We may not realise it, but the weather can affect us on any given day. Just like how a gloomy overcast day can make us feel tired and motivated, a bright, sunny day can make us feel enthusiastic and ready to work. When you or your loved one is recovering from addiction, it is essential to consider all factors that contribute to substance abuse. Factors like where you live, the people you’re surrounded with, and the weather you experience can have a huge impact on your sobriety.
In this article, we’ll be talking about how the weather can affect a person’s recovery and what you can do to ensure you’re staying on the right track.
The effects of cold weather on recovering individuals
The winter months are often associated with feelings of melancholy and it’s because of the lack of stimulation from remaining indoors. As the temperatures fall and the skies are blanketed with clouds, our serotonin and melatonin levels are disrupted. These two hormones are responsible for stabilising our mood, happiness, and feelings of well-being, which is why you generally find summer to be more exciting because increased exposure to sunlight can help release serotonin and melatonin in the body.
Cold weather seasons can bring forth a condition called ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression that’s linked to changes in-between seasons. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can include:
- Lack of energy throughout the day
- Having trouble concentrating on tasks
- Increased appetite
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 60% of addicts have a co-occurring mental disorder, suggesting an overlap of genetic vulnerabilities and environmental triggers. This means that a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder is at a greater risk of relapse, drug use, and addiction initiation.
What about spring and summer?
While the spring and summer months feel more lively and enthusiastic, they do present a couple of pitfalls for recovering individuals. This is due to a variety of situational and environmental factors that can potentially contribute to a relapse. Some of the additional stresses a person in recovery might experience include:
- Children coming home from spring break
- Spring and summer parties with family and friends
- Increased availability of drugs and alcohol
- Stress from past memories of drinking alcohol or using drugs on a warm, sunny day
- Additional stress brought by heat waves, which has been scientifically proven to increase drug use
Holidays can also affect recovering individuals. Events like Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve can serve as reminders of times spent partying. During these celebrations, it can be tempting to try out alcohol or other substances that may derail your recovery.
Maintaining your recovery as the seasons change
Recovering individuals require steadfast preparation to manage the stresses of the various weather changes. It’s best to sharpen your coping mechanisms each year and find healthy habits that you can stick to for the long-term. As you progress with your recovery, you’ll find that the changing seasons won’t have much of an effect on you like they used to before.
Here are a couple of tips that you can use to prepare for the seasonal changes and maintain your recovery:
- Be aware of certain holidays and events that may affect your recovery.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help when things feel challenging. Having a friend or family member provide support and accountability will greatly benefit you and your recovery.
- Celebrate the holidays under your own terms, meaning no alcohol, no partying, and avoiding people who may put you at risk of relapse.
- If you start feeling stressed or depressed, make sure to speak with your therapist and discuss things appropriately.
- If you feel that you are having issues with your mental health, set up a time to talk to a therapist.
- Remind friends and family to avoid consuming alcohol or other harmful substances whenever you’re with them.
- Avoid family gatherings if you aren’t sure you can manage the stresses associated with it. This is very important especially if your family hasn’t expressed their utmost support for your recovery.
- Make plans during the winter that will help keep you busy. Being active is one of the best ways to combat SAD as it stimulates your mind and boosts endorphin production which is the happy hormone.
- Set a plan for when you start having cravings. Think of positive coping mechanisms that will keep your mind occupied.
- Attend extra meetings during stressful times. You might even need additional treatment during the winter or the holidays.
At the end of the day, it’s about recognising the potential triggers and doing your best to avoid them regardless of the weather or the season. While the seasons may come and go, your sobriety is the only thing you can control. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction recovery, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. By establishing a solid recovery foundation, you can reconnect with your loved ones and enjoy social interactions without fear of relapse or setbacks. If you feel the need to speak to a professional then we strongly urge you to speak with us at Calm Rehab, who is a leading rehab in Bali.