5 Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress in Recovery

The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone. Between buying gifts, spending time with relatives, cooking, and fighting the busy crowds and stores – it’s easy to understand why the holidays can be so stress-provoking. However, the holidays can be particularly difficult in early recovery. 

Guest post by Cassidy Webb

If you are in early recovery, the holidays can bring pressure from high expectations, strained relationships, and the vulnerability that comes with spending the holidays sober. Whether you are spending your holidays away from your family because you aren’t ready to tackle sober holidays yet, or if you are spending your first sober holiday away from your support group and facing your family, the holidays can present unique challenges. Holiday traditions, past memories, and pressure from social gatherings that may involve drinking may trigger you and put your recovery at risk. 


Regardless of the circumstances, it is essential to be prepared with coping skills that can help protect your recovery. Here are 5 ways to cope with holiday stress in recovery. 


  1. Have a Plan


Routine is important in early recovery. If you are able to plan out your day, you will have a clear idea of what is ahead. In addition, planning your day can help you fill your time with productive activities – leaving no time for your mind to be preoccupied with fear or worry, which are emotions that can exacerbate stress. If you are going home for the holidays, you can offer to help plan the activities or at least get an idea of what your family is planning. Then, you can create backup plans just in case something becomes too much for you to handle. 


If you begin feeling overwhelmed, your backup plan comes into play. It could mean an exit strategy, such as taking a walk or stepping outside. On the other hand, it could mean going to a meeting and connecting with people in recovery. If you don’t have a plan, unexpected events and triggers may blindsight you and put your recovery in jeopardy.


  1. Stay Connected


Having a support group in recovery is crucial. However, utilizing that support group is even more important. If you are heading home for the holidays, set aside time each day to call a couple of people in your support group. Even if everything is going okay, staying connected with your support group can help you feel more in-tune with your recovery. 


If stress does strike, talking things out with your support group can help diminish it. The more you talk about things that are bothering you, the less power they have over you. Your support group may even have some good advice or tips to help you successfully navigate the holidays. You may also want to go to an extra meeting or spend the holidays with your sober support group.


  1. Be Mindful


Mindful meditation is a great way to cope with stress in any situation. Studies show that mindfulness helps boost relaxation and self-awareness, therefore, lowering anxiety and stress. Practising this kind of meditation will help you be more self-aware and mindful in all situations. It will help you be aware of your triggers, your emotions, and your worries. 


Start your day with a meditation. Then, throughout the day, be mindful of your mental and emotional state. If you feel too stressed, step away to meditate or call sober support. If people are drinking around you and you begin to feel uncomfortable, bring awareness to your feelings and walk away. Staying mindful is an important relapse prevention tool that can help you think clearly and cope with stress. 


  1. Practice Self-Care


Self-care is often thought of like a spa day or a bubble bath. However, self-care also means getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and participating in physical activities. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are more prone to stress and irritability. When you don’t eat a nutritious diet, you may feel hungry, tired, or anxious. In addition, physical activities produce endorphins that help regulate stress hormones.


Some of the most common triggers are referred to as HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired. The secret to avoiding these triggers comes down to sufficient self-care – even during the hectic holiday season. When you make yourself a priority mentally and physically, these triggers can be avoided.


  1. Give Back


Many recovery programs encourage the idea of service or helping other people who are in need. Being of service to others not only benefits them, but it can give you a sense of purpose and gratitude as well. It can be hard to be stressed when you are filled with gratitude and good-will toward others. 


There are always opportunities to give back to the community, but the holidays are an important time to give back because not everyone has the same opportunities that you do. You can serve meals at a homeless shelter, buy gifts for a family in need, spend time with a friend or neighbour who doesn’t have family or go volunteer at an animal shelter. Regardless of how you decide to be of service, you can rest assured that helping others will help your stress go away.


Holiday Stress and Addiction Recovery


In recovery, stress can be defined as a “lack of feeling safe.” Coping with stress in recovery requires people to be aware of their emotional states and find healthy outlets to put themselves at ease. While the holidays can provoke heightened stress levels, there are healthy ways to cope without drugs or alcohol. In the end, it’s all about processing emotions in healthy ways. So, take it easy, create a plan, and take care of yourself to make this holiday season the best one yet. 


Cassidy Webb is an avid writer who advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.



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