by Devon Berkheiser, Psy.D.
While the holidays can be a joyous and festive time, they can also be difficult, and triggering, for many people. Holiday parties often include alcohol, and family gatherings can sometimes feel more stressful than fun. Additionally, many people put pressure on themselves to make this time of year almost magical, and then feel guilty or sad if reality falls short of their expectations. While we all hope that the holidays are an enjoyable time of year, it can be helpful to prepare for the possibility that they may, in fact, cause some stress and urges to use. Here are some tips for getting through the holiday season:
1. Be proactive—Don’t wait until the last minute to make plans for the holidays, as doing so could leave you bored and alone when the big day arrives. Instead, reach out to supportive friends and family members to schedule fun, healthy events to celebrate the holidays.
2. Have an exit plan—If you anticipate that an event will be triggering, make sure that you have a way to remove yourself from the situation if needed. Drive your own car so that you can leave whenever you want, or inform your host early on that you will only be able to stay for a limited time.
3. Use your support network—Let your support team know when you feel stressed or triggered so that they can help you. Schedule additional therapy appointments if needed, or attend extra self-help meetings. There are other people who are also struggling, so don’t be afraid to reach out and get some support.