You love your family – of course you do. They are your blood, they are a part of who you are, and you are a part of them. You love having your family around, and spending time with them, too. However, when the holiday season comes around, they can sometimes be a bit much. You’re already stressed about all things you need to get done just right, and on top of that, it seems like everyone has demands. Between your family that lives in your house, your extended family all over the country, and houseguests that always seem to stay longer than you’d like, there is just no escaping it. All you want is a little bit of “me” time – and for the holiday season to be over!
According to a study by the US Highbush Blueberry Council,31% of Americans describe the holiday season as “frantic,” and feelings of stress build throughout the month of December and culminate at 2:05pm on Christmas Day. Holiday stress can be especially dangerous for people working on their recovery. Not only does it seem to build and build until it is at a fever pitch, with seemingly no end in sight, but there are so many opportunities to use. Holiday parties, dinners, and late nights with old friends can quickly result in drug or alcohol consumption if you’re not careful, and before you know it, one slip could turn into a full-blown relapse. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep yourself on the right track; read on to find out what they are.
How to Keep Your Family Members from Driving You Crazy
Even regardless of your recovery status, there are a few things you can do to help take the stress out of holiday family gatherings. Try these strategies to help keep your holiday season merry and bright!
- Change your expectations. No family is perfect. No holiday gather goes off without a hitch. Don’t expect too much of yourself or of others. Go with the flow and see where it takes you. Avoid arguments. Don’t talk about politics. Stay positive. Focus on the good.
- Reflect on the stress you may cause.Although your family members may be stressing you out, there’s a pretty good chance that you are doing the same to others without even knowing it. Your aunt may be nosy and offensive, but maybe she thinks you complain too much. Your brother might be loud and self-centered, but he might feel the same way about you. Take a step back and try to view things from all sides. Be self-aware, and rather than focusing on the things your family does that annoys you, work hard to be the best version of yourself.
- Step back and be grateful. It’s not all bad, right? Even amongst all the rushing around and interrupted conversations and subpar food you have to eat to be nice, there actually are a large number of moments of beauty. Focus on those. Feel the holiday magic by viewing the beautiful decorations. Enjoy the foods you do like. Revel in the excitement of the very young.
- Learn to keep your mouth shut and be nice. As the old adage goes, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. This is very, very difficult, especially when other people may be saying things that aren’t that nice. Stand up for yourself, of course, but if you can let something go, do just that. Will it really matter in the long run? As another old saying goes, kill ‘em with kindness – and in most cases, you will get kindess back.
- When you need to, relax and escape. Get away when you can and practice self-care. Whether you need to just go for a short walk or go for an hour massage, do it. Take a yoga class. Lock yourself in an upstairs bedroom and meditate. Or, if there is no time – simply step away for a few moments and practice some deep breathing.
Tips for Staying Sober During Holiday Stress
In addition to the tips above for dealing with challenging family and events specifically, there are steps you can take to stay strong in your sobriety today, and every day. During the holiday season, refer to these ideas to continue moving forward on your recovery journey, without even a bump in the road.
- Avoid HALT. This acronym (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) that lists emotions to look out for can be a literal lifesaver for people in recovery. Make sure you are well fed, well rested, and keeping your anger and loneliness in check during the holiday season.
- Express gratitude. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for, and refer to it often. Your recovery is likely at the top of the list, but there are so many other wonderful things in our lives, too. Take note of them, and remind yourself of them anytime you get stressed out.
- Go to a meeting. There is no better way to support your recovery than to attend a meeting when you feel tempted. There are meetings in every town and city in our country, so even if you are the one visiting family, you can find one easily. You can find an AA meeting here, and an NA meeting here. Don’t be shy. Go!
- Call your sponsor. Times like these are exactly why you have a sponsor. Feel free to call him or her anytime for support, sympathy, or simply a listening ear.
- Listen to recovery recordings or podcasts, or read books or blog posts about recovery. Listening or reading supportive information will help you strengthen your resolve, and will remind you why you are in recovery in the first place.
It is possible to survive the holidays, and survive our families. We have been doing it for decades! Just follow these tips, take some deep breaths, and take every moment of every day one at a time. January is the light at the end of the tunnel, and once New Year’s Day hits, its eleven long months until you have to do it all over again. Good luck!
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