For many people, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s represent a bustling, cheerful time full of family, friends, good food and a busy event schedule.
But for those in recovery — whether newly sober or sober for years — the holidays may be a less anticipated, more stressful experience. There are numerous aspects to the holidays, like parties and even challenging family members, that could put a strain on one’s sobriety. However, with a little planning and foresight, you’ll be equipped to handle these situations and maintain your recovery.
Managing holiday stress
If you don’t know what’s to come, you won’t know how to prepare. We’ve compiled a list of some of the more common holiday-related stressors to help you look ahead and have an action plan in place for when these moments occur.
Parties are extremely common during the holiday season — between friends, family and work, you might feel like you have a party invitation for every weekend in December. It can feel overwhelming, especially if you know certain triggers, including alcohol, social anxiety or challenging family members and/or peers will play a role in the event. But before you decline every invitation, consider these ways to prepare.
How to prepare: Find a sober holiday party buddy who is also in recovery or fully understands your commitment to remaining abstinent from substance use. Having a friend by your side can lower your anxiety levels, and they’ll be able to provide support if or when you need it. Cranberry juice, sparkling cider and ginger ale can all serve as lookalikes for alcoholic drinks if you’re afraid people might ask why you aren’t partaking.
And don’t feel bad if you simply know you can’t handle attending a certain event. Your recovery is more important than anything else at this time, and it’s better to disappoint someone than risk your recovery. After all, you’re not responsible for someone’s response to your boundaries.
Gifts, holiday parties, and traveling can quickly add up during this time of year, which may lead to increased financial stress and anxiety. When it comes to financial stress during the holidays, it’s crucial to plan ahead to avoid going over budget. Only take on what you can afford, and peacefully let the rest go.
How to prepare: Tuck a little amount of money aside each month of the year in a holiday fund that will go towards any necessary travel, gifts and Secret Santa expectations at work. If you have this money already built up and set aside, by the time Christmas rolls around, you won’t have to pinch pennies at all.
Additionally, set good boundaries for yourself. If your cousins expect everyone to meet up in Fiji for a New Year’s bash that simply isn’t in your budget, don’t be afraid of saying no. If you know the financial strain of a certain trip will send you overboard, politely decline, stick to your budget and remain confident in the benefit these prudent choices are having on your life overall.
As much as we wish it weren’t true, family stress is a real thing and it is not uncommon for it to arise during the holidays. Many people, including your family, are likely to be experiencing stress to some extent, and unmanaged stress can manifest in unpleasant ways. Anticipating this conflict can cause anxiety if you don’t have a plan for handling it.
How to prepare: Accept that feeling stressed out about spending time with family is normal and manageable. If possible, find an ally within your family who can be a shoulder to lean on when family gatherings get difficult. Prepare a polite excuse to leave ahead of time in case you feel uncomfortable or challenged in ways that are unfair or you simply don’t have the capacity to handle.
Changes to your schedule/routine
A crucial pillar of recovery is building and maintaining a routine that dedicates time to getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and other elements of self-care. When you travel or take time off of work during the holidays, it’s not uncommon for your daily routine to get a little out of whack.
How to prepare: Accept that you may have to say no to certain events and invitations. If outside obligations begin to regularly impede your ability to do things like exercise, attend meetings or simply spend some much-needed time alone, it’s important to set boundaries by turning down invitations or letting the host know you’ll be arriving late or leaving early. Also, keep your priorities in mind by making a list in your journal or reminding yourself during a daily meditation session. Self-care and sobriety always come first.
Need help navigating holiday stress?
Although the holidays can present many challenges for a person in recovery, it’s not necessary to miss out on all of the fun and cheer in order to stay sober. By accepting that you may face challenges that upset you or make you uncomfortable, you can prepare and learn to manage the feelings that arise.
Additionally, meeting with your therapist or attending sober support groups can give you additional support and encouragement during this time. To get in touch with someone today, contact Silvermist Recovery by calling 724-268-4858 to learn more.