5 Ways To Manage Stress In Recovery Over Christmas

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Stress management tools for people in recovery over a sober Christmas include managing both good and bad stress levels, mindfulness, having a support system, self-care, and cognitive reframing.

How To Manage Stress In Recovery During Christmas

Studies have proven that stress is a significant risk factor for drug use and relapse. Stress can cause both emotional and physiological challenges.

A few of the common physiological stressors are hunger, sleep deprivation, and drug withdrawal. Emotional stress might include mental illness or the loss of a loved one.

Learning adaptive behaviors to deal with these stressors is key for people in recovery to prevent relapse or cravings, especially over the holidays when stress is at a high point for many.

Tips On Adapting To Stress During The Christmas Season

If you or your loved one are a recovering alcoholic or overcoming an addiction to drugs this Christmas or New Year’s Eve, it’s important to be prepared with techniques to handle stress.

If you’re going to an office party, Christmas dinner, Christmas tree lighting, or some other event where there may be socializing or people drinking alcohol, be aware of your stressors.

Here are a few stress management tools to help you to enjoy your first sober Christmas in addiction recovery, or support your loved one in recovery over the holidays.

1. Manage “Good Stress” And “Bad Stress”

In a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), experts discovered that while stress is often associated with negative situations, “good stress” can also pose risks for those in substance abuse recovery.

“Good stress” refers to any internal or external stimuli that are moderately challenging and usually lead to positive results or accomplishment.

However, the more chronic and prolonged those stressors are, the greater the unpredictability and uncontrollability, which can increase the risk factors for addictive responses.

Consider traditions of the festive season. This time of year, family members gather together, people go to work Christmas parties, we eat indulgent foods, and lots of gifts are exchanged.

Many people would view these as “good” stimuli, and they are. But for someone in recovery, too much socialization or the economic weight of buying gifts can create uncontrollability.

Limit your stressors to a level that’s manageable and comfortable for you, even if they’re considered normal and fun traditions at Christmas.

2. Practice Mindfulness

In 2020, a group of researchers examined several stress-reducing techniques and found mindfulness to be one of the most effective tools.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that increases your awareness of the present moment: your body, your thoughts and emotions, and your surroundings.

Often this technique involves slow breathing, self-awareness, and using the senses of touch, sight, hearing, and smell.

You can put this into practice any time you feel your mind or body telling you that you’re stressed. Find a space to go to when you need a break, and practice mindfulness techniques.

3. Reach Out To A Support System

There are many ways to deal with stress as an individual, but a support network of people you trust is often a key part of keeping your thoughts and cravings in check during times of stress.

You might consider calling a sponsor or recovery mentor from a peer support group you’re in, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Women for Sobriety, or a SMART Recovery group.

Surround yourself with sober friends and focus on spending time with people who lift you up and encourage you in your recovery journey.

Being connected with a support system can help you cope with stressful events, manage the day-to-day tasks of the festive period, and remain drug- or alcohol-free on Christmas Day.

4. Incorporate Self-Care

During the holiday season, it’s easy to put your mental health practices and recovery on the back burner.

If you’ve been through a recovery program, use some of the techniques you learned in treatment or during group therapy.

To keep stress levels and risk of relapse low during the Christmas period, you should take care of your physical and mental health, even on Christmas Day when it may feel unnatural to do so.

Here are a few self-care practices proven to be effective for people in addiction recovery:

  • have a healthy diet
  • get exercise or a mild to moderate level of physical activity
  • get a good night of rest
  • manage your time
  • schedule time for activities you enjoy, such as going on walks or reading a book
  • practice breathing exercises

5. Cognitive Reframing

Many addiction treatment programs use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help people in recovery recognize unhelpful patterns of thinking and behavior.

This is an effective tool for reframing thoughts to produce better outcomes.

For example, consider a situation during Christmas time that may be stressful:

  • The situation: In Christmases past, you may have felt hurt and turned to drugs or alcohol when someone commented on your financial status or lack of employment.
  • Your first thoughts: “I’m not good enough, I’ll never get a job, I always fail”, which leads to an increased level of stress, uncontrollability, and may result in substance use.
  • Reframe the thoughts: “I have been told that I’m a hard worker and many other people believe in me. I may not have a job now, but I can take steps to get there”.

Use this technique of reframing thoughts any time there is a negative stressor that makes you feel bad about yourself or sends you down a spiral of unwanted thoughts and emotions.

Stress And Addiction Treatment Options

Because stress is so closely linked with addiction and substance use disorder recovery, you can find many treatment programs that offer tools to help you manage it.

You might start by easing your withdrawal symptoms at a drug and alcohol detox or rehab center, which can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety or fear during the withdrawal process.

Then, you can consider treatment such as:

These programs can help you identify the early signs of mental health disorders, such as generalized anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Get Treatment For Substance Abuse

You can find a full continuum of care at a number of drug rehab centers that offer programs for managing cravings, stress, high-risk situations, and more.

To learn more about your recovery options, call our helpline today and we’ll help you to find a program that works for you or your loved one.

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:
(888) 859-4403

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