The holiday season ushers in a time of feasting, fun and festivity. While this season has its merry moments, it can also be a stressful time for those in recovery. 
The business of the holidays requires a greater need for time management, emotional regulation, planning, organizing and attending to commitments. The high level of demand around the holiday, coupled with the difficulties of family conflict, potential feelings of grief and financial strain, can lead to new and serious triggers.
That’s why self-care in recovery is so essential. Even at a time when you feel least equipped to sacrifice the time, self-care can prevent stress in the first place, and reduce stress when it inevitably comes up. Here’s how to use self-care activities to manage stress over the holidays.

Self-care in recovery

One of the most essential skills you can learn in recovery is identifying and managing triggers. Whether you’re just deciding to get sober or you’ve been in treatment for months, this is a core lesson of healing from a substance use disorder. 
Identifying and managing triggers can help you prevent relapse in your day-to-day life, and once you’ve predicted and combatted your normal triggers, you’ll start making quick progress.
All this can be put in jeopardy when the holidays roll around, and your normal daily routine is flipped upside down. You may find that your schedule makes a drastic shift when you take a few days or weeks off work, or that the stress of money issues is quadrupled by the pressure to purchase gifts.
One of the reasons holidays are so enjoyable is because they differ from the norm. While there is much you can still enjoy this time of year in recovery, the unique nature of the festivities brings up triggers that don’t occur in your normal life, potentially harming your sobriety.
Self-care in recovery can make a crucial difference when you are using the best of your energy to manage these new and difficult triggers. The practice of prioritizing your sobriety through calming, healthy and holistic activities is sure to benefit you both now and in the long run.
Self-care takes many forms, but the general outline includes any practice you implement that promotes nutrition, exercise, mental wellness, healthy socialization or medical care. Taking care of yourself is never selfish, and allows you the mental and physical capacity to be the person you want to be.

Self-care at home

Self-care in recovery is critical to maintaining the progress you’ve achieved so far. The advances you’ve made in treatment are often tested when you encounter new circumstances, so the Christmas season is likely to be a trial for your ability to fight triggers.
In the process of healing from addiction, making self-care sustainable is essential. You’ll likely need to modify your practices as you assess their effectiveness, but the best self-care activities are those you can do on a regular basis, without expending too many precious resources (think time and money).
For example, effective self-care is unlikely to include weekly massages. While this may fit well into the lifestyle of some individuals, for others it is too costly, or childcare becomes a concern. Self-care should never create more stress than it alleviates. Especially if the stress it causes (like feeling too busy or financially stretched) is one of your triggers to use drugs or alcohol.
Most individuals find that self-care at home that can be done as part of a daily routine is best. 

Self-care activities

Committing to self-care means finding sustainable practices. Here are a few of the best self-care at-home strategies, for the holidays and year-round.

Eating well

Focusing on nutrition is one of the easiest and most quickly rewarding ways to practice self-care at home. A healthy diet promotes a stable mood, reduces cravings and helps you stay focused and energized. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds with lean meats is recommended. Drinking plenty of water is well-advised, too.


Daily movement is key to recovery. Not only does it prevent downtime (which can lead to negative, spiraling thoughts), but it boosts mood through an influx of endorphins, helps you feel stronger and makes you more confident. Practices like yoga, cardio, weight lifting and workout classes are great self-care activities.


Sleep is an underappreciated form of self-care at home. Sleep helps the body heal, store memories, repair injuries, process information and manage hormones. Feeling fatigued can be mentally strenuous, potentially leading to increased triggers.

Regular social time

Spending time with others combats isolation and improves the quality of life. Scheduling time with friends and family can prevent relapse and is one of the most enjoyable self-care activities you can do. Make sure that during the holidays you’re spending time with people who boost your mood rather than individuals who bring you down.

Creative pursuits

Engaging in artistic or creative endeavors, like painting, dance, music or writing can be a calming and expressive outlet for those in recovery. Of all the self-care activities you try, creative pursuits can easily be connected to your treatment journey, and even serve as supplemental therapy.

Getting care