7 Ways To Avoid A Holiday Relapse

Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays
Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us and can be extra difficult when you are working to stay sober and not relapse. When it seems like everyone else is enjoying drinks and parties, how can you still have a good time with friends, family, and other loved ones while avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol?

Here are some tips to try:

1. Connect with Your Sober Network

The community you have built may not be who you are around on the actual holidays. Time spent with family members, who support you but do not fully understand what you’re going through can not help in tough moments.

Staying in touch with your sponsor and sober friends throughout the holidays will prevent you from reaching the point of possible relapse.

2. Volunteer

Extra help is always needed around the holidays at soup kitchens and gift-giving centers. Spend some of your holiday time helping those in need. You won’t think about relapsing when you are serving others.

3. Be Socially Selective

Just because you are invited to a party does mean you have to attend. Choose carefully. Which events make you feel comfortable and which ones worry you a bit? Say YES to the first ones and NO, thank you, to the others. Sobriety must be your top priority.

4. Bring Your New Drink of Choice

Is there a sparkling cider or grape juice you really enjoy? By having your go-to beverage on hand, and ready to pour into the extra glass at your place setting, you can avoid an awkward moment of a full glass of wine placed in front of you.

5. Exercise

Build in time for a walk, a jog, a yoga class, a trip to the gym, or any other way you get your body moving. The extra stress, and food, this time of year add additional reasons to return to substances. Give yourself some natural endorphins through activity as a way to proactively avoid a relapse.

6. Self-Care

This time of year can take us away from the routine that works the rest of the months. Eating more than we normally eat at one sitting, having more social engagements which takes time away from exercise and relaxation, and being around more people on a regular basis can make us feel off-track.

Without proper self-care around the holidays, things can feel out of control. At moments of difficulty, remember what you like to do. Self-care can be as simple as finding a quiet room and meditating for 10 minutes, going for a walk around the block, or listening to a calming song.

7. Create an Action Plan

Picture yourself at a family event or a holiday get together feeling uncomfortable. What do you do? How do you take care of yourself in that moment and do what is best for you? By developing a plan of action when you need to remove yourself from a difficult situation, you will avoid feeling pressured, annoyed, irritated, or in need of an escape that will lead to a relapse.

Stay in touch with how you feel at any given moment, and do your best to reduce feelings of hunger, anger, tiredness, or loneliness to avoid a relapse this holiday season.

Energy Conservation that Can Save Money

by Debra Wright

christmas_lightsGlaring television, spending long hours surfing the Internet, playing video games the whole day, these are just a few daily activities that can tremendously increase your energy bill during the winter months. Then, imagine the additional strain on your electric bill this time of year with Christmas lights, holiday gatherings, and the cold weather.

With the down economy and the holidays, you may be required to be more frugal than usual. If this is the case, the following energy-saving tips will enable you to continue with your activities, save money, and at the same time be friendly to the environment.

Keep lights OFF whenever possible

Unless your house is designed to block light or you’re living in a naturally gloomy area, keep the lights off during daytime. Unblock windows to let natural light in or install a skylight. Even at night, turn off lights in unused areas except when those areas require good lighting for security purposes. It’s best to utilise energy-efficient lighting solutions in these areas, or if possible, in all areas. Also, remind other members of the household to always turn the lights off when not in use.

Prefer appliances with power-savers and environment-friendly features

I’m sure you’re familiar with power-saving features as many computers and gadgets have incorporated these in their designs. For a certain amount of time, if a working computer doesn’t experience any activity, it will automatically “sleep” and switch to a power-saving mode. In many appliances nowadays, power-saving features are included. If you’re fond of leaving the television on as you unconsciously drift off to sleep, make sure you set the sleep timer on first; and do the same with your other appliances in times when you’re not using them fully (refrigerators, air conditioners, fans, etc.).

Use your appliances wisely (only when you need them) and do things manually as much as possible

If you have time to do the laundry, wash your dishes or make your own coffee manually, then spend lesser time with your washing machines, dishwashers and coffeemakers. If you’re living in a sunny area, try installing shades such as blinds, shutters or awnings so you can save on air-conditioning expenses. Plant trees if possible, or paint your home with dark colours if you’re living in a cold area or with light hues if you’re in a warm region. Being a homebody means you are spending a lot of your time at home. Make that time more productive and energy-friendly by doing things manually as often as possible.

If possible, use one device for multiple tasks

You are watching TV, and at the same time, your PC and wireless connection are on as you wait for e-mail notifications and other important messages. Your gaming console is turned on as well in case you feel like using it again. That’s a lot of energy being used. Why not stream your favourite show online so you can do away with the TV completely? Using your PC alone, you can monitor your notifications while watching a show or movie or while playing an online game.

Pull the “vampire” plugs

Switching electronics off won’t be enough. Most, if not all electrical appliances continue to “suck” electricity as long as they’re still plugged, even if they’re turned off. So make sure you pull the electric plug of your office lamp or any other electrical appliance after turning it off, no matter how frequently you use it.

According to statistics, these energy-suckers use up 5% of the total electricity consumed in the United States alone, and this amounts to over 3 billion dollars spent per year. Just think of how much you can save per year just by pulling that plug!

Go for renewable energy solutions

Many residential owners are switching to renewable energy. Aside from saving up on electrical power expenses, they are able to conserve a considerable amount of energy as well. Companies that offer quality solar panels installation can help you in utilising solar power for your household energy needs. Renewable energy solutions are getting more popular nowadays as they not only help conserve energy and costs today, but conserve energy for future generations.

5 Ways To Print Your Instagram Holiday Snaps Online

Instagram-Build Your Dream
Instagram-Build Your Dream

So you want to free your holiday photos from your smartphone and into the real world? Instagram users have choices when it comes to photo printing. Forget regular rectangular prints, creative professionals and amateurs can take advantage of square format products that make the most of their retro-style shots.

The first thing you’ll need are great photos, of course. Famous landmarks, pictures of family parties, and selfies are all perfectly valid choices. Get creative with your Instagram filters, then use these sites to create analogue versions of your favourite retro-digital shots and travel souvenir photos.

1. Photobox

There are lots of photo printing services on the web. In our experience, Photobox is one of the better ones. It offers a good range of products, including 5″ x 5″ Instagram printouts, photo blocks and coasters, and quality is consistently very good.

While its web interface is clumsy, it’s nowhere near as bad as some of its competitiors’ efforts. But there’s an even better way to print out your most creative Instagram shots. Use the Photobox iOS app to automatically download your photostream from Instagram, then order directly from your phone. Just remember delivery costs extra.

2. Polargram

Give your Instagram photos an added twist by ordering Polaroid-style hard copies from Polargram. The company places each shot into a white frame measuring 10.5 x 8.5 cm.

Polargram has a minimum order of 12 prints, but delivery is free in the UK. The website’s FAQ and Contact links are the wrong way round, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but the results look good – providing you can cope with the fact that it’s just a square photo in a fancy frame.

3. Printstagram

Printstagram offers simple Instagram prints aimed at creative people who want something a little classier than the average photo site. It’s run by Social Print Studio, a company that also makes unusual accessories, ideal for dressing up a creative workspace.

On Printstagram, you can create prints, cards, books and more on the web or using the iOS app. If you just need a pack of photos, try Print Studio’s prints in four sizes – two square, two rectangular – all with a minimum order of 48. The company has another arm, BluePrints, for Facebook snaps. Phew.

4. Stickygram

From Photobox comes Stickygram, an offshot site dedicated to printing your Instagram shots on magnets and Apple device cases. Bizarrely, you can’t print on stickers at all. The website is based in the UK, but in an affront to its home-grown customers, all pricing is in US dollars.

Stickygram is more stylish and well designed than Photobox; it’s a shame the company can’t invest some time into developing its main website as well. The products are good quality but the range is very limited and the iPad cases certainly aren’t cheap.

5. Boomf

Bored with box frames? Peeved with all of these prints? Try Boomf: your Instagram shots printed onto fully edible marshmallows. Each order ships as a box of nine 4cm x 4cm sweets. This is another project from the brains behind Photobox, yet it’s not linked from the main site at the moment.

Boomf ships internationally, and the marshmallows are affordable: £12 for 9, including postage, which is fine as a gift or novelty. Beware that its marshmallows are not halal, kosher or vegetarian; a real shame, since vegetarian marshmallows would be really easy to make.

Ready to Print?

Print your favourite snaps and get creative. From phone cases to fridge magnets, creating ‘hard’ (or edible) versions of your Instagram snaps is a great way to experiment with your best shots.

It’s About Living: Difficult Conversations Made a Little Easier

It’s A Wonderful Life

Ahhhh holidays! Once the hustle and bustle are over … our thoughts turn to cozy evenings with family, wrapping and then opening presents, crackling fires in the fireplace and another round of the seasonal food that we all associate with childhood wonder and good times.  What a time for celebrating our lives!

In these busy times, it’s just so rare when families and extended families get together for uninterrupted and unhurried conversation.  But, whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year is an ideal time to really connect and go  beyond the usual chatter and catching up.

This holiday season think beyond the traditions of the past and take the opportunity to start a new one.  Have a conversation for which you will be thankful in the future.  What is this conversation? It is a conversation about joy and having your voice heard even when you cannot speak for yourself.  When serious illness or long-term disabilities impact everyday life, difficult conversations need to take place. How do you find a way to start that conversation long before difficult situations are staring you in the face? It’s really quite simple. Here’s a holiday recipe for starting the conversation.

As you come together, invite everyone to take turns sharing what makes them happy and where they’ve found joy in their lives. This is something to which even the youngest family member can contribute.

Talking about the joys in life can easily lead to a discussion of what it is in the things that bring us joy. This invites everyone to share a bit more deeply about who we are and what makes us unique.  It promises to even surprise a few with the hidden story gems that will emerge and what you’ll learn about those you think you know well.

And, don’t be surprised if it now feels much easier to ask one final question…

“If something happened and you couldn’t tell us yourself, what would you want us to know that is important to you in being alive?”

Does this feel like an old friend in new clothes? Yep, it is, but the new clothes carry great significance. Unlike the more familiar questions about choices in case of illness or at the end-of-life, this is a question that comes from the perspective of living and that makes it a much easier, more palatable question to answer. Don’t be surprised if this gently evolves into a discussion about a beloved family member with an illness or a health challenge to face, and then into very personal sharing of thoughts on individual preferences and choices.

It’s fine to keep this topic on the light side but making sure family members have an idea of what’s important to you and how you’d want to be cared for during a difficult situation is really important.  And, it’s important for you to know … and understand … their choices too.

There is no question that the holidays can bring up a lot of emotions and you can use your best judgment about your family based on their response, but starting the dialogue about living life to the fullest is a way to connect and learn more about the people you love the most.  And, when you need to know what’s important to them in life, it’s a conversation you’ll be thankful you had.

A Recipe for Joy

Many of us see joy differently. To some, it might mean, sitting in the backyard watching the grass grow. To others, it could be contemplating their life sitting by a mountain stream with a fishing pole in hand. It’s an interesting discussion. We all take this journey that has a road that eventually ends. How we spend that journey is as individual as we are. Sharing with our loved ones how we envision that journey gives us a better chance of realizing it. We must remember that respect for the dignity and privacy of our family members comes first.  But, to initiate this conversation can be a beautiful gift for all who take part in it.

Initiating Important Conversations With Loved Ones

If you’re the conversation initiator, you’ll be surprised at how many possibilities you can find during holidays or other family gatherings.

·         Missing a loved one at holiday events
·         Movies you’ve seen
·         Sermons/seminars
·         Television talk shows, dramas and comedies
·         Medical checkups
·         Family occasions such as baptisms, marriages and funerals
·         Magazines and books

Supporting a Conversation That Continues

It’s only in the movies that everything is neatly wrapped up in a package. The real world is much more complicated. Family conversations stop and start over time. Maybe touching on the subject during family celebrations can be seen as a starting point.

The true objective of family conversation is more than a simple package of papers with advance directives and estate details. Those things matter, because they will guide final actions. But what matters most is to talk with the people you love about decisions relating to the joy you wish to live in the journey of your life.

We never know for sure when the story of our life is going to write its final chapter but we do know what gives us joy. Discussing what brings that joy and how we envision our life is meaningful conversation that helps eliminate difficulties and complications later but also brings families closer together today.

Sadness and Dread Around the Holidays

Depression during the Holidays
Depression during the Holidays

There can be joy around the holidays for many, but as Christmas week gets closer some fears can grow about whether that time of the year will stimulate feelings of deeper loneliness and inner difficulties. A number of clients came in a few days before Thanksgiving with the dread of getting through the holidays. This also occurs right before Christmas.

For some people, there may be an apprehension about seeing certain family members. There can also be the fear of having nothing to do at all. Feelings of isolation can be accentuated during this time of year because it looks like everyone else is connecting and receiving care. Someone can also be physically surrounded by others but feel very alone and emotionally disconnected.

First of all, if you are supposed to see family members that you have a difficult history with, try to visualize the situation ahead of time. If you anticipate a lot of drama and negative interactions, evaluate whether the gathering makes sense. Can it possibly be an opportunity to have some private meaningful conversations that will help resolve issues from the past? Will there be any supportive people at the gathering or will you feel alone? Each family situation is different and depending on the ability for people to communicate and be honest, certain family dynamics may be too difficult to handle. Think about whether you can attend for a few hours and make the situation in YOUR control, rather than feel passive there. Remember, this can be a way to also turn around the negative history and get a new start.

Sit and visualize the people in your family with whom you have difficulties. Is it possible to see why they may behave the way they do and if there is a way you have contributed to the situation? Of course, certain situations that involved abuse or neglect may be ones where you were a victim and these are often very difficult to see with a new perspective. Some people are able to forgive through compassion and others find it more healthy to cut off contact and not be pulled back into unhealthy dramas. It really depends on the circumstances as well as the personalities involved. For someone with an inpatient psychiatric history, this time of year can be one to carefully watch. Many people are hospitalized around holiday time for mood issues and there can be lots of triggers and associations from the past.

If you are someone suffering from holiday depression due to having no family or loved one to spend time with, preparing ahead for Christmas is important. Do you have a friend in a similar situation? Would you feel better volunteering at a shelter or church function where you can help with meal preparation? This is a way you can feel good about helping others and be around others who volunteer.

Another way to get through the holidays is to remember that you aren’t at work or school for a few days. Are you near a nature center or area that you love? If you are in a warm climate, grabbing a book and a music player can be a way to have a day that is free of stress. You can also stay home and use the day for some meditation, a time of writing and a way to write out your visualizations for next year.

A home study course with yoga and meditation for depression can be studied and practiced during the Christmas week and open new doors. It can be very peaceful to be away from things and just turn inside. Speaking to a counselor a few times in December can be helpful in dealing with this time of year. Remember also that it’s easy to project on others that they are having a perfect time in their lives and to forget that there are tensions and strains in each person’s life which are tough challenges.

Preparing for the Holidays with an Anxiety Disorder


The holidays can be an extremely stressful time, especially for those with an anxiety disorder.  If you have an anxiety disorder you are probably worried about the small talk, huge crowds, and being away from your comfort zone that the holidays can bring. Last year you were probably standing in the middle of the room surrounded by people with sweaty palms and a racing heart. This year I am going to give you some tips on how to make the holidays a little more bearable.

1. Be Prepared! If you are having the celebrations at home or elsewhere make sure you bring all tools you will need to handle abnormal anxiety. This may include medication, relaxing music on your phone, breathing, and grounding techniques. Be ready to use whatever you need to relax when things get too overwhelming.

2. Plan Ahead. Having an itinerary of what events you are attending during the holiday can be a great stress reliever. Make a list of where you will spend each holiday, who is accompanying you, and how you are going to get there.

3. Remember that it’s okay to take a break. Whenever I’m hosting an event in my house and things get too stressful I take a 5-10 break in my room to do some deep breathing. If you need to step outside to get some air do so.

4. Limit your alcohol intake. Many people tend to self-medicate with alcohol to alleviate their anxiety. Alcohol has been shown to increase anxiety symptoms. It is important to know your limits and drink responsibly during this stressful time.

5. Remember that you are human! Don’t be too hard on yourself this holiday season. You are going to get anxious and that’s okay. Always keep in mind that there are people around you who love and care for you. Let your mind and body relax and live in the moment.

Thanksgiving: All Grown Up and Nowhere To Go

Dorm room

Once a young person turns 18 and leaves the foster care system, they should be ready to do what other young adults do–go to college or get a job, right? The Chafee Foster Care Independence Program assists youth by providing assistance in achieving self-sufficiency after leaving foster care. Through supports such as the Educational and Training Vouchers Program (ETV), former foster youth can receive financial assistance with college expenses.

Research has shown that the foster care population generally has poor outcomes as they transition to adulthood. The Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth found that former foster youth experienced significant challenges including high rates of homelessness, incarceration, and unemployment. As recently as a decade ago, college was not an option for most young adults leaving the foster care program. Fortunately, there are now supports and assistance available so that more former foster youth are able to attend college, providing them the education they need to be competitive in today’s workforce.

No doubt, many former foster youth now have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. They have opportunities that few of their predecessors had just 10 to 15 years ago. The reality is, new challenges have emerged.

Many former foster youth must live in dormitories and other college-sponsored housing. Often they do not have the resources required for off-campus housing such as a security deposit to rent an apartment, furniture, and other household items. Most of us had parents or guardians that could help with these items. Former foster youth rarely have this luxury. Living in dormitories may provide an excellent transition for vulnerable young adults. However, there is often a ‘catch’ to this….most colleges and universities close down their housing (and food service) during extended breaks such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This leaves former foster youth with the challenge of finding housing and meals during the holidays.  Options such as spending the holidays with family may not be possible for young adults who were separated from their families as children due to abuse or neglect. Generally, options such as staying at a hotel and dining out are beyond the financial means of former foster youth. If they are lucky, a young person may have friends with whom they can spend holidays. However, this may not always be possible, especially if the young person has a part-time job.

In case you were thinking there is little you can do to address this problem, the following are some suggestions for getting involved.

1) Offer to host a former foster youth in your community for the holidays. Maybe your son or daughter has a former classmate who was in foster care. Or maybe you know of a young person through your community/social circles. Just because they haven’t asked for help, doesn’t mean they couldn’t use some help.

2) Suggest that members of your church or other civic organization work together to develop a network of supports/resources for youth who have aged out of foster care. In addition to helping tackle the housing issue, this might include a drive to collect household items such as sheets, blankets, towels or school supplies for college-bound foster youth.

3) Donate gift cards to places like Boston Market, Applebee’s, or Perkins so that college students can enjoy a meal (something other than fries and a burger…) over the holidays. You can contact your local child welfare agency or non-profit foster care agencies to assist with making the connection to young people in need of support. Or if you know of a young person who could use a helping hand, you can give it to them directly (or anonymously by mail).

4) Talk with local colleges/universities about setting up a faculty ‘host a student’ program. Through such a program, faculty can host a former foster youth for the holidays. The advantage is that the faculty member may already know the young person and they likely live in the same community as the college/university. This may also provide an excellent mentoring opportunity that can have a positive, long-term effect for the student.

5) Talk with the local high school about setting up a ‘host family’ program. Former teachers or coaches could host students during holiday breaks.

6) Talk with your local colleges/universities about setting up a holiday housing program in dormitories for former foster youth. Often there are also foreign students who also need housing. (Many larger universities offer some sort of accommodations.)

7) Check with your local YMCA, YWCA, or similar programs to see if they have temporary housing available. If so, offer to ‘pay it forward’ for a young person in need of housing over the holidays by providing rent (if there is a charge).

8) If you don’t have the space in your home to host a young person (or if you opted to assist as suggested in #7), invite students to participate in your holiday meal.

9) Support local foster parents who provide assistance to the young adults previously in their care. Offer to assist with buying school or work clothes. Donate grocery gift cards to offset the cost of food.

10) Provide transportation to college students who may have the opportunity to spend the holidays with former foster parents, friends, or family who do not live in the same community. This may be in the form of a bus or train ticket, airfare, or driving the student to their destination. This may also apply when a young person attends a college/university in a community other than the one they lived in prior to age 18. What may seem like a short distance to travel can present insurmountable obstacles for a young person setting off for college with no car and limited resources.

These are just a few suggestions, please feel free to add your ideas to the list!

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