Tips for Managing Anxiety and Maintaining Sobriety During Holiday Family Functions

Guest blog by Jennifer Scott

Some people feel dread when it comes to celebrating the end-of-year holidays. Their dread often centers on having to spend the holidays with difficult family members, who somehow always manage to bring negativity to holiday events, creating the opposite of joy and cheer.

What happens when family gatherings also tend to make you stressed out and anxious? How do you keep tensions low and focus on the fun without being struck by an anxiety attack? Recalling past family gatherings, you may lack confidence that you can actually enjoy the festive season without suffering from anxiety.

This can be possible, if you implement the following tips.

Process Your Negative Emotions

It’s important not to suppress the dread or other negative emotions you are feeling about mingling with family again. But instead of just riding the wave of negative emotions, do your best to actually process these so that you eventually come to appreciate the silver lining of family functions. Write in your journal, write a fictional piece about your family, express your family hang-ups through art, meditate, or talk to a friend about your family, and try to make it your goal to see the bright side of things. Make it your intention not to allow difficult family relationships to bring you down when it’s finally time to sit across the table from grumpy Uncle Pat or have your cheek pinched by annoying Aunt Jenna.

Bring Your Pet Along

Bringing your pet along to a family holiday gathering can alleviate tensions. If it’s okay with the hosts, being able to bring your pet can help you “survive,” as your pet affectionately keeps you company. He or she can be your oasis of love and calm just in case family bickering breaks out, causing tensions to elevate.

Bring An “Orphan” Friend

Similarly, you can invite a friend along to the party who couldn’t or didn’t want to join his or her own family for the holidays. Such “orphan” friends can be lifesaving because they automatically force the family to be on better behavior throughout the family holiday event and they can inject some welcome positivity to the whole affair, making you laugh when you’d otherwise be feeling stressed or anxious. Plus, they can provide a fresh perspective on the event and the conversation that transpire. Being able to hear an outside opinion of your family members can shed some valuable light as to how to react to the same family members during similar events in the future.

Practice What You’ll Say

If you suffer from anxiety but also are in addiction recovery trying to permanently ditch alcohol, it’s valuable to practice what you’re going to say to relatives who may not understand why you’re not drinking or who try to get you to drink. A simple, straightforward statement that you won’t be drinking is the best approach to keep your relatives from making you feel uncomfortable. Practice what you’ll say with your therapist or a close friend before the event.

Remember, recovery is made possible when you declare your intention to the world that you won’t be drinking ever again. Studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy is especially helpful in achieving and maintaining recovery, even when surrounded by those who imbibe.

A Takeaway

By implementing the above tips, you can do a lot to overcome the stress and anxiety-fueling tensions that sometimes arise during holiday family functions. Counting on support to get you through, and engaging in emotional processing and intention setting, are some ways you can move past the negatives and focus on the positives of such events. If you are a recovering addict, firm up your resolve to set boundaries and use the event as an opportunity to present your confident, sober self to your family members.


For professional help coping with anxiety or alcohol/drug concerns, contact us at Gatewell.

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