10 Ways to Cope With Holiday Stress (Without Drugs)

The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year…right? While it may be the season for gathering with friends and being merry, it is often accompanied by sky-high expectations that make the reality anything but. A survey showed that more than half of the participants experienced heightened levels of stress during the holidays. For recovering addicts, the holidays can prove extra challenging and be rife with triggers. But, there certainly are ways to cope with holiday stress without using drugs or relapsing. Use these 10 holiday stress tips to help you stay sober into the New Year and beyond.

Scenario #1: Dealing with Holiday Parties

It can be stressful enough that alcohol is a seemingly inextricable part of holiday celebrations but feeling forced to interact with family, friends, or even coworkers can be a major source of anxiety. 

Have an exit strategy

Keep a little white lie in your back pocket in case the festivities get uncomfortable. Saying that you have another engagement at another time gives you an out. If things go south earlier than you anticipated, there are all sorts of apps that can help you easily fake a last-minute emergency. Check out this Applet from IFTTT titled “Get yourself out of an awkward situation”. 

Drive yourself (and make sure you won’t be blocked in)

Managing your own transportation keeps you in control and allows you to leave whenever you want. To ensure you can come and go as you please, don’t volunteer to be the designated driver or to drop anyone home. Perhaps, most importantly, be sure that you won’t get blocked in by other cars, leaving you stranded amongst drunk party-goers. 

Scenario #2: Dealing with Holiday Depression or Loneliness

This time of year tends to be emotionally charged. Nostalgia, self-reflection, and seasonal depression make for a tough combination. If you’re dealing with a breakup or the loss of a family member, the holidays can heighten the feeling of absence making it all the more painful. 

Skip the sappy holiday movies and opt for comedies instead

Watching a movie that pulls at your already exhausted heartstrings may seem a cathartic way to get your feelings out, but most likely will simply invite you to wallow in your own self-pity. There are plenty of funny Christmas movies you can watch instead since laughter is the best medicine after all. Plus, watching some fictional dysfunction may make you feel better about your own situation. 

Volunteer with the less fortunate

Nothing provides perspective more than volunteering with those who are less fortunate. Not only can doing so help you realize you may not actually have it so bad, but volunteering can actually make you a happier person overall. Talk about a win-win way to jolt you out of your pity party.

Create a new holiday tradition for yourself

Don’t mope at nostalgic thoughts of the activities you would do in holidays past. Create new holiday traditions that are all your own. Besides being a fun distraction, it will show you that no matter where you are or who you’re with, having yourself is enough to make the season feel special.

Scenario #3: Dealing with Gift Expectations

Addiction can do a number on your finances, which can be super stressful when it comes time to buy presents. As a major part of the ritual of the holidays, the urge to give gifts can be overwhelming. 

Notify loved ones ahead of time that you’re not doing presents this year

Instead of feeling obligated to spend beyond your means, notify your family and friends well before the holidays kick off (ideally before Black Friday) that you won’t be giving gifts this year and that you don’t wish to receive any. Set the expectations for reciprocated gift-giving early to minimize feelings of guilt later.

Opt for heartfelt words instead

In lieu of a gift, opt for meaningful words to your loved ones. Whether by card or by email, letting the people in your life know how much you appreciate and care for them is exactly what the holidays are all about. 

Stop feeling guilty

This is easier said than done, but feeling guilty for not participating in the seemingly obligatory gift-exchange will make it much easier to indulge in the true spirit of the holidays. Any friends or family worth keeping around would much rather you focus on your health than some prettily wrapped little trinket. 

Scenario #4: Dealing with a Busy Schedule

Between family get-togethers, work events, and preparing for the holidays, there’s a lot of hustle and bustle.  It’s important to regularly take mental stock of your state of being and to say “no” to things that don’t sound fun. 

Download an audiobook

One of the most stressful parts of having a booked social calendar is the time spent going to and fro. Turn your holiday commute into “me time” with a good book. Getting wrapped up in a great plot will not only make the time go by more pleasantly, but you’ll likely arrive at your destination in a better mood. If you’re going somewhere that makes you feel anxious, an audiobook can help keep it off your mind.

Hit “No” on those RSVP invites

Odds are that if the host hasn’t invited you personally. It’s a function you could probably opt out of without being terribly missed. Don’t let the fear of disappointing someone cause you to run yourself ragged. One thing that can help is to physically write down everything happening each day. If you feel like you’re writing a lot, odds are you may be pushing yourself too thin.

Relapse Prevention Assistance

If you feel like you’re at your last resort, contact your rehab facility. Level Up Lake Worth has a strong alumni support program that can help you navigate the stress of staying sober during the holidays without relapsing. Whether the source of your holiday stress comes from navigating the presence of alcohol or drugs at gatherings or dealing with drama from family or romantic partners, your rehab center can help with managing holiday stress to keep you on the right path.  

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