The holidays can be occasions for warm family get-togethers filled with thankfulness and gratitude. But it can also be peppered with stress-triggers. Snarled holiday traffic, annoying relatives, pre-holiday work deadlines—little landmines like these are potential triggers for stress, and collectively they can push us over the boiling point. And for those of us in recovery, being pushed to the boiling point is the last place we want to be in.
Thankfully, there are ways to handle holiday stress and keep oneself out of an emotional danger zone. Here are five tips for handling holiday stress, tips that you can stuff in your back pocket before heading off to a holiday gathering.
#1 Stick to your healthy routines
One key mistake we sometimes make during the holidays is allow ourselves to break free from healthy routines and dive head-first into gluttonous overindulgence.
Before the holidays begin, make a commitment to maintain your healthy routines. If you exercised regularly, be sure to include exercise in your holiday schedule. If you adhered to a healthy diet, continue to make healthy eating choices and avoid overindulging at meals and eating too many sweets. If you attend meetings regularly, plan to attend meetings during the holidays, particularly when you are out of town. Maintaining your healthy routines will help you exit the holiday season in good physical and emotional health.
#2 Give yourself permission to leave stressful situations
The holidays too often seem to throw us into stressful situations. Alcohol-fueled family get togethers, mandatory holiday parties, crowded holiday shopping—these are just a few of the myriad stressful circumstances in which we might find ourselves. If you begin feeling overstressed, it is very important to give yourself permission to get away from whatever or whomever is triggering your feelings of stress.
#3 If you cannot leave, take little breaks away from stress-triggers
Of course, it is not always possible to simply get up and leave a stressful holiday situation. In such cases, it is very important to take a little break and emotionally regroup. Simply excusing yourself, going somewhere private, and taking a few deep breaths can do wonders for lowering your stress level.
#4 Do something positive for someone other than yourself
One of the best ways to relieve holiday stress is to do something positive for someone else. Whether it is something exceptional like volunteering to serve food at a homeless shelter, or something as simple as complementing a friend or family member, any act of kindness toward another will make you feel better about yourself and will lower your stress level.
#5 Reach out if you get overwhelmed
If your holiday stress level hits a boiling point, be sure to reach out for help. Calling a friend or loved one and sharing what you are going through can diffuse a stress level that has become too intense. If you are in a recovery program, don’t hesitate to call your sponsor. Never forget that your sponsor is getting just as much relief from helping you as you are receiving from your sponsor.
Keeping these 5 things in mind during the holidays will help you get through the holiday season in one piece and with your recovery intact. It is nearly impossible to sidestep stress completely during the holidays, but stress can be minimized, allowing you to enjoy the holidays and not be dragged down by them.
From the mountains to the coastline, the possibilities of living a life without limits are endless. At Tree House Recovery in Orange County, California, we’re helping men recover their lives from addiction through innovative treatment designed to transform their lives inside and out. For information, call to speak with one of our graduates: (855) 202-2138