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How Can I Cope With Holiday Stress Without Substances?

The holidays are often a time of celebration and spending time with family and friends. However, it can also bring an overload of holiday stress. It is very normal to feel stress due to the hectic feelings associated with the holiday season or even the company you keep.

When you are in recovery from addiction, the holiday season can be particularly challenging. It requires learning how to cope with holiday stress and triggers without using drugs or alcohol. However, some tools and activities can help you to move through the season and be committed to your sobriety.

Holiday Stress

There are many reasons that you may feel stressed during the holiday season. October to January typically marks an increase in holiday parties and events. These events can put you in different situations than you are comfortable in, often socializing with people you do not know well. While social stress varies for each person, being in a new situation can commonly lead to some anxiety.

Holidays are also marked by an increase in alcohol and celebration. The presence of alcohol or drugs is a common trigger for those in recovery. Celebrations of any kind are often also a trigger when you are in recovery. The atmosphere of a party has certain sounds, smells, and energies that, in the past, likely cued you to have a drink, let loose, and join in. Due to these common triggers, it is essential to build coping skills that can help you to feel confident approaching the holiday season.

Coping With Holiday Stress While Maintaining Your Sobriety

Each person will build their own set of coping skills to manage stress. However, there are some tools to consider using this holiday season.


Learning coping skills for various stressors in your life starts with effective treatment. At Enlightened Solutions, we believe in teaching clients skills that they can take into their lives. Holistic strategies include learning how to care for yourself and your needs, stress relief, and social skills. Therapeutic approaches we use include motivational interviewing (MI) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Coping is a skill. The foundation of these skills will begin in treatment and grow. You will learn how to possess solutions that work for you. If you are feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, that is okay. With practice, you will continue to improve the skills that help you. If you think you may be vulnerable to relapse, it’s essential to reach out for help.


One of the best ways to cope with holiday stress is to plan how to respond to stress. Take the time to create options for yourself and adjust plans to minimize stress during the holiday season.

Consider planning what you will do if you are in a situation where you feel cravings for drugs and alcohol or your stress level is very high. This includes planning what you will tell people if you decide to leave a holiday party or event early. You can also make a list of possible plans for when you are in such a situation and do not want to leave. Such options can include things like going for a walk, talking to a friend, or taking some deep breaths.


The holidays are a busy time, which means that self-care may fall off. However, researchers have found that self-care is vital to reducing relapse risk during recovery. While the holiday season gets hectic, your self-care routine can help you to manage the associated stress.

Keeping up with self-care will look different for each person. However, a self-care routine commonly includes the following:

  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Quality sleep
  • Stress reduction
  • Community

Remember that practicing self-care will help you to enjoy your holiday season more while maintaining your sobriety.


The holiday season is not a solo event. You are likely to celebrate with family, friends, and coworkers. While you may not be ready to speak to all of your loved ones about your recovery, communicating your feelings can help manage holiday stress.

Having others you can talk to about the stress you are experiencing helps to decrease the risk of relapse. It also allows you to get help in making adjustments for holiday plans. For example, speaking with your boss about a holiday party can help you to have support if you need it. Communication with family can also help them understand if you choose to leave an event early or potentially plan a celebration without alcohol.

Saying No to Holiday Stress

The skill of saying no to invitations or other things can be challenging. However, it can also be an important coping mechanism during the holidays – and any time of year. Remember, you can always say no.

Traditions often feel like obligations, but your recovery is the priority. If saying no to a holiday party helps you stay sober, by all means, it is worth it. Saying no this year doesn’t mean you can’t reassess next year.

The holiday season can bring with it an increased amount of stress for many reasons. It is a hectic season that can cause an individual to misuse substances or be triggering for a person in recovery. At Enlightened Solutions, we believe in helping our clients build a strong foundation of coping skills. These skills will continue to develop over time and can help you manage such things as holiday stress. We offer a variety of treatment options tailored to each individual client. Your recovery is about healing and learning how to live without drugs or alcohol. If you are looking for a holistic treatment option, we would love to help. Call us today at (833) 801-LIVE to learn more.

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