ECU offers advice to deal with holiday stress

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) For those struggling with addiction or who are in recovery, the holidays can be especially difficult, and the additional stress and temptations associated with the holiday season can trigger reuse or relapse.

Experts from ECU are offering information for those struggling with addiction, recovery or whose families are during the holidays.

"Communication is probably the biggest advice I give: Not having resentment that your family or friends don't automatically do that, but also not feeling like you don't have the right to ask," said Dr. Leigh Atherton, an assistant professor in the Department of Addictions & Rehabilitation Studies in ECU's College of Allied Health Sciences. "Open communication is usually the best way to have the best result in terms of family connectedness."

Holiday gatherings often serve alcohol, punch or egg nog and that can be problematic for those struggling. Experts say family and friends should consider making at least a portion of their celebrations alcohol free. They also say people should find supporters and safe environments to lean on, know your triggers and avoid them, if possible, and also understand the events, people or places that might be problematic.

One of the most important things is to find ways to memorialize lost loved ones and relationships because the holidays often signify time spent with loved ones and for some they can also be a painful reminder of grief and loss.

"Whether it's through death or broken relationships, holidays tend to bring that out as well," Atherton said. "If an individual knows that's a pattern or something that comes up during the holidays, finding a way to celebrate or memorialize that relationship in a way that is positive and joyous can be productive."