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The holidays can be a very difficult time for people in recovery. Celebrations typically see the booze flowing freely, and the dynamics can be uncomfortable at family gatherings. Social events abound, and triggers may be more plentiful than usual. Staying sober during the holidays can be a real challenge, but these tips can help.

Reduce Your Stress

It’s no secret that the holidays are a stressful time for most of us. Financial woes, family problems and traveling are the most common stressors, and stress can quickly lead to relapse.1

Lowering your stress is essential for successfully navigating the holiday season. If you completed addiction treatment, you’re probably armed with a toolkit of stress-busting strategies to help you stay calm and mindful in recovery. The top techniques for busting stress include:

  • Slow, deep breathing, which reduces levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
  • Meditation, which not only relieves stress but also helps your body better cope with stress in the future.
  • Yoga, which incorporates deep, mindful breathing and relaxation-inducing poses.
  • Exercise, which lowers stress hormones and releases feel-good chemicals that can help you feel relaxed.

You don’t have to wait until you’re stressed to benefit from these techniques. Meditation or deep breathing exercises before an event that’s sure to be stressful can help lower the impact of stress on your mind and body.

Take Care of Yourself

Poor self-care is an important factor in relapse.2 When you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re more likely to throw in the towel and succumb to cravings. It’s particularly important to take good care of yourself during the holidays, when additional stress can affect both physical and mental health. During the holidays, be sure to:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • Take time to recharge between events.
  • Keep your stress levels down.

Lean on Your Support Systems

The holidays often see an uptick in support group attendance, and for good reason; drawing on your support systems during times of elevated stress can help keep you mindful in your recovery. During the holiday season, make an effort to attend your support group meetings regularly to help you stay on track with your recovery.

Additionally, have a roster of supportive people you can call if things go south. If you have a lot of parties to attend, consider bringing a supportive guest with you to help you get through sticky situations and survive cravings and other triggers.

Anticipate Trouble Spots and Visualize Success

Attend to the present moment at all times, but stay mindful of events coming up that could cause problems for your sobriety. Identifying high-risk situations helps you prepare for them, and preparation helps to ensure ongoing successful recovery. If you have a high-risk event coming up, clearly visualize how you will maintain your sobriety, and have an exit strategy in place in case you need to leave the event if things get hairy.

Mindfulness is Key

Staying mindful of your mood, stress levels and mental state is essential for improving your chances of successful recovery during the holidays. Make time every day to take a break from activities and check in with yourself. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, try to identify the origin of the feelings and take steps to mitigate them. Mindfulness in recovery is key for getting through the holidays unscathed, and once you do, your confidence in yourself will grow, and you’ll be stronger than ever in recovery.

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  1. http://archives.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol14N1/Stress.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/
Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays
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