The holidays can be a stressful time for just about anyone. Traveling (if you are choosing to do that this year), purchasing gifts, and attending various events in-person or via Zoom can be overwhelming, but it can be especially hard for those who are managing addiction recovery during this season. The holidays are ripe with risks for relapse for a number of reasons. Issues concerning family relationships, finances, and other hardships can be intensified as addiction is often at the root of many of these problems. For some, the holidays are an opportunity where old issues resurface and tensions begin to mount. For others, addiction has caused estrangement and this time of year can amplify feelings of isolation and loneliness. While vastly different experiences, both of these scenarios can be incredibly stressful and cause old behaviors to resurface as people look for ways to escape and find comfort.

Whether or not someone has received treatment for their addiction, the holidays introduce a unique set of stressors that can make sobriety difficult to maintain during this time. Knowing this, it is important to get ahead of these challenges before it is too late. Taking on the holidays without preparation can make a person more susceptible to triggers and increase the likelihood of relapse. The holidays can be an enjoyable time of year and you can make the most of it by preparing yourself for potential confrontations before they arise. Below are some tips to make the most of the holiday season without compromising your mental health and sobriety:

1. Make a plan: The holidays are a busy time of year and it is easy to become overwhelmed. Try to plan your days as much as possible ahead of time. This can reduce feelings of stress and help you feel more organized. Structure can also help you keep your day busy with tasks you have prioritized for yourself which can provide you with an easy way out if you find yourself in a situation that can threaten your sobriety.
2. Have realistic expectations: There is a lot of pressure around the holidays to meet the demands and expectations of others. Coupled with pressure you may feel from seeing how other people spend their holidays online, it is easy to become overwhelmed. You may also feel pressure to be happy during the holidays, but the reality is, many people struggle with feelings of sadness and anxiety during this time of year as well. You cannot be “on” all the time and it is okay to struggle with negative feelings. Give yourself time to process your emotions in order to work through them.
3. Know your triggers and cravings: It is important to be fully aware of what triggers cravings to minimize the risk of relapse. Recovery focuses heavily on identifying triggers in order to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Awareness about triggers and how cravings affect you can help you avoid situations that threaten your sobriety and having a plan in place should you find yourself needing a way out.
4. Stay busy: Keeping yourself busy can help reduce the likelihood of relapse occurring. You can keep yourself distracted by making plans with friends and family who can help you keep your sobriety in mind. You can help your loved ones take care of responsibilities and organize events that do not revolve around substance use to have fun. Filling your day with activities prevents idle time and boredom that may tempt you to use.
Holiday Mental Health and Sobriety Infographic
5. Practice coping mechanisms for stress: Stress is inevitable and having established coping mechanisms can make it more manageable. Rather than giving in to thoughts of using substances to escape stress, focus on other healthy outlets. Meditating, going for a walk, and practicing breathing exercises can be easy ways to quickly decompress. If you have more time and space available, other activities like exercising or journaling are productive ways to manage anxiety.
6. Make time for yourself: You may feel a lot of pressure to attend gatherings and meet the demands of others. As much as the holiday season focuses on spending time with loved ones, it is equally important to make time for yourself. Having space to recharge, relax, and do things you enjoy is important for your mental state of mind. Trying to do too much can make you feel overwhelmed, burned out, and may put you at risk for relapse.
7. Learn when to say no: As much as you may not want to disappoint someone, it may be necessary to say “no” sometimes. Whether it is because you have too much on your plate or because attending a specific event can put your sobriety at risk, saying “no” will help you avoid feeling overpowered. Your loved ones should understand and be supportive if you decline invitations or requests. Not every event requires attendance, especially if you may be triggered by certain aspects of it.
8. Stay connected to your support system: The holidays can be hard on everyone and many support groups offer additional resources during this time of year. Making time to attend extra meetings, reaching out to sober peers for help, and staying engaged in therapy can help you manage stress effectively. Connecting with the sober community can keep you on track and also help you identify ways to cope effectively with the unique stressors that the holidays introduce.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or mental health this holiday season, contact Nexus Recovery Services today so we can help.

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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