The holidays are a time of joy, celebration, family, friendships and spending time together, however throughout the month of December I always am asked for tips, or recommendations to help manage stress and stay present, mindful, healthy and sober. The holidays can be a huge stressor for many; there are parties, gifts to buy, family events, and sometimes it can all be too much.
I didn’t always handle the holidays well. I simply didn’t know how to respond to a situation that may cause some anxiety and stress. Now, in sobriety, I love the holidays and can embrace them healthy and sober. I try to instill simplicity, consistency, and self-care. Here are five tips to help manage triggers and stress during the next few weeks of the upcoming holiday season to help you stay sane, sober, and healthy in body, mind and soul.
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Often there are a lot of events, parties, gifts, and dishes to make. Take time to cut back on what you volunteer to do. Understand we all have our limits. You do not need to make a dish for every party you are going to. Over commitment is a huge stressor. You can go to a party for one hour, and not stay the entire time. You can buy a gift online versus going to ten stores. You can make little changes to help simplify your to do list, and it will help manage a lot of your stress.
Make Sleep a Priority
During the holiday season, especially if we have longer weekends, or weeks of vacation off from our normal schedule it is easy to stay up later, sleep in later, or not make sleep as much as a priority. Getting regular and consistent sleep is so important for our mood, our health, and emotional well-being. Try to go to bed within a half hour of your normal time every night, and sleep the amount of hours that you need to function and thrive. Also – remember naps are our friend!!! I think we could learn a lesson from children on this one for sure! We do not have to be productive at all times. We can take 15 minutes to take a mini cat nap, or just to lay down and re-charge for a bit.
Take Time Outs
I love this expression because when I get moody, or feel snippy, I know I officially need a time off from people. I need time for ME. Me time is so important in sobriety, especially during the busy holiday seasons. We can get overwhelmed, emotional, and just need to take mini me time out breaks. I tend to like to focus on 5 minutes of breathing exercises, or taking my puppy for a walk, taking a bath, reading a book, journaling, or just staring out the window. We need to reconnect and re-charge, and time outs are a great way to say “it is ok for me to take time for me.” Another way to take timeouts is to disconnect from everything. Turn off the blackberries, the iPhones, the laptops, the TV, everything.
Remember – self-care, self-love, and quiet moments are not selfish, or unproductive, they are feeding towards your mind, body and soul. Do something kind for yourself, every single day. Even if it is only for 5 minutes, do something to show yourself love and kindness.
Set Daily Intentions
Before I leave the house I set a daily intention. Sometimes it is simply to remember to breathe, do just one thing at a time, or think before I speak. Sometimes my intentions change throughout the day. I do this to help keep me mindful on where I want my day to go, and helps me plan how to approach my day. An intention gives direction to our day. Set an intention (purpose/plan) for your day in the morning, before you leave the house, write it down, carry it with you, and check in during the day on how your day is going.
Set Up a Support Buddy System
Whether you have a treatment team, support group, sponsor, mentor, or supportive family and friends, set up a buddy system with someone you can reach out to when struggling. Make a list of five warning signs for those around you to be mindful of during the holiday weeks. This way you have allies in support. Stick to your normal weekly recovery schedule. This can include therapy, an appointment with a doctor, a nutritionist, a sponsor, a 12 step meeting, etc. Continue to do what has been working for you all year long. Sticking to your schedule, and having a buddy system can help make you feel less alone, and can give you people to reach out to if struggling. Remember – there is no shame in struggling. I know a lot of people slip, struggle, fall around the holiday system, just continue to make your own recovery a top importance. Don’t feel you have to miss a meeting if you have a party to go to. Do what you need to do for your own health and well-being.