5 Tips for Navigating Triggers During the Holidays

The holidays can be stressful for everyone. Regardless of which holidays you celebrate, these last few months of the year are quite condensed in terms of celebrations, gatherings and social activities — throw in some potential family drama, and it’s enough to send anyone into a spiral.

Those who are in recovery face similar, but also additional challenges as they adjust to navigating their triggers during the holiday season. Certain relationships or environmental factors can put further stress on the individual, which is why it’s best to enter this time of year with a plan. 

In this article, we’re going to identify the five best practices that will help you maintain your sobriety not only through this holiday season, but the holiday seasons to follow. 

What are addiction triggers?

Addiction triggers are things that cause someone to be tempted to relapse. A trigger can result from any of your senses being affected, such as—a certain smell, seeing someone from your past or hearing a certain sound, among other things. Those in recovery also commonly experience heightened versions of “standard” stressors.

For instance, seasonal depression is very common during the winter months for many people, including those who are in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. The difference is, those in recovery have a higher chance of struggling with more intense or severe symptoms. This is in part due to the mental and physical health symptoms they’re already experiencing as a result of their withdrawals and recovery.

Relapses are very common during the holiday season, so we’re going to equip you with both proactive and preventative measures to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.

How to avoid triggers

There are two mentalities to apply to your recovery journey: avoiding triggers and nurturing your sobriety. Both work towards the common goal of maintaining sobriety, but while the former is focused on preventing relapse, the other is focused on bringing fulfillment into your life.

It can be easy to focus all of your energy on avoiding triggers and relapses, but there’s more to life than not relapsing. By achieving a balance of these two mentalities, you’ll maintain your sobriety in the long run as well as find genuine joy and fulfillment in your life.

We’re going to share with you five tips that are going to promote both of these mentalities.

1. Manage your stress

There are two different phases of handling stress: preventative care, and management. 

The former are practices you engage in to minimize or mostly eliminate stress from your life — this includes mental health care, journaling, prayer, meditation, time in nature and more.

The latter are the steps you take to manage (and release) stress when it arises — in addition to being able to use the above practices, this also includes breathwork, grounding, exercise and more.

2. Find ways to have fun

As much as the holidays are supposed to be merry and bright, they don’t always feel that way. When you’re early on in the recovery process, you might still be mourning your previous life, habits and friends, and this is normal and healthy, even if they were dangerous.

It can be unhealthy and risky to your sobriety to allow yourself to wallow in the past though. As you release your old lifestyle, find ways to genuinely have fun in your new one.

3. Attend (or host) sober gatherings

Some sober gatherings are professionally hosted by organizations in the recovery community; others are hosted by a friend or acquaintance; more could be hosted by people who might have been in recovery for much longer or are recovered and looking to give back. 

You can host one yourself. Whether you want to make it a dinner party, backyard BBQ, game night, movie night or potluck is up to you. This is a great opportunity not only to promote your sobriety but help your family members and friends better understand your new lifestyle.

4. Have pre-planned responses

One of the most common ways that people end up giving in to temptation is when they’re unprepared to say no, don’t know how to say no, or feel bad saying no.

Having a few pre-planned responses is an easy way to navigate these situations. A simple “No thanks” or “I’m not drinking tonight” is a perfectly acceptable answer; you don’t owe anyone an explanation further than that. You can also always keep a non-alcoholic drink in your hand so that if someone offers to get you a drink, you can simply hold up yours as non-verbal “no thanks.”

5. Seek professional help

Sometimes the simplest and best way to promote your sobriety is to be proactive. Join a support group even if you haven’t relapsed; practice mental health care even if you feel fine; continue going to individual or group therapy sessions. 

You’re likely already engaging in several of these practices as you’re actively going through recovery, but all of them can be continued long after your treatment plan has been completed.

We’re here to help you every step of the way.

Receive confidential support today

Here at Mazzitti and Sullivan Counseling, we specialize in mental health services, counseling and substance use recovery services.

Send us a message today to see how we can best support you in your sobriety.