It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and the most stressful, too! Even though the holidays are meant to be joyful, they can cause a great deal of stress. Perhaps you’ve already been kept awake at night wondering how you’re going to afford gifts this year. Or maybe the thought of spending multiple days with your extended family makes your heart skip a beat.
Holiday stress can affect anyone, even children. There are a lot of expectations around the holidays between social gatherings, family traditions and happy memories. These expectations can lead to stress. And, if you’re recovering from a substance use or mental health disorder, this can make things even more difficult.
Fortunately, we have some tips that will help you get through the holidays while staying on track with your recovery. If you need help along the way, Breathe Life Healing Centers is here for you.
Pick Your Gatherings Wisely
Finding time for all of your holiday activities can be difficult, but it’s important not to overextend yourself. Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. With this in mind, it’s okay to limit the events and activities you participate in. It can help to write down your commitments so that you can prioritize what’s most important.
Of course, don’t just pick the events you want to do, but rather what’s healthy for you. If you know that the Ugly Sweater party you usually attend has an excess of alcohol, it’s not the best environment to be in. Choose to participate in events and activities that are healthy for your mind and body.
Be Your Own Advocate
Your sobriety is your top priority, so don’t let holiday demands stand in the way of it. You’ve worked hard to get yourself where you are today, and you don’t want to risk it just to make someone else happy in the moment. But in order to protect your recovery, you must be willing to advocate for yourself.
To be your own advocate, start by practicing good self-care. Eat healthy foods, get enough rest at night and make time for exercise. Doing this makes it easier to make healthy choices and stand up for yourself. Also stay connected to your support system – those who love and care about you won’t pressure you to drink!
Plan Your Responses
People are naturally curious, or perhaps nosy is a better word! But either way, you can expect someone to make an insensitive comment at some point over the holidays. But remember, your recovery is personal. You get to choose what you want to share and when.
Some people are an open book when it comes to their journeys and others are not. There is no right or wrong way to handle things. However, you don’t have control over others, so it’s best to plan your responses ahead of time. For example, what will you say if someone asks if you’d like a drink? Inquires about your time in rehab? Judges you on what you’re eating?
Having pre-planned responses will give you more confidence going into situations. For example, if someone asks, “Can I get you something to drink?”, you can say, “Yes, I’d love that! A Diet Coke would really hit the spot!”
Follow Your Aftercare Plan
Now is not the time to veer off your aftercare plan. In fact, changes to your routine are major risks to your recovery. Follow your regular schedule as best as you can. This includes going to 12-step meetings, eating your meals, exercising, waking up and going to bed at the same time and attending therapy.
If you start to feel the holiday stress pile up, reach out for extra support. That’s the nice thing about having an aftercare plan – there’s always built in support. You can increase your therapy sessions or 12-step attendance, for example, or spend more time helping others. You don’t want to overdo it, but you also want to avoid boredom.
Create an Exit Strategy
It’s always smart to have an exit strategy. For instance, if you start to feel uncomfortable in a situation, how will you get yourself out of it? For many people in recovery, it’s best if they drive themselves or bring a sober companion with them. This way, they can hold themselves accountable for their choices.
It’s also not a bad idea to have escape plans for other uncomfortable situations, such as a conversation regarding religion or politics, or a cousin who’s had too much to drink. Excuse yourself and go outside for a walk, share that you have plans for dessert and leave, hang out with the kids, etc. Having these backup strategies will help you feel more in control.
The holidays are naturally stressful because of all the spending, cleaning, cooking, traveling and entertaining. We recommend starting small, committing to only a few events and staying close to your support network. Breathe Life Healing Centers is here for you if you decide that you need extra support along the way.