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Beating Holiday Stress: How to Manage it While in Recovery

John Templeton Jr. - December 18, 2019

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“It’s really hard to go to a Christmas party without some sort of bar,” John Templeton, the CEO of Footprints Beachside Recovery and recovering alcoholic told Night Side. “I mean, that’s where alcohol looks the most beautiful.”

Recovery from addiction is an incredible gift, but it takes time and effort to maintain it. And for some, the holidays can make recovery that much more challenging. From constantly being surrounded by alcohol to the pressure of spending time with family members you don’t always see eye-to-eye with, the holiday season can put someone in recovery at risk of relapse.

Why the Holidays are Stressful for People in Recovery

Think back to Christmas and New Year’s before you struggled with addiction. Do you have memories of arguing with your parents about what you were wearing for the family party? Or maybe you recall the stress of getting the house cleaned and decorated before hosting dozens of people for Christmas Eve.

Let’s face it, everyone has ridiculous horror stories about the holidays, no matter if you’re struggling with addiction or not. In fact, the American Psychological Association found that 38 percent of people report that their stress levels increase during the holidays.

In some cases, we can look back on those times fondly and laugh them off. But for people like you who are trying to keep your recovery from addiction on track, holiday stress can have you grabbing for a glass of wine or a bottle of pills.

If you’re in recovery, be on the lookout for some of the most common holiday stressors, including:

  • Getting holiday decorations up and ensuring Christmas lights are working
  • Running late for holiday festivities, like Christmas mass or a family party
  • Buying the perfect gifts for family and friends without breaking the bank
  • The pressure to be happy during the holiday season
  • Personal insecurities or comparing yourself to friends and family
  • Feeling like you need to impress family members and friends you haven’t seen in a while
  • Challenging or stressful relationships with people that make you feel bad about yourself

Holiday stress is a given. What’s not is being aware of your individual triggers. The bullet points above are by no means a complete list of holiday stressors, so take some time before Christmas to think about and write down all your personal reasons why the holidays stress you out.

7 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress and Prevent Relapse

Once you’re fully aware of what stresses you out during the holidays, you can do something about it. Here are 7 key ways to help you manage your holiday stress and keep your addiction recovery on track:

1. Have an Exit Strategy If and When Your Triggers Occur. Fortune favors the prepared. If you’re aware of your holiday stressors, take some time to plan how you’ll handle them. Do large groups make you anxious? Have a couple quiet spaces ready to go if you need to duck out of the room. Does witnessing your family’s stress-fighting over dinner preparations and house cleaning push you to your limit? Talk to your family about how their reactions affect you. Maybe even come up with a safe word to use if conflict does arise to let them know you’re getting overwhelmed and need to walk away.

2. Use Your Support Network as Back Up. Your support network plays a significant role in your recovery. Before the holidays, talk to them about your triggers and why the holidays stress you out. Ask them to help you avoid your stressors and give them ways to step in and support you. Having at least one person watching your back during the holidays can keep you from giving into cravings.

3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Is it just in your mom’s nature to make comments about your hair or what you’re wearing for the holidays? Are you running a little late to your family’s Christmas dinner? While stressful in the moment, these little things don’t deserve your time and energy and certainly aren’t worth relapsing over. Do your best to shrug off little holiday annoyances and focus on the bigger picture of your recovery.

4. Take Breaks to Meditate. The holidays can be overwhelming and trigger feelings of anxiety and depression. If you start to feel exhausted or stressed out, take a time out from the festivities. Follow your exit strategy and take 10-15 minutes to just sit by yourself and meditate. Meditation can help you settle your breathing and refocus your thoughts and feelings before you decide to relapse.

5. Do What Makes You Happy. There will always be things we don’t want to do. Maybe being dragged to holiday parties is just something you have to do to keep your family and friends happy. But, don’t forget to also do what makes you happy. Does exercise make you feel good? Get a run or lifting session in before a party. Do you love painting, playing music or reading? Take time to do those things! Doing what you love can help you relax and enjoy the holidays.

6. Stay Off Social Media. Social media may help you stay connected with others, but it can also bring up personal insecurities and have you comparing yourself to others based on what family members and friends post. If you’ve struggled with self-esteem and know that you compare your life to others, avoid spending time on social media. Remember, social media only gives you a window into the parts of someone’s life they want you to see. Don’t let yourself get caught up in thinking everyone’s life is better or more exciting than yours.

7. Avoid Toxic Relationships. Are there members of your family you just don’t get along with for one reason or another? Maybe an uncle always makes inappropriate comments or a cousin always puts you down when you see them. It’s okay to avoid these types of people for the sake of your recovery. If you have to be at the same party as them, be polite and greet them, but do your best to surround yourself for the rest of the evening with people who make you feel good.

Get Relapse Help at Footprints Beachside Recovery

Have holiday stressors challenged your recovery or have you already relapsed? First, don’t feel ashamed or think you failed. Relapse is just another part of recovery and it means you simply need some extra help in coping with your triggers. Second, Footprints Beachside Recovery can help you get your recovery back on track.

If you’re ready, talk to one of our team members today to learn more about our treatment program and how we can help you.

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