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Coping with Addiction and Holiday Stress

The month of mistletoe and merriment might be joy-filled and cheery for everyone else, but how’s it going for you and your recovery? If your immediate answer is, “Not so good!” know this: You’re not alone.

No matter what addiction(s) you’ve sought to overcome this year, the holidays can test your resolve. Understanding what makes the holidays such a challenge—plus how to manage it—is critical in maintaining your gains and sailing into the new year feeling good about your ability to kick an old habit and sustain a new one.

According to Kripalu life coach, Aruni Nan Futuronsky, stress in the month of December typically falls into four categories: “Holiday stress lands strongly in the realms of family, food, finances, and expectations. For many of us, dealing with family over the holiday season can be a source of imbalance – wanting people to be different, wanting our family members to see us with fresh eyes. Simply put, holidays tend to bring up expectations and pressures that we might avoid during the rest of the year and can upset our normal routines.”

Combining this knowledge with a little fortune-telling and preparation sets you up to create a holiday season unlike any other; one where you are in control and on your game from the first family gathering to the last festive party. Embodying a position of strength and empowerment is all about being proactive in how you make choices and take actions as you move into the final weeks of the holiday season.

Seeing into the Future

Fortune-telling during the month of December means looking ahead and identifying possible (should we say, probable?) situations that increase stress and decrease your ability to resist addictive temptation.

Some of this is easy to identify: Lots of parties means lots of opportunities for partying. Lots of food means lots of opportunities for bingeing. Lots of family means lots of opportunities for disagreement.

Step One: Plan for the Future so that You are Prepared for Whatever Happens

Using Futuronsky’s four categories, assess your potential stress areas:

  • Family – What family members or situations historically (or particularly this year) might cause you added stress over the next few weeks?
  • Food – What food(s) or food scenarios cause you to feel apprehension, discomfort or triggers?
  • Finances – What financial issues create embarrassment, shame, anger or other stressful emotions?
  • Expectations – Whose and which beliefs, assumptions and requests do you find most difficult to manage or meet?

Answering these questions brings issues into the spotlight where you can see, plan and (most importantly) prevent their knocking you off your game when it comes to maintaining recovery practices.

Prepare to Protect

The best way to keep yourself on track and untriggered is to have a clear plan for how to manage stressful and triggering situations. This means going beyond having the number of your sponsor on speed-dial – it’s about taking your self-care to a whole new level by putting in place programs designed to protect your well-being before stress occurs rather than after it rattles your resolve. Perhaps that means creating a more aggressive and diligent self-care routine from now until January, or installing boundaries and preemptive conversations designed to reduce situations that heighten stressful feelings.

Step Two: Take Actions to Protect Your Status Quo

Going back to your answers above regarding Futuronsky’s four categories think about the scenarios now in terms of 1) choices, and 2) actions. What choices do you have in each area that would make the situation feel better to you? What actions would you have to take to create those outcomes?

The key here is asking yourself one simple question:

What would make me feel a little (or, if you’re feeling bold: a lot) better in that moment?

With the answer to that question you have the opportunity to begin building situations that will feel manageable to you. Maybe that means less time spent with a family member or more time spent taking a break from parties. Perhaps that means letting everyone know you’ll be spending less money on gifts this year or eating before a dinner event so that you’re less tempted to overeat.

Identify now whatever solutions are right for you and start taking the necessary steps to implement them. Remember, too, that you can enlist others’ help. Friends and family who respect your recovery mission can offer terrific assistance in creating the outcomes you seek. Have the courage to ask for their ideas, support and actions to create a successful holiday season, one in alignment with your recovery goals.

Being honest, open and responsible engenders respect and further develops your integrity and responsibility – great assets to bring into any new year.

Image Courtesy of iStock

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