From hectic schedules to financial pressures and family drama, the Christmas season brings a number of stressors. To cope, you might be tempted to abuse alcohol, especially if you already struggle with a mental health condition like depression or alcohol use disorder.
Unfortunately, abusing alcohol will only make your mental health worse. Instead, follow these seven tips to enjoy a calm, sober Christmastime.
1. Plan Your Alcohol Consumption
Most get-togethers during the Christmas period feature large amounts of alcohol. To keep yourself from drinking too much, plan exactly how much alcohol you’ll consume.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that women have no more than one drink in one day and men have no more than two drinks in one day.
However, if you live with alcohol use disorder or another mental health problem, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether. Make this easier by bringing your own non-alcoholic drinks to any celebrations you attend.
2. Prepare For Triggers
Triggers are people, places, feelings, or other stimuli that make you want to abuse alcohol. Make a list of triggers you may encounter throughout the festive season. Then, plan how you’ll deal with them.
For example, if a certain family member triggers you, you can plan to keep your distance from them at family gatherings. You could even skip any gatherings they attend.
Similarly, if you’re triggered by the smell of alcohol, you can plan to only attend alcohol-free events.
If that’s not possible, keep a list of coping skills to use if you get triggered. These skills might include deep breathing, going for a walk around the block, or retreating to a quiet room to meditate.
3. Have An Exit Plan
If you’re at an event and feel close to using alcohol, leave as soon as possible. Although it might feel awkward, your mental health should be your top priority.
To minimize the discomfort, plan what you’ll say if someone asks why you’re leaving early. Some people make up excuses, such as “I have to get up early tomorrow” or “I have to go walk my dog.” Others simply explain that they need to take care of their mental health.
Also, drive yourself to all events. That way, you won’t have to wait around for anyone else before you can leave.
4. Connect With Sober Friends
During the festive period, you might feel like the only person not enjoying alcohol. Reduce these feelings by spending time with sober friends.
In addition, if possible, bring at least one sober friend to any events that include alcohol. You’ll feel better about not drinking, and your friends can support you if you feel tempted to indulge.
You’ll hear personal experiences and coping tips that help prepare you for a sober holiday season. Nearly all cities have at least one alcohol abuse support group, so even if you’re traveling, you should be able to find one.
5. Share Your Feelings
When you ignore poor mental health, it will likely get worse. That’s why you should discuss your struggles with supportive friends or family members. You might find that some of your loved ones share similar worries, which can help you feel less alone.
You can also seek professional help. If you’re away from home, many mental health professionals offer support via phone call, text, or video chat.
6. Practice Self-Care
During this busy time of year, you might forget to take care of yourself. This can take a serious toll on your mental well-being. Throughout the season, practice self-care by:
- getting at least seven hours of sleep per night
- eating healthy foods
- drinking plenty of water
- exercising regularly
- making time for relaxing activities, such as journaling, meditation, or yoga
Also, consider spending less time on social media. When you view posts about seemingly ideal Christmases, you may feel worse about your own situation and develop symptoms of depression.
7. Start Your Own Traditions
Some people find alcohol-filled get-togethers too triggering to attend. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas without alcohol.
For instance, you could watch holiday movies, play board games, or hold a baking contest. You could even host your own sober Christmas dinner with festive, non-alcoholic drinks like apple cider, eggnog, and hot chocolate.
Another popular holiday tradition is volunteering. Various places need volunteers this time of year, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens, hospitals, and nursing homes.
No matter where you volunteer, you’ll feel a sense of purpose and gratitude that can strengthen your mental health and prepare you for a healthy, sober new year.
If you or someone you love feels unable to stop abusing alcohol, please contact a Recovering Champions specialist. We offer comprehensive, evidence-based treatments to help people stay alcohol-free, including individual therapy, family therapy, and medication-assisted treatment.