Tips to Handle Holiday Stress, Anxiety & Depression for Addicts & Alcoholics

Holiday stress, anxiety and depression are relapse triggers for the newly sober and just plain stressful for recovering folks depending on the health and sanity of your family.

While the Holidays can be a fun, family time, for many, they are also a sad, depressing, no family time.  See picture - is this your family?  Perhaps - but remember we can all pose for a picture...

Family celebrations can also be stressful if you're newly sober and there's alcohol around. Or, stressful and anxiety provoking because of family "stuff" - you know - Susie always comes late to dinner and Mom makes excuses for her. Sam's kids get the best presents - obviously mom and dad like them better. Our head tapes can get very active during the Holidays.

Here are some suggestions to keep you sane and healthy during the Holidays: 

1) Think about what kind of Christmas Holiday you'd like to have. Then make decisions about whether you'll be staying home in your cozy little place or venturing out to parents or other family. Really, you have a right to choose where you want to be for the holiday, and yes, sometimes that creates a wave of upset with family. However, in my experience, they are able to move past it with time.

2) If you're going into a Holiday celebration that's stressful or anxiety producing, consider setting a time limit and letting folks know ahead of time.  "I'm looking forward to being with you all and we'll need to leave by 7 p.m. - or whatever).  This allows you to feel you have some control and and will cut down on anxiety.

3) For Family Gatherings:  

If you're at a family gathering or office party and you're feeling uncomfortable or anxious ask yourself what's up - what's pushing your buttons - take a breath (you don't have to solve it, just become aware) and then decide if you want to stay or not.  If not, find the host, thank them for the party and gently excuse yourself. You don't have to give a reason. "Thank you so much for the party. I'm going to need to get going." (If you need to make up an excuse to politely leave - just say I have to get home to take care of my pet, grandmother, ...)

4) Attend more 12 Step Meetings during the Holidays if you have been going. 12 Step is still the MOST effective treatment approach for addiction because the commaraderie replaces the isolation, the meetings give you a safe place to go instead of drinking or using, and as you build friendships and connections you build trust - in the group and in yourself to stay sober.  

5) If you haven't tried 12 Step meetings. Do.  See #4 above.

6) For anxiety - breathe - really - take 10 breaths - here's a FREE MP3 that shows you how. Also see Lucinda Bassett's work http://tinyurl.com/nmsudo8  Midwest Center for Anxiety & Depression

7) For depression the path out is with medication for some - talk to your doctor - and by looking at the quality of your thoughts. Part of the illness around addiction are the negative thoughts that generate depression. Resources:  Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom and Happy for No Reason Marci Shimoff.