Coping with Anxious Feelings in the Holiday Season
The holiday season is officially here. Soon, many individuals and families will be celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, and many others. For some who are struggling with substance abuse or are in recovery, these situations can cause a great amount of anxiety.
Are you worried about feelings of holiday anxiety this year? You are not alone. While this can be a joyous season for many, it can be extremely distressing for others. If you start experiencing anxious thoughts, stress, or other potentially triggering thoughts, don’t hesitate to call the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357. They offer help to those who need it all hours, every day of the year.
Strategies for Coping with Holiday Anxiety with Others
Prepare in Advance
Sometimes, gatherings with family members or friends can produce feelings of anxiety. Will someone mention recovery? Will they have opinions you do not want to hear? Will past traumas involving another guest be too much to cope with?
The best way to prevent feelings of holiday anxiety is to prepare for situations that could trigger them. Here are some tips to do just that.
Role-play through Potential Triggering Scenarios
Are there any potential triggers that you can picture happening? Rehearse how you think they might play out. Practicing responding calmly to these situations and using positive coping skills that you learned during treatment.
Role-playing through situations can help you feel less caught off-guard if or when they occur. This can help you stay calm, put your coping skills into practice, and avoid anxiety-inducing moments of tension.
Make Plans to Step Away from Tense Situations
Are there activities you can engage in that can help you avoid feeling anxious? Take part in playing games with family and friends, help with cleaning up or preparing food, or bring something you can read or watch for a few minutes when you need a break. Having ways to stay busy can help prevent triggering thoughts from escalating.
Give Yourself Some “Cool Off” Time
Some people calm down and recharge more easily if they have a moment of “cool off” time alone. If you are someone that needs a few minutes to themselves throughout the holiday, create a plan for yourself when to take these periods of rest. These could be at specific times of day, after an event like a meal, or if/when a triggering event happens.
When cooling off, it might be helpful to do something that relaxes you. Grab a cold drink of water, read or watch something on your phone, or just take a moment to enjoy the quiet time. This will help you feel refreshed and ready to re-engage with others.
Ask Someone to Be Your Support
Ask someone close to you to be a support for you during a stressful holiday gathering. This could be a close family member or friend that you’ve brought with you. This person can help you by checking in periodically or actively aiding you in avoiding triggering situations.
If you cannot find or bring someone at a gathering to be your in-person support system, ask someone to be your confidant by phone. This way, if you need to speak to someone, that person can be the one that you call or text if you are looking for help with de-escalating your anxious feelings.
Set Boundaries with Others
While you are in recovery, maintaining your sobriety is your number one priority. To ensure you are able to do this most effectively, you might have to set boundaries with others at the holiday gathering you’re attending.
Communicate these boundaries to a trusted family member and/or a host of the event. For example, if you do not want people to ask you about treatment or recovery, let this be known to someone who can communicate it to other guests for you.
If you are worried about these boundaries being violated at the holiday gathering, it is okay to politely leave early or to amicably decline to attend in advance. Putting yourself and your sobriety first is an extremely important part of progressing through recovery.
You Don’t Have to Face Holiday Anxiety Alone
Are you feeling holiday anxiety as you’re anticipating gatherings with friends and family? If so, admitting it and seeking help for processing your thoughts and emotions is a brave and healthy action to take.
At Compassion Behavioral Health, we provide our neighbors in South Florida with caring substance abuse treatment services. If you want someone to talk to while experiencing your own holiday anxiety, call us anytime at (844) 999-0874.