The holidays, in addition to the joy the bring, can bring unwanted things, too. The Christmas season, other winter holidays or holiday year-round can be triggers for relapse for many people.During festivities, people may be tempted to return to an addiction due to family conflict, feelings of isolation, financial struggles, grief or many other issues. These can all lead to stress, and when stress builds up, using drugs or alcohol to cope can be enticing.Managing holiday stress can be dealt with when you have the right preparation and support. Here’s what you need to know about handling stress in the tough moments this season.
Managing holiday stress
Holiday stress can sometimes feel out of place. In a season that’s supposed to feel extra cheery, it’s common to feel alone if you’re struggling. The truth, though, is that the holidays are difficult for many people, and one of the main sources of stress is this gap between what is reasonable to expect and what will actually happen.Setting realistic expectations is key to managing holiday stress. There’s pressure to imagine a picture-perfect holiday season with harmonious family gatherings and the ideal gifts. Thus, it’s easy to feel let down when our reality plays out without the magic movies, TV shows and social media make us picture.Setting realistic expectations for managing holiday stress during recovery means taking a fair assessment of your circumstances and planning from there. The holidays won’t be idealistic, especially when your main goal is to maintain sobriety. Focus on abstaining from drugs and alcohol, and find joy in the lifestyle you’re working to maintain.
Common sources of holiday stress
One of the first ways to combat holiday stress is to understand the source of it. The more you can narrow down and specify what makes this season personally difficult, the easier it will be to avoid or mitigate the impact of the distress it causes.For example, if you know that a certain relative and her unsolicited comments are bound to make you feel angry and prone to seek out alcohol, you can work to avoid that relative or enlist a relative to swoop in to pull you away should you get stuck in a conversation with her. Here are the most common holiday stress triggers:
Grief (loss of loved ones or memories associated with them that come up around the holiday)
Demanding job schedule and less time with family
Lack of extended family nearby
Isolation (physical distance between relatives or emotional distance)
Comparison to other’s holiday celebrations and gifts (social media)
Pressure to provide perfect gifts and host events
Social anxiety when attending events
Difficult issues brought up at events such as money, parenting or politics
The presence of drugs or alcohol at holiday events
Business of the season
Feeling let down by loved ones
Having little social support
Thinking about past mistakes
Understanding the origin of stress can prevent relapse, but it takes time and planning to manage it well. Get started by reviewing some common sources of holiday stress, and then use the sober holiday tips below to deal with them one by one.
Holiday stress tips
Managing difficulty this season is much easier when you have some holiday stress tips to guide you. Here are the best concrete, actionable sober holiday tips that can set you up for success.
Prayer, meditation, visualization and other similar practices can put you in the mindset you need to stay in control of your decisions. Even a brief pause before a holiday event can help you center your thoughts, prioritize your goals and commit to sobriety.Meditation is helpful for reducing stress, and it can also reverse the body’s stress response by decreasing the body’s blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. Thus, meditation can be helpful as a preventative measure and in the heat of the moment if you find yourself in a triggering scenario. The good news is that you need no equipment and only a short amount of time, so head to the bathroom or take a break for a few minutes in your car to meditate.
Engage a support person for each event
For every holiday event you attend, it’s best to have at least one support person who is aware of your goals for sobriety and can actively encourage them. A friend, family member, colleague or even your sponsor can attend the event with you and keep an eye out for triggers.
Plan an escape route
Stress can’t always be avoided, but when holiday stress is too much, it’s much easier to leave an event than to risk your recovery. Don’t let triggers to a relapse build beyond the point you feel that you can control them. Always give yourself an out. Decide on transportation beforehand and make alternative plans with a support person so you’re not left alone to deal with the urge to use.
Keep your body at it’s best
One of the easiest sober holiday tips is to keep your body feeling it’s best so the temptation to indulge in substance use won’t even be a thought. The better you feel without drugs or alcohol, the higher the chance is that you won’t even want to seek it out when you’re stressed.Exercising, stretching and daily movement are some of the best stress-prevention techniques in the book, and anyone can take advantage of the numerous benefits.
Get connected with professional help over the holidays
Implementing holiday stress tips can only take you so far. While the bulk of recovery lies on your shoulders, you need support to ensure that you’re giving yourself the best shot at freedom. Enlist professional help from Silvermist Recovery to solidify your sobriety.Silvermist Recovery provides addiction and mental health treatment in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. Get in touch today.
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