7 Strategies for Overcoming Holiday Stress in Addiction Recovery

Overcoming Holiday Stress in Addiction Recovery

The holidays bring stress with them. As much as most people want this to be a happy time focused on family and friends, it often comes bogged down by frustration, worry, and strain.

Consider that, in a study completed by Sesame, 2 in 5 Americans felt an impact on their mental health during the holidays, many reporting an increase in depression and anxiety symptoms. When you add in the stress that comes from addiction recovery, that percentage is likely much higher.

Whether it is from interacting with people, feeling the pressure of meeting financial demands or being around substances during holiday events, it can be downright difficult to feel jolly during the holidays. Yet, in recovery, you also know you have a lot to be grateful for, and you can find a way to make things better.

The following strategies can help you overcome holiday stress in addiction recovery. Remember that your top priority is your sobriety.

#1: Reduce exposure to triggers.

One of the most important steps is to avoid triggers. Addiction triggers are experiences that make you think about and desire to use substances. Triggers can be things like being in a location where you used to hang out with friends and drink. They can also be stressors that make you long for relief, like an overloaded schedule or repercussions of past trauma.

#2: Recognize the signs of your stress early on.

Don’t let the stress and frustration you feel become overwhelming. Instead, take immediate steps to intervene. Many people begin to feel the initial physical signs of stress before recognizing the mental symptoms. Physical signs may include: 

  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Chest pain
  • Choking or nausea not related to illness
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble focusing on objects

Listen to your body. When you start to feel any of these signs, take a moment to consider what’s happening. Then, in that moment, consider what you can do to get some relief.

#3: Reach out to a mentor or a close friend.

What do you do when you start to feel these symptoms of stress? Call a mentor or go to a recovery meeting – or both. The sooner you get help for what you are feeling, the better. It is a great act of self care to recognize the problem and take action to find a solution. No matter if you reach out to your therapist or you simply find a friend who will listen, you need to express the way you are feeling. Get it out. That alone might be all you need to move forward.

#4: When traditions don’t work, don’t participate.

Traditions can be treated as if they are a “must,” but that’s not necessarily true. Yes, traditions can be a valuable way to inspire family connections, but if any tradition makes you feel unsafe, puts you at risk for relapse, or brings up traumatic thoughts and memories, don’t participate. That tradition is a part of your past.

It may seem hard to disappoint a family member who loves that tradition (e.g., big family dinners or celebrating with a toast), but recognize that your health matters more. Traditions should never come in the way of your well-being.

#5: Create a new and meaningful tradition. 

Another way to make the holidays more enjoyable is to do something new that could help you celebrate in a more meaningful way. New traditions should be:

  • Something you do with people who matter to you
  • Positive experiences
  • Rewarding to you in some way

Visit a food bank to provide volunteer support. Choose a new location to celebrate the religious aspects of this time of the year in a way that feels meaningful to you. Find a new place to celebrate the holidays instead of the location you associate with past traumas.

#6: Prioritize people who don’t put pressure on you.

If you want to attend a company party but don’t want to feel at risk for drinking, bring someone with you who won’t let you do so. If you plan to host a dinner party, don’t buy substances, and avoid inviting anyone who could have a problem with that. Instead, focus on those who fully support your sobriety. Keep a confidant by your side.

#7: Simply say no.

One of the most important strategies available to you during this time of the year is the power of “no.”

  • No, you do not want to drink or celebrate substances.
  • No, you do not want to spend a specific amount on a gift no one will appreciate.
  • No, you will not go to a traditional location because it brings back bad memories.
  • No, you will not put yourself at risk out of fear of disappointing someone. 
  • No, you will not just hang out in an environment you do not feel safe in.

Know You Have Help in Our Team

The Ranch at Dove Tree is committed to being there to help you no matter what. Contact us 24/7 if you need drug or alcohol treatment in Lubbock, TX.