The holiday season can be wrought with stress, both good and bad. Because stress is a known trigger for drug and alcohol use, it’s especially important to be aware of your triggers and ready to deal with or prevent them.

“A trigger can be thought of as anything that brings back thoughts, feelings, and memories that have to do with addiction” states Dr. Adi Jaffe

Being fully aware of yours will help you plan ahead so you can enjoy the holiday spirit without feeling the pull of drugs or alcohol.

Plan ahead to enjoy a sober holiday season this and every year. By incorporating these tips and enlisting the help of your support network, you can reduce or eliminate holiday-related stress and focus on the aspects you enjoy.

The habits you develop this year can help you break negative patterns that have impacted your life during previous holiday seasons.

Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

  1. Increase Time Spent with a Support System. Dr. Heidi Lilienthal states that support from the people around you is likely to be the most beneficial way to reduce or eliminate holiday-related stress. Ask to see your counselor more often throughout the season, attend additional group support meetings and plan time with your partner or a mentor to gain encouragement and a listening ear.
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  3. Plan for the Season. Add known events to your calendar to plan accordingly. Include parties and gatherings, as well as smaller events, such as cookie-baking with the kids. Preparing yourself mentally and physically for what lies ahead can help you avoid feeling caught off-guard by holiday happenings.
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  5. Prioritize and Delegate. Seldom is it possible to attend all parties or participate in every activity planned. List the events and tasks that are important to you, in order of priority. Let go of guilty feelings over the things that must be cut from your list. Your mission is to enjoy the season, not be overwhelmed by it.
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  7. Practice Letting Go. It’s human nature to make mistakes, get angry and feel upset. Despite your plans, there are likely to be occasions that upset you or cause your stress level to rise. Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or taking a crisp winter walk to help yourself let go of an unpleasant situation that’s out of your control.
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  9. Create Alternatives. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that one out of three adults prefer to have a non-alcoholic drink at parties. As the host of a holiday party or a guest at one, don’t feel pressured to subscribe to the thought that alcohol has to play an important role. Provide or offer to bring a non-alcoholic punch or cider. You’re not likely to be the only person who appreciates having other options.
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  11. Maintain Self-Care. Self-sacrifice is common during the holiday season, especially when there are others you want to please. Maintain your exercise routine, get adequate sleep and eat healthfully to keep your energy up and stress level down.

Replace the All or Nothing Approach

It’s common for people in recovery to feel that it’s better to refrain from all holiday activities that have the potential to create stress. Yet, sitting at home alone while everyone else is gathering together, isn’t much better.

Rather than diving headlong into stressful situations or avoiding them altogether, you can use these tips to help find a happy medium that works for you and your loved ones for enjoying the spirit of the season. The new habits developed will help create new associations with holiday events that have nothing to do with drinking or drug use.