If you’re in recovery, you’re gearing up for the sober holidays. For the rest of the world, the holiday season is a joyful time. It might be the only time that certain friends and family members come into town. The workplace tends to turn more positive ahead of the anticipated days off. There is fun to be had in choosing gifts and planning for parties.
The flurry of the holidays can also be a time of stress. Those very same aspects that produce pleasure can create a situation of expectation and discomfort. The visiting family may be a trigger for you. The workplace festivities may include after-hours gatherings at the bar. The gifts and party planning may cut into an already tight budget.
Stress is unhealthy for anyone. For a person in recovery, it can create risks for relapse. In order to provide yourself with the best chance possible of navigating the sober holidays, anything you can do to prevent stress is a good idea. The following are some tips toward heading off stress buildup and temptation to resort back to substance use.
Plan Ahead for the Sober Holidays, Now
Anyone who walks through a store will notice that businesses plan far in advance for any money-making holiday. Halloween decorations begin to lose space to Christmas decorations before the month of October is even half over. Ads for Thanksgiving turkey discounts come out in the papers far before anyone would be in a position to cook one.
It can pay off to take a tip from the strategy of these businesses. They anticipate the needs and demands of consumers, and implement a plan toward capitalizing on the time that they have to make the most of it. You, too, can start planning for your sober holidays well before they arrive. Taking an hour or so a week to make sure that your gifts are bought, your travel plans are secure, and your house is company-ready is much less stressful than trying to cram it all into the week before.
Stay on Budget
A benefit of planning ahead is that less money is spent on those last minute purchases. Financial problems are one of the biggest stressors, in general, and can be a trigger for resorting to relapse. You don’t want to taint your good, sober holiday spirit by thoughts of climbing credit card debt, and you certainly don’t want money play a role in sabotaging your recovery.
There are several tips available on the internet toward making the most of your dollars during the sober holidays. Some of the common tactics include making a list, taking the time to shop around for the best deal, and keeping track of exactly how much you are spending. Keeping your budget directly in front of you can eliminate that nagging feeling of dread that can arise when thinking about looking at your debt statements.
Be Crafty About Your Beverages
Unless everyone around you is fully aware and supportive of your recovery, you may find yourself needing to refuse an alcoholic drink several times over the course of a get-together. You can head off this potential social discomfort by keeping a drink in your hand which is of your own choosing.
There are several non-alcoholic types of beverages for you to order. Some will even masquerade as their intoxicating counterparts, reducing the likelihood that you will be asked about it. The less times a drink is offered to you, the less opportunity there is for chipping away at your resolve to stay sober.
Anticipate Your Relatives
Most of us have a relative or two that we know to be difficult to deal with. It may be the uncle who is always wasted within the first couple of hours, or a sister who insists on one-upping everything that anyone else is talking about. It may be a mother who will nag you about your job, or a dad who refuses to say anything nice. The benefit of already knowing this about your relatives is that you are able to anticipate a plan of action for handling the interactions.
Your particular way of coping with a difficult family member may vary, and there are some tactics which work better than others. Play out the scenarios that you anticipate in your mind, ahead of the gathering, and decide upon the best course of action toward minimizing the stress involved. If it will help, get another friend or family to role play the situation with you, and test out various responses. This kind of imaginative exploration can actually make the otherwise maddening interactions comical.
Have Your Recovery Toolbox Ready
Even with all of your pre-planning in place, you are going to want to have a ready supply of backup sources of stress reduction available. If you have already developed a set of coping skills during your journey of recovery, be prepared to bring them out. Otherwise, now is a good time to develop a set of tools for coping with any stressors which arise during the course of your holiday activities.
Practice Deep Belly Breathing
One of the most utilized tools for stress reduction is the practice of purposeful breathing. A benefit of this technique is that no one even needs to know that you are doing it. Breathing techniques for stress reduction involve patterns of taking a breath, holding it, and then letting it out. You can also find benefit in learning to take deeper breaths through expanding your diaphragm.
Be Mindful About Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the art of being very present in each moment. Often, our stress response is related to considerations of past events or anticipation of future ones. With mindfulness, there is a sense of disconnect from the factors which play into a scenario. This can result in our being able to simply observe events as they unfold.
Don’t Forget to Exercise
If your techniques for staying relaxed while remaining in the room aren’t working for you, try excusing yourself to go for a brisk walk around the block. Physical exercise reduces stress by releasing endorphins into the blood stream. A dose of endorphins may be what you need to stay on track.