20 Dec Coping during the Holidays in Recovery
7 Tips To Support Your Well-Being
“Recovery is a process. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes everything you’ve got.” – Anonymous.
The holiday season is considered a time of joy, connection, and celebration, but it often marks a particularly challenging period for individuals in or just beginning their recovery journey.
Sometimes, not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for the season of celebrations. It can also be a period of stress, sadness, and loneliness for others—and sometimes can be particularly difficult for people living with mental health and substance use conditions. Major holidays, particularly those centered around family and social bonds, can trigger deep feelings of disappointment and emotional turmoil, often stemming from unfulfilled expectations, significant losses, or other life shifts.
In a recent survey by American Addiction Centers, 94% of respondents in recovery reported feeling overwhelmingly or moderately stressed during the holidays. As people gather with family and friends, the combination of emotions, stress, and the presence of substances like alcohol can put a person at risk of relapse, which runs higher this time of year.
How can you navigate the holiday season, especially considering the challenges faced by those new to recovery who find it particularly tough to maintain sobriety during this time of year? Here are a few strategies to support and strengthen your sobriety and mental well-being throughout the holiday season.
7 Strategies for Supporting Your Mental Health
1. Take Care Of Yourself
Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. Maintaining a healthy diet is a significant aspect of sustained sobriety. Balanced nutrition enhances a person’s social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being, supporting sustained sobriety. Maintaining a healthy diet during the holidays isn’t always easy, but it will help you lay the groundwork for improved well-being and a steadier emotional state.
Meditate on Gratitude. Feeling gratitude is the most important tip in staying sober during the holidays. Be thankful for your sobriety and the people in your life. Realize that overcoming addiction is something to be proud of. Take a moment this holiday season to appreciate your sober journey.
Find some quiet time each day for relaxation and meditation—Even if it’s just a few minutes, taking a moment to relax and meditate can enhance well-being. Following stressful or emotionally challenging moments, prioritizing self-care becomes essential. It can calm your mind and navigate those feelings more effectively.
2. Preventing Burnout — It’s OK To Say No
Even if you must be fierce and step on a few toes, it is essential that you guard your recovery as the most precious gift you have.
The holiday season often brings joy, yet it can also bring added stress and conflicting obligations. It’s crucial to focus on priorities—choose what brings you joy and emotional recharge. Keep it simple whenever possible.
Feeling a lack of control, limited resources, or a say in life’s decisions can really impact your well-being. If you ever feel overwhelmed, take a moment to pause and reflect: “What exactly is causing me to feel this way?” Then, ask yourself what you can do to shift this situation. It’s okay to say no to things that stress you out, whether attending a party, missing a get-together, or making cookies. While it’s sentimental to recreate a homemade cookie recipe for each holiday, if that feels overwhelming, there’s no harm in picking up some cookies from the store and enjoying the festivities stress-free.
3. Recognize Triggers
Triggers are individualized experiences that vary from person to person and evoke physical, emotional, and psychological reactions—from being in a specific location and experiencing conflicts to feeling blamed, attacked, or judged. Identifying what works best for coping will help by devising strategies to eliminate, avoid, and reduce the impact of triggers and emotional reactions that can be reframed to minimize escalation.
Recognizing your triggers and trying to limit exposure to them is important. If you know someone, someplace, or something that will lead to stress or a triggering event, ask yourself: Do I really need to go?
If you find yourself experiencing feelings of overwhelm or discomfort, it’s entirely appropriate to decline an invitation, opt out of an activity, or depart from a gathering ahead of schedule. Mentally prepare for a situation that might put you at risk or make you feel uncomfortable.
4. Plan Ahead
As you navigate this season, it’s essential to be aware and take a moment to plan out some strategies to help you manage the difficult moments that you may find yourself caught up in and make a meaningful difference. Strive for a thoughtful and balanced approach to the holidays, prioritizing the well-being and safety of everyone involved.
Pay close attention to any warning signs—whether they’re thought patterns or emotional shifts—and prioritize removing yourself from those situations if needed. Your self-awareness and well-being are paramount.
Think ahead about all the possible triggers and situations that may come your way during the holiday season. Stay prepared – if you feel uneasy at a gathering, ensure you have a plan for getting home. Having a plan for your time can help ensure the difficult moments are more manageable.
5. Get Some Fresh Air (and Sunlight)
Exercise and physical activity can play a vital role in handling triggers associated with addiction. Consistent physical activity can lower stress levels, boost self-esteem, and provide a sense of structure to your daily life.
Step outside for some fresh air. The sunlight can help relax you and lift your mood. Taking a walk in the sun can serve as a grounding and soothing experience. Spending quality time in nature offers a valuable break from stress, enhances focus, reduces inflammation, and revitalizes mental stamina.
Finding activities that engage both the body and mind is helpful in diverting attention from addictive behaviors while maintaining motivation throughout the recovery journey.
6. Have A Support System — Connect And Reach Out.
If being with loved ones isn’t possible during the holidays, connect with a supportive community and find support groups to help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Additionally, regular phone calls with family and friends can provide a sense of connection and warmth.
The landscape around sobriety and recovery is shifting, with diminishing stigma attached to it. Chances are that many people in your circle have encountered addiction in some form. While sharing your journey is entirely your choice, it’s reassuring to know that openness often garners unexpected support and encouragement from loved ones. If you prefer to confide in a select few about your sobriety, that too can offer a sense of accountability and a supportive foundation as you maneuver through the holiday season.
7. Reach Out If You Need Help!
Even with strategies in place, managing sobriety during the holidays can be difficult to manage on your own. The support of a professional addiction recovery team can be essential for those who don’t feel like they’re ready to take on this season alone. We’re here for you 24/7. Call us. For Inpatient/Residential Treatment 1.800.882.6201; For Outpatient Treatment 253.851.2552
Celebrating Each Day
Nurturing your recovery throughout the holiday season may present its challenges, but with a well-thought-out plan, attention to your mental and emotional well-being, and the support of understanding people and positive activities, it’s entirely achievable. By effectively managing seasonal stress and sidestepping triggers, you can join countless individuals who successfully maintain their sobriety during this festive time.
Navigating the year-end holidays while staying committed to recovery, particularly for those new to this life-changing process, is a significant achievement that truly deserves recognition and celebration. Allow yourself to fully appreciate the contentment, warmth, and beauty of celebrating the holidays with a clear mind and an open heart.