How to Cope with Stress During the Holidays
It’s that time of year—families come together to celebrate the holidays, which sometimes creates quite a bit more stress than it relieves.
Many of us enjoy the time with our loved ones, but adding the stress of being in a family affected by addiction can create a bit of a speed bump as we try to stay in our lane on the road to recovery. Families still feeling the shockwaves of addiction and recovery aren’t always able to allow resentments fall to the wayside when around their recovering loved one. Combining family stress with a complete change from our day-to-day lives can seem like a recipe for disaster for people who rely on routine to keep them healthy. Coping with stress is a constant in the lives of people in recovery, and amplifying that stress can create a tricky situation to navigate, so here’s a few tips to get everyone through the holidays sober.
1) If you’re in a 12-step program, keep going. Excuses abound during this season, be it travel or pressure to stay with family. You can always find a reason not to go to a meeting, but an hour or two outside of the house is usually a good thing, and a supportive group setting can make a big difference. As the saying goes, rain, sleet, snow (or Christmas) never kept you from going to the liquor store, so don’t let it keep you from your meetings. If you’re traveling, the 60,000+ Alcoholics Anonymous groups in America leave no room for excuses. Even on Christmas day, there’s a meeting near you. Just an hour can be enough for a temporary escape, allowing you to return home with a refreshed mind. This message applies to those in family support groups, as well. Your recovery is just as important as spending time with your loved ones, so don’t let the casserole in the oven keep you from your meeting. Remember that many people in the program may not have family to turn to or a place to go for the holiday, so your presence at a meeting can be even more important to them than it is to you.
2) Call your sponsor. Chances are good they might need a break of their own and may be able to provide you with some insight into why you’re feeling stressed and how to alleviate it. If they’re not available, someone else in the program will always be happy to take a call. That’s what fellowship is all about. Anyone who isn’t in your house may be able to give you an outsider’s perspective and help you approach problems with a cooler head.
3) If you aren’t involved in a support group or 12-step program, or you just can’t find the time to get out of the house for a little while, take a short break to meditate and reflect. This can still be difficult with lots of people around, but even just a few minutes will do. If you’re lucky enough to be with family for the holidays, despite troubles of the past, this is a good time to build bridges with the ones you love. Whenever it feels like you need time for a break, take a step back and reflect on the stressor that is most troubling at that moment. Don’t allow yourself to give in to “hot thoughts” or automatic reactions; ask yourself questions about what is making you feel that way. Being around close family can be difficult because even passing the mashed potatoes can incite bickering between two siblings or children and parents. It can be purely reflex to snap at someone or take things a little too seriously, so remember that sometimes “dirty dishes are just dirty dishes” and not a reflection of someone’s underlying resentments. Don’t sweat the small stuff!
The important thing about being with family during the holidays is the opportunity to mend and build relationships. If you’re lucky enough to have your family in your life, make the most of the time you have with them. Everyone is bound to get stressed this time of year, and that will never change; what can change is how you deal with that stress and keep yourself on track with your recovery while making the most of this special time.
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