As the holidays approach, one hazard to beware of is the anniversary effect. The anniversary effect is when a certain time of year reminds you of a difficult experience. For many people, the first holiday season without a loved one can renew the pain and grief that had started to subside. Or it could be that another stressful or traumatic event is linked to a specific time of the year. Since the holidays are already a financially stressful time with the shortest days of the year and frequent travel in icy conditions, it’s entirely possible that the holiday season itself is associated with some past difficulty. It’s important for anyone who has struggled with addiction or mental illness to be aware of the anniversary effect because it could be a strong trigger. Our brains are highly associative. The first snowfall or a certain Christmas carol might cause your brain to open the file on some earlier pain. You might not even be aware of what’s happening at the time. You only know that you were feeling fine and now you feel depressed or anxious. Not knowing the cause you what you’re feeling makes it even worse. One way you can minimize the pain of the anniversary effect is to look ahead and think about what might be coming. Is it the anniversary of a serious accident? Is this your first holiday season since your divorce? Being aware of these things and the emotions they might stir will help defuse them when the time comes. Writing these things down or talking to someone can also help. Another option might be to commemorate the event. That might mean giving a short speech over dinner about a lost loved one, or asking others to share their memories. When you articulate your anxiety, it’s not longer a big, nebulous problem, but rather something you understand and expect. Just having a clear understanding of the situation can make it less threatening. It’s also important to take care of yourself during this time. It’s tempting to fill up on cookies and pie during the holidays, but that will ultimately make you feel lethargic and gross. Maintaining something like a healthy diet and getting a bit of exercise will help you be more resilient in the face of the anniversary effect. If you are recovering from addiction, it should go without saying that you should stay away from alcohol. However, abstaining is probably a good idea for anyone who finds the holiday season difficult.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.