How to Manage Stress During the Holidays

managing holiday stress in recovery

Managing holiday stress in recovery is critical to reducing the risk of relapsing. During the holiday season, many people in recovery come face-to-face with several relapse triggers. Believe Detox Center in Los Angeles, California, is here for those struggling with addiction. Our detox and rehab services can help people find hope in recovery from substance abuse.

Why Are Holidays Stressful?

The holidays are meant to be a time of celebration, family gatherings, and fun. Yet, many people find that managing holiday stress in recovery to be very stressful. According to a 2015 Healthline survey, 44% of respondents said the holidays were “somewhat stressful.” An additional 18% rated holidays as “very stressful.” Only 10% of those surveyed reported that they have no stress during the holiday season.

Unique stressors related to the holiday season include some of the following:

  • Financial issues, due to increased travel expenses, providing family meals, and purchasing gifts
  • Lack of sleep, exercise, nutrition, and other healthy habits that people don’t have time for during the holidays
  • Getting the “right” gifts for loved ones or ensuring family members are happy
  • Scheduling trips, holiday parties, and other obligations

In addition, the risk of contracting illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu increases in the winter months, which could be on the minds of many Americans this holiday season.

For those in recovery from addiction, confronting these holiday stressors could feel overwhelming. Not only do those in recovery need to deal with these stressors but they also need to manage their relapse triggers as well. As many people celebrate the holidays with alcohol, social gatherings could be especially problematic. Thus, those in recovery can benefit from learning how to manage holiday stress in recovery.

7 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress in Recovery

People in recovery from addictive substances should think about the holiday season in advance. They need to be proactive to manage the additional stressors and triggers posed by holiday parties, family obligations, increased spending, and decreased time for self-care. The following seven tips can help people manage holiday stress to avoid relapsing during the holidays:

1. Find a Sober Accountability Partner

Trying to stay accountable to sobriety is easier with another person’s help. Many people in recovery have friends or family members who support their sobriety. A trusted loved one can remind the person of their recovery goals and act as a support person when they feel triggered. It is best if this person is also sober. Thus, a sponsor or fellow peer from a support group could also be a good point person to check in with throughout the holidays.

2. Attend a Support Group

Before any family obligations or holiday parties, a person in recovery should consider attending support groups. Many support groups, such as 12-Step recovery, are available for either in-person or online meetings. Even if a person isn’t currently in a group, the holiday season could be a great time to start. In addition, a person could plan to attend a support group after any holiday events to talk through any triggers or stressors.

3. Plan for Relapse Triggers

Throughout recovery, people will encounter triggers that invoke urges, cravings, or emotions associated with substance use. Thus, it is best to plan for these triggers with special consideration for the holiday season. For instance, certain family members could be triggering and normally a person can limit their time with them. However, during the holidays, they might not be able to avoid the person as easily.

4. Bring Non-Alcoholic Drinks

For those in recovery from alcohol addiction, bringing along non-alcoholic drinks could help them avoid the temptation for drinking. This could help if a party host doesn’t provide an alternative to those who don’t drink alcohol. In addition, having a non-alcoholic drink in hand can prevent a person from standing out among others drinking.

5. Make Time for Self-Care

Often, a person’s time is limited throughout the holiday season. Between family obligations, shopping, decorating, and work-related parties, they might struggle to find time for themselves. However, people in recovery need to schedule time for self-care, even if this time is limited. Since their time can get away from them, they might want to write reminders for themselves to do things like journaling, listening to music, taking a long shower, or exercising.

6. Have an “Out”

No matter what a person does to prepare for their relapse triggers, they should also have an exit strategy. Sometimes, things can get so overwhelming that the best option is to leave a situation altogether. It’s best to plan for an excuse to leave any situation that a person feels uncomfortable with. Leaving to attend another function, take care of a pet, get ahead of traffic, or other everyday excuses can help a person exit a social gathering.

7. Say “No” and Set Limits

As always, it is important to set limits and be realistic about what a person can handle. For those new to recovery, they might want to limit the number of holiday parties they attend—or avoid them altogether in favor of self-care or support groups. This could mean saying “no” to family obligations or other social gatherings. While this can be challenging, saying “no” to situations that could be triggering can help a person avoid relapsing this holiday season.

Get Help for Addiction During the Holiday Season

Along with the joy and camaraderie of celebration, the prospect of managing holiday stress in recovery is something to think about. For those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, these stressors can trigger a relapse of substance abuse. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or relapse this holiday, Believe Detox Center in Los Angeles, California, is here to help. Contact us today to get the help that you need.

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