The holiday season is just around the corner, and while this can be “the most wonderful time of the year” for some, for others, this can be a particularly challenging period. It is easy to get overwhelmed by our self-imposed expectations of what the holidays should be like. The pressure to have a celebration straight out of a Hallmark movie can spark anxiety, increase stress levels, and even cause you to become depressed. If you’re in recovery, this can be especially dangerous, as these changes in emotion can trigger a relapse.
Whether you are trying to safeguard your sobriety or simply enjoy the holiday season to its fullest, creating a healthy balance is important. Here are some tips to help you have a stress-free holiday season.
Create a Schedule
To-do lists during the holidays can quickly spiral out of control. Decorating, shopping, cooking, attending parties, throwing events — it’s easy to forget to include some time for self-care on your list. But if you don’t set time aside to focus on your well-being, you are likely to become exhausted before the holidays even arrive. A great way to ensure that you have time for yourself and all your added holiday tasks is by creating a schedule. Maybe you have a bit more time in the mornings and you can spend 20 minutes meditating. Or maybe you need something to help you unwind at night, so setting time aside to take a long bath or read a book suits you better.
In order to find the routine that works for you, start by writing down everything you need to get done and allotting time for each task. This will not only keep you focused and more likely to complete your list, but it can also help you determine what is and isn’t important. Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself. It’s ok to ask for help.
Learn to Say “No”
It’s the holidays, and it’s normal for you to want to make everyone happy, but you shouldn’t overexert yourself in the process. For example, if a coworker asks you to oversee the planning of the office holiday party but you know it will cause you unnecessary stress, then politely decline. Let them know that you have too much going on to take on that project but that you’ll be glad to help in a smaller way. Or if a friend invites you to a party but you already have a prior commitment or you’re too tired to attend, then simply send them a text or give them a call saying, “Thanks for the invitation to the holiday party but I will be unable to join. Wishing you a great holiday!” There is no need for you to come up with elaborate excuses or feel guilty for not attending. Your health and happiness should always come first.
Another way to say no is to set boundaries. If you’re in recovery, you know how important boundaries are to long-term sobriety. Some good boundaries to set during this time of the year revolve around money. While the holidays are not about who gifts the most elaborate presents, there is often unspoken pressure to show our loved ones how much we care with our wallets. But you shouldn’t go into debt to show someone you love them. As much as they’d appreciate the gift, they wouldn’t want to cause you the added stress. So, take an honest look at your finances, determine what you’re comfortable spending this season, and stick to it. Know that your holidays can be filled with joy without being filled with extravagant gifts.
It is also important to establish boundaries when it comes to people. As much as the holidays are about spending time with loved ones, if you have a toxic family member or friend, you may want to limit or eliminate the time you spend around them. Surrounding yourself with negative individuals will reflect in your mood and could even trigger you. By electing to only spend time with positive people who have your best interests at heart, you will have a more enjoyable time while safeguarding your sobriety at the same time. So, as difficult as it may be to separate yourself from a loved one, you must be selective about who you give your energy to.
Be Ready for Obstacles
Stress takes a toll on everyone, but if you are in recovery, stress can become a dangerous slippery slope back into addiction. Because of this, it is important to be prepared for when stress does happen. Take a moment to think of scenarios that may arise that could cause you stress, and then try to find a solution. Let’s say you attend a party and you didn’t know alcohol would be present, and now you feel uncomfortable. You should have an exit strategy in place for when you are in an unsafe situation. Do you call your sponsor? Do you call an Uber and leave? Do you only attend a parties with a sober companion? Decide what is right for you and stick to the plan. Planning for the unexpected can be challenging but calling out who and what your sources of support are ahead of time will make reaching out for help so much easier.
The holiday season is a happy and exciting time for many, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be so for you. If you focus on creating a healthy balance, setting boundaries, and taking care of yourself, you can have the stress-free holiday you’ve always hoped for.