatures often provide an additional challenge, especially in Missouri.
Even if it is only for a brief time, getting out and into sunlight is important not just for your mental health, but for your physical help as well. Not getting enough sunlight can result in your brain producing melatonin, which makes you feel tired and drowsy.
If you can’t get out in the sun for whatever reason, consider phototherapy or investing in a lightbox.
One of the biggest keys to maintaining your sobriety year-round and not just in the winter is being honest with yourself. You know what your triggers are when it comes to drinking or doing drugs. While you don’t have to necessarily go running from every situation that might involve a possible trigger, you also have to be honest with yourself and recognize if you are putting yourself in a situation where there is an increased potential that you will want to use again.
If the holidays put you in situations where you simply can’t avoid certain triggers, this would be a great time to fall back on your support system for guidance and help during these potentially difficult times. The holiday months are when your support system is going to earn their proverbial paycheck.
If you have relapsed in the past, then you already know the warning signs to be on the lookout for so you don’t relapse again. If you are newly sober or have not experienced a relapse, you can talk to a treatment professional or someone within your support group who can help you identify and recognize possible relapse warning signs before they happen.
At Sana Lake Recovery near Kansas City, Missouri, our goal isn’t just to help you get sober, we also want to see you stay sober. That’s why we offer a variety of relapse prevention services both during and after treatment so that we can put you in the best situation possible to succeed with your sobriety.
During the holiday time, it can be really easy to fall back into bad habits and old routines. You might have family or friends that you used to drink or do drugs with or you might be going back to your hometown and all the old triggers and temptations that come along with that.
While it might seem like it’s easy to fall back onto your routines and habits it’s important to remember that doing so can increase the chances of a relapse.
In the wintertime, depression sets in as a result of not getting enough sunlight and not getting out and moving around enough. When you don’t get enough sunlight and exercise your brain produces extra melatonin which can make you feel groggy and tired.
Getting out and exercising is not just good for your physical health, but your mental health as well. Exercising produces elevated endorphin levels which can make your body and brain feel good and full of energy. So get out and enjoy the great parks and exercise facilities around Missouri! Your brain and body will thank you.
Sana Lake Can Help You Learn How to Stay Sober
Whether you are struggling with your sobriety or looking to get sober for the first time, Sana Lake is here to help. We are proud to serve everyone throughout Missouri and the surrounding communities.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their sobriety and could use some help during the holidays, or you are looking to get sober, contact us today.