7 Tips for Coping With Stress and Avoiding Triggers During the Holidays

Legacy Healing Center Blog

Managing Holiday Stress in Recovery

The holiday season can be a time of emotional highs and lows for everyone. The season can be filled with joy, connection, and a sense of wonder.  It can also bring up feelings of overwhelm, frustration, and stress.  For people in recovery, this time of year can be especially challenging… and triggering.  Between difficult emotions, financial strain, holiday parties where people are drinking, and challenging family dynamics, there are plenty of triggers around this time of year.  But, that does not mean you can’t enjoy the holidays.

With some thoughtful planning and foresight, you can reinforce your support system to help you cope with stress and avoid triggers during the holidays.  Take some time to identify your own personal triggers and make plans now for how you’ll avoid them so that you can celebrate the holidays (and feel all the emotions of the season) without being thrown off course in your recovery.

Potential Holiday Stressors for People in Recovery

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but they can also bring on significant stress. If you want to avoid holiday stress and stay strong on the road to recovery, recognizing and acknowledging potential triggers is a good place to start.

Here are a few common holiday stressors for people in recovery:

  • Difficult family dynamics: Spending more time with family can highlight challenges within the relationships.  It can be so disappointing when time spent with family doesn’t go how we hope.  Unresolved issues with family members can create real stress and anxiety for anyone, including people in recovery.
  • Old friends and negative influences: The holidays can be a time when old friends come back into town.  If you have previous acquaintances who are still abusing drugs or alcohol, just seeing them can trigger strong memories and increase the dangers of relapse.
  • Financial strain: The holidays bring extra expenses that aren’t part of your usual monthly budget.  Wanting to fulfill the wishlists of people you care about can leave you feeling significant financial pressure this time of year.
  • Holiday parties where people are drinking:  The holidays are full of parties and celebrations that include alcohol.  Attending a holiday party where people are drinking can be a huge trigger for someone in recovery, especially those who are newly sober.

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Tips for Avoiding Triggers and Coping with Holiday Stress

If you want to enjoy the holidays with less stress and more confidence in your ability to stay sober, you need a proactive plan for making it happen.  Fortunately, the potential stresses and triggers of the holidays are things we can foresee and plan for.  Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Set boundaries: The holidays are a busy time when it’s easy to overcommit.  Feeling overwhelmed can set off a whole cascade of other triggers so be honest with yourself about what you can handle and don’t be afraid to say no as much as you need to.
  2. Keep your expectations realistic: It’s easy to have high hopes for the holiday season, but setting your expectations too high can set you up for disappointment. Keep your holiday expectations reasonable so that any surprises will be good ones.
  3. Seek out sober activities: Get together with your sober friends and celebrate the joys of the season with clear eyes and a present mind. Support groups like AA and NA hold lots of holiday gatherings you can enjoy with your friends and family while reinforcing your recovery.
  4. Give back to others: Giving up your time and talents will make you feel good, and volunteering can also keep you busy and help you avoid stress and triggers. Look for ways to help out in your community, from offering support to others who are newer to sobriety to serving meals at the local food bank.
  5. Lean on your friends for support: The support of others who encourage your sobriety is essential at this time of year. Don’t hesitate to reach out when you feel stressed.  Better yet, be proactive and increase your communication with your sponsor, sober coach, friends and family now to strengthen those connections.
  6. Take time for yourself: The holidays can be intense.  Start thinking now about how you’ll build in time for yourself and what that will look like.  This could mean declining certain invitations.  It could mean practicing how you’ll excuse yourself from a family gathering if you need a moment to step outside and get some fresh air.  It can even mean allowing yourself whole blocks of time relaxing and doing things that are just for you. Whatever you do, be sure to give yourself plenty of breaks from the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
  7. Ask for help when you need it: If you start to feel stressed or triggered, reach out for help sooner rather than later.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed at holiday time, so ask for help when you need it.  Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Addiction Treatment Is Available Year-Round

For people who are struggling with active addiction, it’s important to note that addiction treatment is available year-round, including during the holidays.  In fact, for many, this is an ideal time to take advantage of going to a behavioral health center.  It’s a great way to avoid triggers, learn how to cope with stress, celebrate with others in recovery, and spend time reflecting. As the holiday season approaches Legacy Healing Center remains committed to helping people transform their lives whenever they’re ready to do so.

If you feel overwhelmed and stressed out during the holiday season, don’t hesitate to contact us. We understand what you’re going through, and we know the holiday season can be a difficult time of year. You don’t have to feel isolated during the holidays when help is just a phone call away.  Call 888-534-2295 today to discuss your unique situation.  Our team is standing by 24/7 to give you the guidance you need to make it through the holiday season and beyond.