6 Ways to Handle Holiday Stress

Patient Support

Holidays – while often a time for celebration – bring added stress into our daily routine. With COVID-19 impacting our country, that stress is now heightened more than ever before.  Holidays are often a time for families and friends to gather in celebration or remembrance. However, these gatherings can be stressful for those who are at an increased risk for substance use disorder (SUD) or who are in their sobriety journey. It’s crucial to be prepared for common relapse triggers and holiday-specific triggers, as well as have effective coping skills ready.

How to Handle Holiday Stress

While holiday gatherings are meant in celebration, they can also lead to increased stress and, for some, potential relapse – particularly in the absence of effective coping skills. The holiday season brings changes in structure and routine. Celebrations sometimes involve alcohol and/or other substances. This time can bring added expectations, responsibilities, and financial strains. And, for some, it can bring feelings of loneliness or disconnect. Learn more about holiday-specific substance use triggers here.

6 Ways to Handle Holiday Stress

Having effective coping skills is crucial – a stressful situation becomes problematic in the absence of effective coping skills. During recovery at Wellbridge, we work to develop and practice these coping skills so that they are more readily available post-treatment. Here are 6 healthy coping skills to support your maintained sobriety during the holidays:

  1. Stay connected to social support. Recognizing when you feel stressed is an example of insight and asking for help is a sign of strength. Reaching out for support will enhance connection, decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation. During this unprecedented holiday season, consider virtual social activities – like zoom “secret Santa” gift unwrapping or Friendsgiving dinner with take out!
  2. Plan ahead. Thinking ahead about a situation and recognizing where potential relapse triggers might occur is important. Doing so creates an opportunity to make a plan for avoiding certain areas or events, having an “escape” plan and ensuring you can practice healthy habits. This may also be the perfect time to connect (or re-connect) with a therapist for added support in preparation.
  3. Develop creative problem-solving skills. At Wellbridge, we focus on helping you to develop creative problem-solving skills, which allows you to quickly pivot plans or situations to ensure you aren’t putting your sobriety at risk. Learn more about our creative arts therapies and movement psychotherapy for SUD.
  4. Manage negative thinking. The additional stress of the holidays can quickly turn our thoughts negative – which can turn into fatigue, boredom or guilt. Bring a gentle awareness to these negative thoughts, make a mental note as to what’s coming up and try to replace it with a positive alternative. You deserve to bolster yourself!
  5. Practice assertiveness and healthy refusal skills. We would be naive to say that you’ll never encounter a trigger – a bottle of wine opened at dinner, maybe, or a New Year cheers. Knowing how to say no is important and a sign of strength!
  6. Implement mindfulness in your routine. Studies show that regular mindfulness practice helps reduce stress – even in times of increased stress triggers. By implementing these practices into your daily routine now, you’ll be better equipped to handle holiday stress later.

Enjoy the Holidays

As we enter the holiday season, our hope is that you are able to enjoy this time. While there are added stressors – and it’s important to recognize and prepare for them – there is also so much opportunity for enjoyment and hope.

The holiday season can be a powerful reminder of what you are fighting for – good health, hope, personal connections and a new year. Preparing now can help you ensure you’re able to enjoy the season to the fullest.

Advanced Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is battling SUD, contact our team at Wellbridge today to discuss treatment. We recognize the increased levels of stress that the holidays bring and want to work with you ahead of time to prepare so that you can enjoy this time of year to the fullest.