Holidays are a time when our normal lives stop, and we pay more attention to celebrating and enjoying life, being with family and friends and taking part in special religious observances.  The winter holidays in particular can be a wonderful time of joyful celebration, but also a time of great stress, of disrupted schedules, of feeling forced to engage with people with whom we unresolved tensions, and of having to live with the disappointments of reality not always lining up with ideals.

People in recovery may have added challenges, as holiday celebrations may involve alcohol or drug use, and there may be some fear that people may not appreciate the temptations you’re facing. Here are a few ways that you can deal with the tensions of the holidays, making sure to take care of yourself and have a holiday to be grateful for.

Don’t be afraid to take some “me” time when you need it

Isolating yourself totally and losing yourself in loneliness can be very unhealthy and bring on feelings of despair. However, being with people all the time can also be extremely stressful, so it is very important that you take some time to be by yourself, regroup, and relax.

Prayer, mediation, speaking with a supportive friend, or just taking time to do something enjoyable like watch a movie or read a book can all be really important ways to regroup and relax in the midst of a stressful situation. The key is knowing yourself and your moods and needs, striving to live a mindful and balanced life.  If you have a need for either support from others, or time to yourself, find a way to ask for it.

One thing that many people find helpful is regular exercise, physical activities to care for yourself and relieve stress. Take some time out in a yoga studio, or find a place to walk, or people with whom you can play a favorite sport. It may prove to be very helpful to your well-being as a whole.

Go into a situation prepared for the feelings it will bring up, and think of ways to cope

If you decide to be with family, there may be many potentially stressful situations that you can prepare for ahead of time. Think about things you might get asked, and responses or ways to politely request a change of subject if you feel uncomfortable.  Have the phone number of a sponsor, therapist, or supportive friend you can call if things ever feel too tense to handle.

If you do decide to go to a party where there will be people will be consuming alcohol, you can request an alternative beverage, or bring one yourself.  Be aware of yourself, think creatively, and keep your recovery in the forefront of your mind.

Share your stories instead of getting into an argument

If you are perusing sobriety, but another family member is not, you may feel some tension, as he or she may view your pursuit of healing defensively, out of fear of being judged. Remember that you can not control anyone else’s behavior; you are only responsible for yourself.

Rather then try to cajole someone into recovery, it’s better to be understanding and gentle.  Speak out your own experience that will allow them to appreciate your story rather than argue with you.  Respect that they may not be ready for their own healing, but can learn to respect your choice to pursue sobriety.

Learning how to let go of resentments, and show respect to others will be the primary way people will show respect for you as well.