No matter which of the holidays you celebrate between November and mid-January, the holiday season is stressful. Throw in the added stress of being in recovery, and you have a recipe for the potential for relapse. The holidays are a huge trigger for many people when it comes to addiction, depression, and other mental health concerns. Here are some ways to reduce stress during the holiday season.

1.    Be honest about your feelings.

Sometimes, you’re just not feeling the holidays, and that’s okay. You can feel bummed during the holiday season. What leads to stress is when you try to mask those feelings over and attempt to force yourself to feel happy during the season.

2.    Set realistic expectations for your holiday season.

Is your family far away? You might not have the money this year to go home. Your children may be going to their partners’ homes this year. You don’t have to have an epic holiday season every year. It’s okay to scale back or keep things low-key if you need to. Be realistic about what you’re up for this year.

3.    Get outside and get active.

Nothing beats sunshine, even when it’s cold out. We have a tendency to bundle up inside when it’s cold, but getting time outside, especially if that time is spent being active, can really go a long way toward eliminating stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

4.    Set a budget and stick to it.

Whether we’re talking about Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or any of the other reasons for celebration during the winter months, things can get expensive fast if you let them. Make sure that you set a budget ahead of the holiday and stick to it. Be realistic about what you can and cannot afford.

5.    Plan your holiday season out.

By setting aside time for friends, shopping, decorating, family, etc. you can help reduce your stress. This is especially important if you’re in treatment, because it will help you to avoid situations that may trigger your addictive patterns. When will you go with the kids to see Santa? When will you make cookies for the holiday exchange at work? Put it on the calendar.

6.    Don’t become a hermit.

No matter what you’ve gone through this past year, the holiday season is going to compound that if you’re alone. Seek out support of others. Make plans with your friends, keep up with your recovery support meetings. Sometimes, we have the very best time when we don’t cancel plans on days when we’re feeling less than into the plans with friends we’ve made.

7.    Don’t be afraid to say no.

That said, don’t be afraid to turn down invitations you’re not comfortable with. If you’re newly into your journey of recovery, the raging New Years Eve cocktail party is probably not a great idea. It’s okay to say no. Just be sure you’re not saying “no” to everything – even if that means coming up with alternative plans.

8.    Plan to help others.

Volunteer work can lead to a boost to your mood. Whether you volunteer with a children’s program, to help out at church, or to feed people, make sure to put some volunteer work on your calendar. This will also help you to meet new people and get out of a rut – especially if you’re needing to formulate new relationships following treatment.

9.    Plan for downtime.

We all get busy at the end of the year – companies have end of year deadlines to meet, there are many activities to head off too, and of course, there’s all those holiday celebrations that need to be planned out. Make sure you’re also taking time for yourself, whether that involves a day lounging on the sofa under a blanket watching Hallmark movies or an intense video game session.

10. Seek out help if you need it.

There’s nothing wrong with admitting you need further support to overcome stressors – especially if you’re trying to beat an addiction. Contact us if you need additional help in beating holiday stress while in recovery.