Tips For Staying Sober, Preventing Holiday Blues

Overly high expectations, increased obligations, financial stress, escalated demands at work as the year draws to a close, all accompanied by decreasing hours of daylight, can make the holiday season far from merry and bright. The holiday blues present even more of a challenge for recovering alcoholics. Stress, fatigue, loneliness and relationship problems—all triggers that threaten to throw us off course—are magnified as holiday activities root us from our established routines. Add the proliferation of social functions centered on drinking, and a fall off the wagon seems inevitable. It doesn’t have to be.

“The commercialism of the holidays really puts our focus on gifts and activities and parties,” says Krista Roybal of the La Jolla, California-based True Life Center for Wellbeing. “Most people are looking for an internal meaning and an internal satisfaction.” Roybal, in an interview with KPBS News in San Diego, explains that this internal-external conflict is often the reason why so many get depressed over the holidays. Understanding the cause will help you create a plan to drive away the holiday blues, stick to your program and even enjoy the season.

 Plan your days

Map out your holiday season including scheduled activities, such as social gatherings and special holiday events. Anticipate problems that may arise and develop strategies for dealing with them. Eliminate activities and events that you don’t feel you can handle. Avoid alcohol-centered affairs and toxic people. Shed the traditions that were part of your unhealthy life and replace them with new, healthy traditions. As you fill in your calendar, be sure to include some downtime for yourself. Use this time for internal reflection and renewal. Your downtime may include taking a nature walk, reading, journaling or pursing a favorite hobby.

Seek extra support

Rally your support network to help you through the season. Discuss your fears with friends, family, a therapist, a sponsor or a support group. Keep a list of phone numbers with you at all times should you need support and encouragement.

Accept and forgive

You may not be able to avoid those people that “push your buttons” at holiday gatherings. You don’t want to isolate yourself, but need to add a layer of armor when confronting friends, family, neighbors and co-workers that anger or annoy you, make you feel small or undermine your efforts. Try accepting who they are and forgiving their behavior. It will take away their power to affect your behavior.

Take care of your body

Take a military-like approach to your health. Eat a balanced diet. Be moderate in your consumption of sugar, caffeine and nicotine. Exercise daily and stick to regular sleep patterns. Discipline in these aspects of your life will carry over to your mental health.

Tend to your soul

Even if you are not religious, contemplate the spirituality of the season. You are a vital part of a greater whole whether you recognize it or not. Your life, as one thread in the fabric of humanity, affects many more than you probably realize. The singing, the socializing, the gift giving, all stem from the idea that we are at our best when we love unselfishly. You can enjoy this time of year if you focus on the moment, dismiss petty concerns and embrace the spirit of the season.