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Tips for Reducing Stress and Sadness Over the Holidays


All of the hustle and bustle of the holidays can send your normal routine into a tailspin. There are special events and parties to attend, gifts to buy, meals to make, family to entertain, and a host of other activities.

While the holidays are meant to be joyful, stress and sadness can work their way in as well. You’re trying to meet deadlines for work and tie up loose ends. You’re reminded of close family members or friends who might not be with you anymore. These feelings can increase your risk of relapse as you try to find ways to cope. It can be very tempting to shift back into old routines because they’re so familiar. But now that you’re in recovery, you want to find healthier options and decrease risk of relapse. Taking steps to reduce situations that may induce these negative feelings can help you to get more enjoyment out of the season.

Stay connected with family, friends, and your support system. Loneliness and isolation can be major triggers for relapse. Schedule more time to spend with loved ones, whether it’s meeting in person, chatting on the phone, or talking over Skype. Having these positive interactions can keep you in a better frame of mind and give you something to look forward to. If you’re worried about slipping up, consider attending support group meetings more frequently. You can gain insight and encouragement from people who know exactly what you’re going through. They can help you to stay focused on your sobriety and come up with strategies for dealing with stress or loneliness.

Family and friends can also help you to turn sad memories into happier ones. You may be ruminating on the fact that your parent, spouse, or relative is no longer alive. But sharing stories about the times you spent together, reflecting on funny moments, and hearing what others remember as well can turn your outlook around. It can remind you that their spirit lives on. Dealing with these memories and thoughts head on instead of trying to push them aside can give you a sense of peace and make you feel more prepared for the holidays.

Start new traditions to celebrate your recovery. Perhaps some of your old family routines are tarnished in your mind by reflections of your life in active addiction. In order to avoid these triggers and create more positive associations, start something new this year. Maybe it’s making homemade ornaments for the tree, baking cookies to give to neighbors, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or switching locations of where the family gathers together. A change of pace can help to boost your mood and give you something special to look forward to each year. A reminder of how far you have come and how your life has changed.

Plan ahead as much as possible. You know that every year the holidays are chaotic. Try to stay on task at work and get projects finished up on schedule. Don’t agree to take on more work if you are already feeling overwhelmed. You don’t want to burn yourself out or add unnecessary stress.

Make a list of everything you need to get done and plan to do a little bit each day so it’s less daunting. Prioritize and focus on those things that are most important. If every detail isn’t perfect, don’t stress. That’s not what the holidays are about.

Take care of yourself. Leave yourself time each day to exercise, meditate, journal, listen to music, or whatever else you do to relax your body and mind. Clear your mind and refocus so you are in better spirits. Read a few entries in your gratitude journal to remind yourself of the things you are thankful for. Also make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet and not overindulging in sweets or holiday favorites which can make you feel worse. Try to stick to a fairly normal routine and allow yourself a treat now and then. Getting plenty of sleep will also help you to re-energize and give your body time to recover from each day’s events.

Reflect on the positives and celebrate your progress. If you’re starting to feel stressed or sad, step back and think of a few things that you are grateful for. Maybe you’re feeling more confident this year than you were last year, you’ve started a new job, you get to spend time with relatives you haven’t seen in a while, or even just the fact that the sun is shining and you are surrounded by people who love you. It’s so easy to fall into a rut of negative thinking, so make a conscious effort to turn things around.

Don’t let the holidays overwhelm you. If all of the events and temptations become too much and you have a relapse, remember that there is help available. Holiday rehab can be an effective way to get yourself back on track and enter into a safer environment. The change of pace and scenery may be just what you need to focus on recovery and overcome challenges. Whether you’re entering rehab for the first time or turning things around following a relapse, Chapters Capistrano is here to help. With flexible approaches to treatment and a serene seaside environment, you can start a new chapter in your life. Contact Chapters Capistrano at 949-371-4198 to learn more.