We’ve put together a guide to assist you with the upcoming holiday. Don’t let stress, anxiety, or depression become an unwelcome house guest in your mind this holiday season! Instead, follow these tips to reduce stress, minimize anxiety, and take back your happiness just in time to spread some holiday cheer of your own.
Quick Tips for Preventing Stress
The holidays are a stressful time for many, so if you’re feeling stressed, it’s important to have a plan in place to combat the feelings that you’re having in a healthy manner. Staying sober, even in the face of stress, anxiety or holiday struggles, can certainly be challenging but not impossible! Learning how stress and anxiety impact your ability to maintain your sobriety is important. It’s equally important to learn how to combat stress in your life.
Follow these quick tips to help you reduce that stress and put anxiety in its place:
1. Practice Self-Care
Whether it’s five minutes of meditation before an event that you know triggers stress or just taking time out to relax and regroup, your self-care and sobriety come first above all else. Before shopping, before holiday gatherings, before work parties and any other demands, you need to be focusing on your own self-care! Don’t let anything else get in the way of your recovery because while there could potentially be a lot of stress this time of year, paying attention to yourself and your needs is essential and could help you to reduce the amount of stress you deal with through the holiday season.
2. Maintain Your Boundaries
It’s okay to say “NO” to parties, especially those that might trigger your anxiety or which may have people or party favors present that could hinder your recovery efforts. It’s actually very important for you to set boundaries in regards to sleep, spending, and other needs. Before shopping, make sure you’ve got a budget set and don’t feel like you must spend more than you can afford!
Before going to any party, set a time limit that’s comfortable for you to work with, and stick to it! Drive yourself so that you can get away earlier if you need to (such as if you feel triggered). And don’t feel like you have to attend every party you’re invited to – pick those that are most important to you, or least stressful and kindly turn down any other invites.
When it comes to spending time around old friends or family members that could trigger you, it’s important to set very firm boundaries. Don’t feel like you are obligated to attend every gathering that comes up. You have the right to avoid any activities that could trigger anxiety, stress, or potential relapse. Prepare yourself for the stress that others are going to feel this time of year, too. Know that Holiday anxiety impacts all of us, not just those of us who are in recovery.
3. Get Outside & Enjoy Some Fresh Air
Studies show that staying active can influence the release of “feel-good” endorphins which can reduce anxiety and stress. These are the same endorphins that are triggered with early drug or alcohol use, and which tend to be lacking in early recovery as we rebuild and our bodies adjust to life without the substances we were once hooked on.
Getting outside, whether it’s cold or not, is important to our own health and well-being. While reductions in daylight are known to cause increased sadness and depression known as seasonal affective disorder which can make it particularly difficult to see light at the end of the holiday season tunnel, it’s very important to do your best to get outside to enjoy some fresh air.
4. Stick to Your Routines
Setting routines is a big part of your recovery, and the holiday season is a time when we all seem to fall out of our routines. Anything you can do to stick to your healthy habits and maintain your routines during this time can help you to avoid stress, anxiety and depression. Don’t let overindulgence get the best of you! Overindulging in caffeine, sweets, and other holiday “goodies” will just make you feel worse.
Try to go to bed on time, and aim for at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Stick to reading or journaling before bed rather than scrolling social media as this tends to only keep the mind preoccupied and burdened with stressful things rather than allowing time to relax and calm down. If you’re having trouble sleeping in night, you might not be exercising enough during the day! Consider the routines you have, and the steps you’re taking, to utilize your energy during the day so that when nighttime comes you’re more relaxed.
5. Lose the “Perfectionist” Attitude!
One of the biggest stress creators for us during the holidays is what I like to call the “perfectionist” attitude. If you’re looking for perfection in recovery, you’re not going to find it! What you need to find is what works for YOU! Stop trying to have the perfect holiday party, the perfect holiday gathering with friends or family, the perfect holiday dinner, the perfect gift, the perfect…you get the idea.
If you spend all your time trying to find something that’s perfect, you’re missing out on all the imperfectly perfect elements of your life! The holidays don’t have to be perfect! As soon as you lose the perfectionist attitude, you can enjoy family without the stress, you can appreciate friends with the anxiety, and you can go about your way enjoying your holiday time for what it is.
Dealing with holiday stress and anxiety can really make the entire season feel more challenging and overwhelming than it has to be. So this holiday, tap into the support network at Pocket Rehab, choose a couple of tried and true holiday traditions to stick with, and spend your time with only the most important friends and family that cause the least amount of stress in your life. Anything else can be added to your to-do list IF it fits within your own boundaries and if not, save it for another time because – holidays come around every year, and they don’t have to be perfect!