How To Deal With Holiday Stress in Early Recovery

By Cassidy Webb 

Staying sober throughout the holiday season is difficult for people in early recovery. There are social events that involve drinking, strained relationships that people are trying to mend and unexpected challenges that may drive people to drink or use drugs. Combine these stressors with the typical chaos of a big family holiday get-together and the situation can become very difficult to deal with. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce holiday stress in sobriety. When you stay on top of your recovery and take care of yourself, everything else seems to fall into place.

Prepare for the Holidays in Recovery

If you are newly sober and are stressed out over the upcoming holiday season, know that you’re not alone. Step into any recovery meeting and you’re bound to find someone who has experienced stress during their first holiday in sobriety. Before the festivities roll around, make it a priority to go to extra meetings and spend more time with your support group. Make sure that your foundation in recovery is solid before the holidays roll around. 

Another way to prepare for the holidays is to identify any potential triggers or uncomfortable situations that may present themselves. Stress is one of the top causes of relapse and it can occur at any time. Maybe it will arise from a holiday tradition that involves drinking or seeing a particular family member. Whatever the case may be, bringing awareness to these triggers can help you prepare to deal with them. 

Develop a Realistic Plan

Since the holidays may throw you off of your regular routine, you should figure out which events are going to occur each day. If there’s a certain event that you don’t feel comfortable attending, you can plan to sit that one out and do something for your recovery instead, like go to a meeting or call sober support.

Part of developing a plan in early recovery means an escape plan – just in case things become too much. If it means protecting your recovery, it is okay to limit your time with certain family members or at certain events. A huge part of relapse prevention is being aware of the people, places, and things that could put your recovery in jeopardy. Your escape plan can mean leaving altogether to go to a meeting, taking a walk, or spending time alone taking care of yourself. 

Practice Self-Care

Restorative sleep, healthy nutrition, and moderate exercise can make the difference between recovery and relapse. Some people think of self-care as pampering oneself at the spa or getting a new hairstyle, but self-care comes down to the basic things that make us feel good – eating, exercising and sleeping. Ensuring that these needs are met can do wonders for your overall well-being and your lasting recovery. When you take care of yourself physically, you will feel better emotionally.

Aside from taking care of your body, it’s important to nourish your mind and spirit as well. Try to find an appropriate balance between spending time with people you love and spending time in quiet meditation and self-reflection. Meditation in recovery helps prevent relapse by reducing stress and impulsivity while increasing emotion regulation and the quality of interpersonal relationships. It will help you manage heightened stress and emotions during the holidays.

Writer Cassidy Webb. Courtesy of Cassidy Webb.

Be of Service to Others

When we help other people, we find purpose and meaning in our own lives. Research has found how helping others can help regulate your mood, decrease stress, and improve your emotional well-being. If you are sober, you are a source of great strength and change that can inspire many other people. To keep strengthening your recovery, you should look for ways you can be of service.

The holiday season offers endless opportunities to help others. Try volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter, or invite a newly sober friend to join you for your holiday festivities. When you are busy helping others, it can be hard to be stressed out about other circumstances that may occur.

Stay Connected to Your Support Group

It is important to stay connected to your sober support throughout the holidays, especially if you have traveled to a family member’s house and are feeling disconnected. When you stay connected to your support group, you stay connected to your recovery. 

When you feel stressed or anxious, pick up the phone and call one of your sober support systems. In many cases, simply talking about your emotions and what caused them helps you move past the way you are feeling. Talking about your emotions, triggers or cravings helps take away the power that these things hold over your mind. Simply expressing your emotions makes them feel less intense. Furthermore, your sober support group can offer suggestions on how to deal with the situations you are facing.

Relax & Take it Easy

If you’ve managed to stay sober for any amount of time, you absolutely can make it through the holidays sober. Remember these tools and make sure your recovery comes first. If you follow the advice from your support group and stay mindful of your triggers and emotions, you can cope with holiday stress successfully. So, relax and enjoy a festive holiday with family or friends. If you prioritize your recovery over all else, you can make this holiday the best one yet. 

Cassidy Webb is an avid writer who works with PAX Memphis to spread awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope. You can connect with her on Twitter.

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