How To Use The HALT Technique To Tackle Holiday Addiction Triggers
For some people, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. For others, they represent an enemy territory loaded with land mines known as triggers that test their sobriety.
It’s tougher to deal with any stressful situation — including Uncle Jim’s insistence that you join in the annual toast — when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Here’s how to use the HALT technique to tackle holiday addiction triggers.
Preparation and Practice
The holidays can seem like a marathon of one triggering situation after another. You want to make it through your office party without a drink in hand to soothe your social anxiety. You have to endure your racist relative’s attitude at holiday dinners without numbing yourself. You wouldn’t run a physical race without some heavy-duty training. Please don’t put your sobriety to such a test.
Practice the 12 techniques below before you need to call on them in a stressful situation. It helps to spend some time identifying your triggers if you don’t recognize all of them. For example, something as simple as seeing an approaching holiday on your calendar can prompt you to seek a numbing escape in the form of drugs and alcohol. So can the sights, sounds and smells associated with the season.
Spend some time each day practicing one of the coping methods described below. Treat these interventions like washing your hands — preventative maintenance for your mental health. Here are 12 specific ways to apply the HALT technique to tackle your holiday addiction triggers.
If You’re Hungry
Hunger is a physical cue that seems easy to tackle. However, you first need to use mindfulness to tune into your body’s signals.
1. Do a Body Scan
You can do a mindful body scan anywhere you have a few quiet moments. Take a few deep breaths, then begin working your way from your toes to your head, paying attention to the sensations you feel in each body part.
2. Control Blood Sugar Swings
All those holiday treats can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Try to avoid starting your day with cocoa and a cookie — you could crash by 10 a.m. Instead, focus on eating nutritionally balanced meals high in protein and fiber to keep you fuller longer.
3. Have a Snack
The easiest way to address hunger? Eat something! You should preferably make it something wholesome, but taming your tummy tiger is your first order of business once you discover you’re “hangry.” This advice goes double if you used to avoid eating to get a “high” more quickly.
If You’re Angry
Anger gets a bad rap. However, the emotion alone isn’t evil — it’s your body’s way of alerting you to potential danger. It’s how you express this emotion that causes trouble, so clear your head before acting on the situation.
Exercise is your best remedy if you have chronic stress you can’t escape — like financial woes that interfere with holiday celebrations. Why? It helps address the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction that can throw your hormones and neurotransmitters into turmoil, making it even harder for you to make the best decisions. Moderate exercise lowers cortisol levels and boosts endorphins, your body’s feel-good chemicals.
2. Take a Walk
Maybe you aren’t a yogi and lack a gym membership. However, nearly anyone can lace up their sneakers and go for a stroll, calming their emotional storm before making any potentially life-altering decisions — like taking a drink.
Journaling is a fabulous way to vent your angry thoughts without hurting anyone or rupturing relationships. It’s okay to pour your feelings out in print or using a diary app. Just don’t type any emails — the instantaneous nature of electronic communication makes it too easy to shoot off something you don’t mean in the heat of the moment.
If You’re Lonely
If you feel left out of the holiday hubbub, you’re not alone — but it can trigger you to use. 31% of people report feeling lonely during this time. Fortunately, 41% worry about others, meaning you can find a way to connect.
1. Phone a Friend
Whatever happened to your old college roommate? Could you call them and ask about their holiday plans? Make a list of people you could reach out to simply to say hello.
2. Attend a Support Group Meeting
You can find both online and in-person meetings, depending on your COVID-19 comfort level. Talking with others who understand the challenges of tackling holiday addiction triggers can help you cope.
3. Do a Random Act of Kindness
Perceived helplessness can trigger substance abuse — you might feel like you might as well use if there’s nothing else you can do. Volunteering gives you a sense of agency that you can make a positive difference in your world. It also floods your brain with feel-good neurotransmitters that activate many of the same pleasure centers as drugs and alcohol.
If You’re Tired
You might not recognize that you feel tired amid all the holly-jolly goodness. Please use mindfulness to assess yourself and give yourself the break you need when necessary.
Please prioritize your sleep, especially if you have a personality disorder that impacts your addictive behavior. Inadequate shuteye can increase impulsive feelings that make you say, “Why not? Just this once!” However, you know what a slippery slope such decisions are.
2. Know Your Limits
Everyone has different socialization limits. Introverts need more time to spend in deep thought than extroverts. Those with chronic illnesses might run out of the necessary “spoon supply” to attend one event after another. Prioritize what’s most important and say no to the rest of your invitations.
3. Ask for Help
You’re not supposed to be able to do everything — no matter what TV specials lead you to believe. Please allow yourself to be human. Ask your family members to contribute to a potluck gathering instead of cooking everything from the appetizers to dessert course by yourself. If you have the means, hail an Uber to get to that party instead of switching buses twice and slogging through snow.
Use the HALT Technique to Tackle Holiday Addiction Triggers
The holidays can be fraught with triggers for those who battle a substance use disorder. Try the HALT technique to tackle holiday addiction triggers.
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