The holidays can be undoubtedly stressful. Additionally, the winter season may trigger unpleasant memories, difficult situations, and intense cravings when you’re in recovery. It’s important to prepare for these moments and plan for them in advance.
That said, creating new rituals can reduce some of the challenges this time of year. Here are some tips to consider.
Always Have a Plan
You may feel particularly vulnerable during the holidays, and that’s okay. This time of year can coincide with seasonal affective disorder, grief, particular anniversaries, and feelings of loneliness or isolation. You’re not alone, but it’s important to hold yourself accountable for taking care of your recovery.
In doing so, make sure that you have a solid plan in place if you experience cravings or distressing emotions. Have trusted people you can contact when needed. Review your primary coping skills and write them down so you can refer to them quickly. Keep your schedule on track, and try to remain consistent with your usual recovery activities.
Certain rituals may just be habitual in your family. But that doesn’t mean everyone necessarily enjoys them- it just might mean that’s how your family is used to celebrating them.
Consider taking the initiative in suggesting alternative ideas. For example, instead of playing drinking games on Christmas Eve, you might propose going out to look at the neighborhood lights. Or, instead of having a house party on New Year’s Eve, you could ask if anyone wants to go ice skating or to the movies.
Some events will simply feel uncomfortable, no matter how well you prepare for them. Likewise, some people won’t be willing to change their usual holiday habits to accommodate your requests.
Remember that it’s not your job to convince anyone to do anything differently! However, it’s perfectly reasonable to set boundaries and turn down any requests that feel unsafe, unpleasant, or stressful to you. Your recovery needs to be the most critical priority- people who genuinely love you will always respect your decision to take care of yourself.
Give Back to Your Community
Volunteering your time is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself during the holiday season. Service work can put life into perspective, and it often cultivates a deeper sense of meaning and gratitude for the world around you.
Remember that even small efforts can make a meaningful difference. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone. Even just a few hours in a soup kitchen or wrapping presents for a family in need can make you- and someone else- feel much better.
Celebrate With Like-Minded People
Ideally, you should spend your holidays with people who support and embrace your goals. These people may be your family, but they might also be friends you make during your recovery journey.
Either way, you probably know exactly who those people are- and who they aren’t. Try to focus on prioritizing your spare time with people who make you feel good about yourself and who encourage you to stay on track.
Remember that support is paramount in recovery. Don’t neglect meeting with your therapist, sponsor, or other recovery peers just because it’s the holidays. If anything, if you’re feeling more stressed than usual, it may be helpful to double-down on your efforts.
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