How to Cope With Holiday Stress

Nov 27, 2022

It is no secret that the holidays can be very stressful for some people. For a variety of reasons, this time of year can perhaps be the most difficult for many. If you are struggling with substance use disorder (SUD), the stress of the holidays might even cause your addiction to escalate. 

If you already abuse substances, the pressure of the holiday season can cause you to drink more alcohol or seek out drugs more often in an effort to cope. It is important to identify healthy strategies for dealing with the anxiety and tension you may experience this time of year. 

What Causes Holiday Stress?

First, let’s discuss a few reasons for holiday stress. These may be self-inflicted stressors or pressure applied as a result of the expectations of others. A few examples could include:

  • Financial struggles
  • Obligatory gatherings
  • Increased temptation
  • Exhaustion

Financial Struggles

Financial burdens and the holidays tend to go hand in hand. Many people place such a focus on gifts and buying for others that they put themselves in a less-than-comfortable position financially. According to an article published by LendingTree on holiday debt in December of 2021, “[M]ore than a third of consumers (36%) incurred holiday debt” in 2021.

This is a problem for several reasons. First, the holidays should not be about gifts. Instead, they are meant to be spent celebrating and enjoying loved ones and time together. Second, overextending yourself financially creates long-term problems that can be difficult to resolve. Additionally, if you are struggling with SUD, you are likely already financially strained. Continuing down this road can lead to risk-taking and further issues. 

Obligatory Gatherings

Family get-togethers and parties are always a big thing around the holidays. Whether you want an invite or not, chances are, you are expected to attend. Spending time with the ones you love is extremely valuable and should be something you enjoy. 

However, if you are struggling with addiction, spending time around people whom you fear might ask questions or call you out can be dreadful. Feeling obligated to attend events with others can be stressful in recovery too. If there is someone or a group of people who can be triggering for you, feeling like you have to be around these people can be extremely stressful. 

Often, boundaries have to be set in recovery when it comes to spending time with certain people. These people are most likely close to you, sometimes even family members. Knowing you need to respect the boundaries you have set as part of your recovery while also feeling pressured to attend a gathering can be very conflicting. In this case, it is important to stick to your boundaries and do your best to make the best decision for your sobriety. 

Increased Temptation

As parties and gatherings kick-off to celebrate the holidays, the opportunity for temptation increases. Many events like these can include alcohol or other substances. It is important to know what you are getting into before making the choice to attend. If you don’t feel comfortable with the environment or the crowd, skip it. No level of peer pressure or people-pleasing is worth jeopardizing your sobriety or risking overdose


All of the above-mentioned pressures and stressors can be draining. Feeling the need to spend money you may or may not have, spending time around people who may or may not support you, and attending events that could lead to temptation can take a toll on your mental health and well-being. You are often pressed for time during this season as well and should take opportunities for relaxing and practicing self-care. 

Tips for Coping With Holiday Stress

With all of these things potentially working against you this holiday season, it is important to have some strategies in place to cope with stress in a healthy way. A few guidelines for keeping your stress levels at a minimum during the holidays include:

  • Setting boundaries and sticking to them
  • Creating a budget or setting realistic expectations
  • Avoiding people or places that could pose a risk
  • Making self-care a priority
  • Taking time to relax and focus on you

You want to be able to enjoy the holiday season. After all, isn’t that the point? In order to avoid substance use, you will need to implement some strategies to ensure you stay level-headed and avoid overextending yourself. 

Don’t let the pressures to buy the perfect gift put you in a bad position. Avoid feeling the need to make an appearance at all of the parties. Most importantly, don’t put yourself in situations you are uncomfortable with to appease others. Do what you feel is best for you and your recovery goals. Ultimately, make choices that will help reduce your stress over the holidays. 

The holidays can be challenging for many. Increased stress can often lead to increased substance abuse or relapse. This being the case, it is imperative to go into the holiday season prepared with healthy ways of coping with the pressure and stressors you are sure to encounter. Renaissance Ranch offers guidance for dealing with stress during treatment and recovery and tools to help clients avoid giving in to temptation. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and could benefit from treatment, we would love to speak with you. To learn more about how we may be able to help you or a loved one, call Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898.