How to Cope with Holiday Stress

Holidays can be stressful. That much is obvious. But Holiday stress can also trigger mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. Sometimes people cope with stress by drinking or using other drugs. Holidays can also be challenging times for people in rHecovery. There is a better way. But you’ll need a plan in place before you get triggered. The key is in the planning.


Maybe you’re in recovery, either for years or new to a sober life. Maybe your challenges are mental health ones. Perhaps you have a loved one coping with these challenges. For everyone, regardless, Holidays can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips that can help anyone:


Ask for help. Talk it out. That sounds a lot easier than it is. But communication is key. Talk to your family, friends, friendly co-workers, or your therapist or other health care professional. When we say things out loud, things change. And once you say it out loud to someone else, you’re not alone with it. You don’t need to be about to relapse or in crisis; in fact, it’s better if you’re not. Relapses start long before the first drink or other drug use. Talk it out now. Make a list of supportive people in your life, and then let them know they’re on your list of people to call if things get stressful. Trust me; this is the best gift you can possibly give them.


Even if you don’t have a substance use problem, the plan remains the same. Too many of us are trying to “do it all” this time of year. Talking about the stress, anxiety, or depression lessons the stress. It is that simple. Feelings around the Holidays can be intense. Feelings are like kids, you don’t want them driving the car, but you can’t stuff them in the trunk either. Talk to someone. 


Know your limits. If going over the woods to Grandma’s house or the office Holiday Party are triggers for drinking or intense emotions, make a plan. Drive yourself to events. Bring a friend. Let people know you’re sorry, but you have to leave at X time for something else. Have people come to you, plan the event early in the day and make it alcohol-free. Or better yet, meet up at a local restaurant for breakfast or lunch. If shopping is hard, consider shopping online. Remember that everything doesn’t have to be “perfect” sometimes, things are perfect just as they are. It’s easy to get caught up in doing more and more. It’s also just fine to let people know you can’t come, that you already have plans. Even if the plans are spending time at home with family looking at your Tree while lying under it.


Practice self-care. Self-care is more than bubble baths with candles (although those are nice). Sometimes self-care is about being mindful and in the moment. It’s about listening to how you talk to yourself and being mindful about how you do because you are listening. Who is setting expectations for you and your family? Is the Queen coming for tea and Christmas cookies? No? Then your house is just fine. Promise. (And even if she was, I think she’d be understanding.) And can I tell you now, so you have it handy: Your tree is PERFECT. Just as it is.


Your kids are going to have just as much fun driving around looking at lights or maybe getting outdoors and sledding with you as they are with any elaborate plans you try and make. Speaking of getting outdoors, that’s one of the best self-care methods going. Even five minutes outside can lift your mood.


Gratitude is a big part of self-care too. If you’re newly sober, take a deep breath and know that right now, you are here and alive and didn’t wake up with a hangover this morning. Take a moment of gratitude for your sobriety and a moment to send compassion to those still suffering. Again, same plan if you’re trying to reduce stress and anxiety. Being grateful for right now can take a massive weight off your shoulders. Maybe you can find somewhere and volunteer to help. Perhaps you want to try some meditation; there are lots online for free you can use, and be in the moment and know that it’s ok. 


These are just four things that can help turn your Holidays into a beautiful experience. Or even just a more manageable one. The staff at Arbor Place would like to send you all our best wishes for a safe and healthy Holiday Season, however you celebrate. 


And if you need help with that, we’re just a phone call away. And we’re here for that too.