Multitasking: 5 Recovery Tools That Also Fix Holiday Stress
This is the time of year that we talk a lot about how to handle holiday celebrations sober (I will be doing just that on The Bubble Hour in a few short days!), but I think just as important is to talk about managing the daily stress that comes along with the holidays. Holiday shopping, decorating, baking, and increased family interactions all conspire to make that glass of wine at the company holiday party/cookie exchange/family gathering look extra inviting. So what can we do to manage the extra work and emotional holiday load? I have found that many of the skills I acquired through recovery from alcoholism serve me wonderfully in dealing with holiday stress:
1. One Day At a Time
In early sobriety I could emotionally derail myself with thoughts like, “Am I really not going to drink for the rest of my life?” The anxiety over that question would quickly escalate and soon I would be in a funk that took a Herculean effort to resolve. Until I learned to stop that question, and ask a different one: “Can I manage not to drink for the rest of the day?” The panic dissolved when I learned to ask that question instead.
Often in these stressful holiday times, we will be chugging along, and some wrinkle pops up and disrupts our day: we remember a gift that needed to be ordered three days ago, we realize we double-booked ourselves, an item for which we’re shopping is sold out. Once that happens, the wheels have a tendency to fall off the wagon, and suddenly all is lost. We will never get everything done in time! This is all too much! What’s the use?
One day at a time works quite nicely in these situations. Take a calming breath, remember that the past is done, and tomorrow’s not here yet, so what can we do, right now, to help alleviate the current stress? If you can’t do something until tomorrow, then put it aside until tomorrow. If the stress is angst over something in the past, leave it in the past, where it belongs. Staying in the present moment has a miraculous way of relieving stress.
2. Acting “As If”
There was a point in my recovery that I resented both praying and 12-step meetings. At the same time, I knew I had to give both an honest try to get serious in recovery. That’s when I learned this tool: act as if you are a devoted meeting attendee, act as if getting down on your knees and praying is something that comes naturally to you. So I did, and it was incredibly awkward… at first. Over time, it became not only easy, but I got it, and gained much more than I could have ever hoped for.
So you’ve got a family function that you are dreading with every fiber of your being? Do you want to be a part of the holiday spirit, but every annoying little thing in life is dragging you down? Act as if… you want to be celebrating, you are into the holiday spirit, you have the patience of a saint. Whatever it is you wish you were, act as if you are already there. Which brings the corollary tool:
3. Fake It ’til You Make It
This tool comes in supremely handy while parenting excited children throughout this season. How often do I find myself wanting to bite their precious heads off, when all they want to do is add another item to the Christmas list? Just like tool #2, fake the excitement, and, before too long, it won’t be fake (or, with this example, they will at least go to bed at some point!)
4. People, Places and Things
One of the first things you learn in recovery circles is to avoid people, places and things that you associate with drinking. If frequenting a certain restaurant harkens memories of the “good ol’ days,” then the solution is simple, do not visit that restaurant.
Likewise, if you review your history, there are surely patterns in your past holidays that you can observe, and avoid repeating. If you know that each year you visit the Mall Santa the week before Christmas, and everyone has a meltdown due to the long lines, then either pick an off time, or find a different tradition that everyone enjoys. If shopping crowds fill you with terror, commit to online shopping. The key with this two is to take the time for some introspection, pick out the pitfalls, and make the plans to avoid them this year.
For those unfamiliar with the acronym, H.A.L.T. stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired. People in recovery are cautioned strongly to avoid reaching any of these emotional states, for they trigger us into falling into old patterns.
Realistically, nothing positive comes out of any of these states for anybody at all, but the chances of negative consequences to being hungry, angry, lonely or tired go up quite a bit during the holiday season. Staying up all night getting the cookies baked might mark one thing off your checklist, but then when you’re falling asleep at work, or screaming at your husband because you’re exhausted, you will create a whole new set of issues for yourself. Make sure that you’re eating regularly, getting as much sleep as you can, and dealing with emotional issues in the moment, so that you’re not dealing with huge issues later.
Please share your own tips: which recovery lessons help you stay sane during the holidays?
Thanks to all of these tools, I am uncharacteristically ahead of the Christmas shopping and decorating game, it’s unheard of for me to be almost done shopping in early December!
Posted on December 4, 2014, in Recovery, Self-Care and tagged acting as if, fake it until you make it, HALT, holiday stress, multitasking, one day at a time, Recovery, recovery tools, stress management, triggers. Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.