How to Cope with Stress & Overwhelm During the Holidays

During the holidays, we’re supposed to enjoy time with loved ones and take some much-needed time out. For most of us, the end of the year is a time to wind down, reflect, and restore our energy. Yet we often end up feeling like our stress levels rise as our social calendar fills up and our bank balance empties. Pleasing others often comes before taking care our ourselves, and we may struggle to say no. For those in recovery, the holiday season can be even more stressful as exposure to booze-filled situations can increases our anxiety.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We have some strategies to decrease your stress levels so that you can enjoy this much-needed downtime.

  1. Learn how to set boundaries. It can be hard to say no to a loved one — we don’t want to hurt their feelings, or we may struggle to say no to Mom. But it’s important to honor our needs first. Before saying yes, consider if you have time to do what is being asked of you, or if it will add to your stress. You don’t need to feel guilty for putting yourself first. It may feel strange initially, but you quickly get used to it, and your body will thank you.
  2. Decrease stress levels with exercise. We know that exercise improves immunity and helps us with our health goals, but did you know it is a great stress reliever too? It can help us process the increased levels of stress hormones circulating in our bloodstream, leaving us feeling recharged and destressed at the end of a workout.
  3. Consider not shopping. Standing in line at stores for hours on end, lugging around bags of items, and getting stressed out about whether you’ll meet everyone’s expectations could be avoided altogether. It is perfectly okay to say to your family that you don’t want to participate in gift giving this year. Alternatively, you could contribute to charity in your gift recipients’ honor: donate to a nonprofit, sponsor an animal, or volunteer your time at a soup kitchen.
  4. Prioritize self-care. Especially over the holidays, it’s important to set aside time for ourselves. Block out at least one or two evenings in your calendar for caring for yourself. If you can, even take a personal day. That could include taking a bath and reading your new book, making a home-cooked meal, catching up on your favorite show, going to the movies, making hot chocolate and curling up on the sofa, or hitting your favorite yoga class. Whatever it is, make sure it rejuvenates you and restores your energy levels.
  5. Have an escape plan. Sometimes family gatherings can be fraught with high levels of emotion, especially if you have a family with a history of addiction. Even if you don’t, family members are not used to having everyone together and it can get overwhelming. Knowing that beforehand, and planning for it, can make all the difference.
    • Tell family how long you plan to stay, even if it is just for the meal.
    • Drive yourself so that you don’t have to rely on a ride home.
    • Know that it is okay to change your mind.
    • Set boundaries with family members about certain topics that you know can cause arguments, like politics! Tell your family you love them, but you don’t want to ruin the day with disagreements, and ask for a pause on the discussion.
    • Ask family members if they’d like a walk after the meal so that you can discharge some of the tension and get some fresh air.


Whatever you decide to do during the holidays, make sure that you take time to relax before 2019!

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our two core programs – Ammon Recovery Scholars Program and Ammon Empowerment Workshop Program. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here.