We know that once Thanksgiving is over, we will be having an increase in our stress. This yearly event, when the demands for our time, energy, money, and other resources increase exponentially, and our stress levels rises accordingly, is lovingly known as "the holidays". And each year, we just seem to accept that this time of year will be stressful and continue our holiday tradition of being stressed out during the "silly season".

Some people will give some deliberate thought to all of this and decide that they don't have to keep subjecting themselves to the same level of stress and emotional distress year after year. "This year it will be different", they say to themselves and others. Of those, only a handful will actually take any action to reduce their stress by changing their old thinking, feelings, and behavior.

Changing up behavior to reduce holiday stress is a worthwhile endeavor for everyone concerned. However, for people with addiction, how holiday stress is managed (or not managed) is particularly important, because it can mean the difference between life and death. If stress is left unchecked and unmanaged it can set the recovering alcoholic or addict up for relapse.

Stress, in and of itself, does not actually cause relapse. Not actively taking steps to prevent relapse and to maintain one's spiritual, physical, and emotional health is the leading cause of relapse.

As "the holidays" consume our waking hours, the demands for our time, energy, money, and other resources increase by leaps and bounds. We experience stress. Stress is the sense that our supply of those assets will not equal the demand for them. We don't believe that we will be up to the challenge.

That belief may be true unless we make some basic changes to the ways that we deal with the holidays. Normal demands and stressors (e.g., job, family, kids' activities, ailing parents, paying bills) don't go away because it is Christmastime or Thanksgiving. They must be dealt with, along with the additional seasonal demands. The holidays do not magically endow us with additional resources to handle the increase in demands. Yet there seems to be a hidden expectation that somehow we will be automatically granted special endowments of more energy, more kindness, more patience and tolerance with others, more money, and more physical and emotional energy. Like Santa's Christmas Eve adventure, time will be suspended for us, so that we may accomplish everything on our "to do" list, and have positive energy left over to actually enjoy our families and friends.

Stress comes in, with the underlying knowledge that these magical endowments do not exist and that we will not be up to the challenges of the season. This is one reason that people "dread" the holidays. We dread being called upon to do more, spend more, be more. Even at the beginning of the season, people already feel "behind". They set out blindly, without a plan, hoping for the best, to accomplish these additional challenges without additional resources.

This year truly can be different with a little self-assessment and a little planning. Do two things now:
1) Start out making your "Holidays list". List everything that you usually do for the holidays. Don't forget the time that you spend in calling relatives and friends to find out plans, cleaning, cooking, taking things down from the attic to decorate, entertaining, Christmas cards, etc.
2) Look at your monthly budget, and make sure that you have all end of year extra expenses covered. Then figure out how much money you can afford to spend for the Holidays - total. Be thinking about how you want to use your financial resources for the Holidays. For example, how much can you afford to spend on gifts, entertaining, travel, etc.

Use these two tasks to help you organize your holiday tasks and your expenditures. These two things will help you to reduce this holiday season.

Author's Bio: 

This article is taken from my e-book, "The Recovering Person's Guide to Surviving and Thriving Through The Holidays Without Losing Your Sobriety or Your Sanity". To purchase and download this e-book or others, go to

My website (always a work in progress), has numerous articles on Addiction and Recovery, Marriage, Communication, Sexual Addiction, Mental Health, and Skill Development. Other informational resources on my website include a Recommended Readings page, a Links page, an Ask Peggy column, Surveys, and e-books. To sign up for a newsletter that will alert you to additional informational opportunities on this topics or others, go to http://www.peggyferguson.com

Dr. Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D., LADC, LMFT, Marriage/Family Therapist, Alcohol/Drug Counselor, Writer, Trainer, Consultant.