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How to Deal with Holiday Stress

Nov 22, 2022

Holiday stress affects everyone differently, but it can be especially problematic for professionals who routinely turned to drugs or alcohol to cope with it in the past. The need to self-medicate to handle the demands of attending company parties can affect your health and recovery efforts. Learning how to deal with holiday stress in productive ways can help you enjoy the best of the season without the risk of a worst-case outcome.

For executives and other high-earning professionals in recovery, holiday stress can lead to resentment and fear, which can set you up for relapse. Feelings of loneliness or anxiety can drive us to isolate, ignore our recovery commitments and eventually lead to drinking. If you are not emotionally secure or spiritually fit, being around people binge drinking at holiday gatherings is another risk. Having an exit plan in mind when you feel uncomfortable at a holiday party is helpful. It’s also essential to focus on service work and self-care during this stressful time and seek to connect with sponsors, sponsees, and other supportive people when you feel your peace of mind is being threatened.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-270-1753.


Managing a typical amount of stress can be challenging for professionals in recovery. The added stress of the holidays can make avoiding alcohol even more difficult. Alcohol often becomes a routine part of holiday parties and gatherings where people may be drinking around you. Stress can also come from depression or anxiety increasing during the holiday season when someone feels isolated or lonely. Changes in your routine can add stress and change your daily behaviors. Demands on your time from work and personal obligations can create turmoil. Professionals who travel may find themselves sleeping less, avoiding mindfulness or meditation, drinking more coffee, and consuming less nutritious meals routinely. Stepping away from your recovery disciplines and enduring this kind of stress for weeks without effective management can lead some people to return to drinking, even if they tell themselves it’s just to “get through the holidays.”


The holiday season may feel like one endless party as everything between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve gets celebrated, typically with alcohol as an expected item at every gathering. Practicing mindfulness at every party can help you enjoy yourself, bring joy to your peers, enjoy the company of others, and limit your risk of relapse. One way to be mindful of your recovery is to avoid socializing with toxic or unhealthy people at holiday parties. Politely decline any offers of alcoholic beverages. Remember that you do not need to justify your decision not to drink. You may want to attend parties with a trusted friend or family member aware of your sobriety so they can be supportive in these environments.


Even if you feel confident in your ability to avoid drinking, having an exit plan always will be a valuable resource. Staying longer at holiday parties often means spending more time with people who are increasingly intoxicated or belligerent. Rather than endure these times and not enjoy yourself, create a plan to politely excuse yourself and leave the situation. It may be moving to a different area of the holiday party or leaving the venue altogether. Remaining in control of your exit can be helped by having your own transportation to and from holiday events. You can even serve as a designated driver for others who may want to leave safely. Exit plans can come ahead of an event as well. If you think a holiday gathering will be especially risky, you can always let people know you’ve got prior commitments at that time.


Self-care is vital for professionals in recovery all year long and can get neglected when demands on your time increase during the holidays. Protecting your work-life balance is a fundamental part of sticking to your sober goals right now. Eating well, continuing with prayer or meditation, journaling, staying hydrated, and getting sufficient sleep can all be part of an effective self-care regimen. Giving yourself incentives for making healthy choices is worth exploring, too. For example, it may be treating yourself to a massage, a mani-pedi, or a visit to a favorite restaurant as a reward for good self-care practices at the end of a busy workweek. You can also reward yourself emotionally by spending time with loved ones, donating your time or resources to a cause you believe in, catching up with old friends, and setting aside time for other experiences you don’t usually get to enjoy.


Headwaters helps professionals who need treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders or other types of substance use issues. The world-class treatment team understands executives’ unique career demands and how they can exacerbate a drinking or drug problem. By offering personalized treatment in a private setting, Headwaters helps doctors, attorneys, athletes, and other individuals learn the skills to overcome the cycle of substance use and live productive lives again in sobriety. In addition, treatment at Headwaters uses a holistic approach to address much more than sobriety. A confidential program also can include mental health therapies to aid in helping clients learn to manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, and trauma that can directly impact their ability to stay sober. Holistic services at Headwaters also include traditional massage, spa reflexology, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, and more.

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Bedroom at HeadwatersHanley Foundation’s Headwaters is a non-profit addiction treatment program for executives, public figures, other affluent individuals, and their loved ones. Headwaters offers leading-edge, personalized clinical care for mental health and substance use disorders, and our professional and compassionate staff can help you achieve holistic wellness. To start your healing journey, call 561-270-1753 today.

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