Tiny decorative pine trees on a light green background. Holiday Stress.

Dear Chrissy: How do I deal with holiday stress?

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Dear Chrissy:

Help! The holidays are turning me into a nervous wreck. Any tips for dealing with it?

–Not So Holly Jolly

Dear Not So Holly Jolly,

Despite what the cheery songs and decorations suggest, many people find the holidays a tough time of year. Warm flannel blankets, a glowing fire, mugs of piping hot chocolate, and slipping back into the family dynamics you had when you were 12 … Did you just take the last cookie? (throws mug). 

But don’t worry, we have your back. Here are 6 ways to beat holiday stress and support your sobriety:

1. Check your HALT. 

Take care of your basic needs by making sure that you are not hungry, angry, lonely or tired (get it? HALT!). Feeling just one of those things can make the holidays rub you like sandpaper. Attending to your physical wellbeing allows your emotional wellbeing to stand a chance.

2. Always have an out. 

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Give yourself the gift of personal space and solid boundaries. Drive separately. Tell the people that you are with that when you say it is time to go, it really is time to go.  No getaway car? Go for a walk or hide out for a bit. A little me-time goes a long way, so build it into your schedule and get used to insisting on it.

3. Manage expectations. 

Try to have no expectations. Okay, that is probably not possible, so have realistic expectations. Remember that you don’t have to live in a hallmark card or host Pinterest-perfect parties to be happy or worthy. Managing expectations is even more crucial if you’re staying sober this holiday. When sober you might realize that your family is way more awesome than you thought … or you might realize that everyone is drunk. Just because you are changing does not mean everyone around you is too.

4. People don’t care that much. 

This is a good thing to remind yourself of when you’re feeling pressure or self-conscious around others. We don’t want you to feel like you are not the special snowflake your mother said you were, but people are really just very self-involved. What you do will be a much bigger deal to you than it is to anyone else. That includes not drinking or using—at most, people will be glad that you didn’t decide to dance on the dinner table this year, and then they’ll move on to wondering what gift they should return first.

5. Keep busy. 

Don’t sit in a corner and stew over the injustices of the holidays—do something! Wash the dishes, go to a shelter, see a movie. Try to think about what you can bring to the party (not just a great cheese log) and not how it will affect you.

6. Make new traditions. 

Does your family usually do jello shots every Christmas Eve or play quarters? Or any other tradition that stresses you out? Time to make new traditions! Get creative and introduce some activities that work for your wellbeing. Get prepped and make it something that you are excited for.

With the right mindset and some tricks up your sleeve, we believe that you can make any holiday situation enjoyable. Or at least tolerable.

Go forth and holiday!

– Chrissy

A future free of addiction is in your hands.

Recover from addiction at home with medication and online therapy––from the leader in virtual addiction care.

Chrissy Taylor is a clinician with over a decade’s worth of experience working with various disempowered populations to promote self-efficacy and resource acquirement.

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