The holiday season can be a difficult time for people in recovery or people who may have a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression. During this time, the stress and anxiety of being with family or in some cases, without their family,  can cause feelings of depression or anxiety. The pressures of shopping and creating holiday cheer at home can be a lot to deal with for someone in recovery or who is struggling with their mental health. In fact, 16 percent of adults report drinking more during the holiday season than any other time throughout the year, and 50 percent of people reported that alcohol was present at a family gathering during the holiday season.

Similarly, for people with mental health disorders, the holiday season can be anything but cheery. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64 percent of people with a mental health disorder stated that the holiday season makes their disorders worse. The holidays also caused 68 percent of people to feel financially strained, 66 percent felt alone, 57 percent reported having unrealistic expectations and 50 percent said they were unable to be with family and friends, according to NAMI.

If you find Black Friday shopping stressful as a consumer, imagine how it is for retail employees. With the earlier doorbusters, sometimes employees miss Thanksgiving with their families entirely because they are scheduled to work to set-up for the sales. It is often a requirement for retail employees to work Thanksgiving and the shift could feature long hours of angry or rude customers, never-ending restocks and not being able to leave the cash register or assigned department for hours.

How to Manage Triggers During a Black Friday Shift

When in recovery for a substance use disorder or if you are diagnosed with a mental illness, working a Black Friday shift can be especially triggering. Preparing yourself for the longest and possibly most stressful shift of the year can make a difference for someone in recovery. Some tips to prepare yourself physically and mentally include:

  • Request management review Black Friday protocols and procedures. By doing this, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page. Some specific topics that should be covered are: how lines will be managed, if there will be a limit of how many people will be allowed in the store, return and exchange policies and how to handle complaint issues.
  • Be prepared to deal with and defuse situations involving angry customers. When you’re put in a tense situation with a customer, it’s important to remember to:
    1. Take a deep breath and assess the situation. You need to remain calm and in control.
    2. Recognize the customer’s feelings. Verbally stating that you’re aware that the customer is angry can reassure them you recognize their frustration and can help establish an understanding between you and the customer. You can say things like, “ You’ve had a really hard time,” or, “I see you’re frustrated.” These responses let them know that you’re listening.
    3. Know the facts. You can use questions like, “It sounds like this is what happened…Is that correct?” or, “I’m not sure I understand, would you remind going over that part again so I can make sure to resolve the issue?” Asking questions like these can ensure that you get the facts, not just the emotions of the angry customer.
    4. Be clear and direct. Use clear and direct language when responding to the frustrated customer, let them know whether or not you can accommodate their request. You can use phrases like, “I can definitely help you with your problem, here’s what I can do…” or, “I’m sorry, but I cannot help you with that particular issue, you’ll need to speak with my manager who is located…”
    5. Recognize when to call for help. Even after addressing the problem and presenting a solution to the customer, they may still be unhappy and unmanageable. At this point, you can contact another co-worker you feel may be able to resolve the issue or contact your manager.

How To Help Co-Workers in Recovery During a Black Friday Shift

Even if you don’t personally suffer from a substance use or mental health disorder, your co-workers may. One of the best ways to help a co-worker who may be experiencing triggers during their Black Friday work shift is to simply check-in with them throughout the shift. You can ask them how they’re doing and say things like, “Let me know if you need anything,” or, “I’m here if you need me,” reassures them that their feelings are validated and recognized.

If you recognize that your co-worker seems to be having an especially hard time getting through their shift you can offer to take your break later so they can take their break first and be able to step away for a few minutes. Just having 10 minutes to decompress and relax could be just what your co-worker needs to refresh and compose themselves. If you witness your co-worker having a tense situation with an angry customer, you can offer assistance or take the initiative to contact a manager if the issue escalates.

One of the best ways to make it through a Black Friday shift as a someone in recovery or with a mental health disorder is to know and recognize your triggers so you can address them before these feelings are exacerbated and lead to a compromising position. If you or someone you know struggles with a substance use or mental health disorder and want to seek treatment, help is available. The Recovery Village offers a continuum of care provided by professionals. To learn more about your treatment options call and speak with a representative to get more information.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.