The holidays are quickly approaching, and while it is a time for celebration, it can also be a significant source of stress. Holidays can bring a sense of pressure and for those working to manage sobriety, it can be a trigger for relapse. Stress is a normal aspect of life, but the holiday season can amplify it, making it even more difficult to keep your recovery goals in mind. Before you find yourself in a situation that threatens your sobriety, you can proactively reduce the impact of stress by setting healthy boundaries for yourself and those around you.

The holidays can be an especially demanding time of year. Spending time with friends and family, travel, and giving gifts are just some of the many aspects of the season you may be juggling. Creating boundaries around these areas can reduce feelings of stress and allow you to focus on the most meaningful components of the holidays: spending time with loved ones and sharing gratitude.

What Do Healthy Boundaries Look Like?

Everyone has different needs and limits making it important to reflect on what your needs are. Boundaries may be internal and set with yourself or they may be made with others. This is especially important to keep in mind while in recovery. Creating boundaries is vital to protecting your sobriety. Some things to consider when setting boundaries include:

  1. Identify your stressors: Make sure you are aware of your stressors to help you reduce the likelihood of relapse. Specific places, people, or experiences can trigger cravings, and an awareness of this can help you make decisions regarding how you spend your holidays. While identifying your stressors may require you to revisit painful memories, it is important to ensure you do not put yourself in a bad situation.
  2. Understand your limits: The holidays can be an incredibly demanding time of year. You may feel a great deal of pressure to spend time with people, purchase gifts, and make yourself available. Remember, it is okay to say “no” – you do not have to attend every get-together you are invited to, especially if it can put your sobriety at risk. Know that this will inevitably lead to people feeling disappointed, but your loved ones will understand and support you regardless.
  3. Express your concerns: You do not need to face these pressures alone. Recovery focuses heavily on building a support network to help you face challenges throughout your journey. The holidays are no exception to this and dealing with these things alone can put you at risk for relapse. Do not be afraid to express your concerns with loved ones. They may not know how you are feeling and may not be aware of how they inadvertently contribute to your worries. If you are not comfortable expressing yourself to your loved ones, speaking with a professional can help you make sense of your experiences and find healthy ways to cope and navigate difficult situations.

How to Create and Express your Boundaries

Setting boundaries is about expressing your limits and asserting yourself in order to protect your needs. Sometimes, your boundaries may conflict with what someone else wants, but it is important to push forward with them regardless if it protects your physical, mental, and emotional health. To set effective boundaries, consider the following:

  1. Self-awareness about your needs: Take some time to reflect on what is important to you. This can help you have a better understanding of what things you are willing to accept and what situations you say “no” to. Knowing what your priorities are, how you want to spend your time, and what upholds your sobriety can help you make educated decisions about how you spend your holiday season.
  2. Follow-through on your boundaries: Once you understand where your limits lie, it is important to uphold the boundaries you create. Do not allow others to pressure you or guilt you into doing something that conflicts with your boundaries. As enjoyable as the holidays can be, they can also be a source of pain and may cause difficult memories to resurface. Acknowledge and respect your feelings about different scenarios and adjust your boundaries if it will have a negative effect on your overall wellbeing. You do not need to force yourself to push through situations to make others happy.
  3. Create internal boundaries: In the age of social media and consumption, it is easy to feel like you are not doing enough. As we are inundated with messages and marketing that promote extravagant meals, big social gatherings, and elaborate décor, you may feel pressure to go above and beyond to celebrate. Rather than filling your day with too many tasks, keep it simple and focus on what you enjoy the most. This can reduce feelings of stress and allow you to spend more time doing the things that bring you joy.
  4. Boundaries around get-togethers: Some of the most overwhelming aspects of the holidays are related to travel and get-togethers. The holidays can quickly become expensive and time-consuming. Setting boundaries about what events you will or will not attend can help reduce feelings of stress. While this may lead to disappointment, your loved ones should understand and support your choice.
  5. Boundaries in relationships: Family dynamics are often complicated and get-togethers can bring these to the surface. This is especially true when addiction has played a role in the situation. Addiction can strain relationships and these past experiences may cause the holidays to be a tense time. Expressing what your limits are is important to avoiding confrontation. If you need to avoid specific gatherings or give yourself space to avoid conflict, it is okay to communicate that with others.

Dealing with addiction during the holidays can be especially difficult, but boundaries can help you navigate this time of year more easily. The holidays can be anything you make them; there is no right way to celebrate. Consider what changes you can make now to ensure your holidays are an enjoyable experience this year.

Here at Nexus Recovery Services, we know that the holiday season can be difficult. Whether you’re trying to get sober for the first time or are coming back after a relapse, allow Nexus Recovery Services to help. Reach out and contact us today for more information.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.

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