Staying Healthy for the Holidays – Part Two

By Amanda Neilson, Manager of Clinical Practice

Holiday pressure can make taking good care of ourselves difficult, but it’s not impossible. Below are tips to support all of us in prioritizing our self-care, and reducing the opportunities for problematic, short-term coping strategies.

1. Acknowledge the risk

Many people have difficulty coping over the holidays. Three reasons include:

  • Environment: People, music, locations, festivities, advertisements and emotions may bring you to want to engage in behaviours that are unhealthy for you.
  • Stress: Shopping, cooking, seeing relatives – all while trying to live your regular life can be difficult.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Expecting the holidays to be “perfect” can lead to disappointment and you may rely on old patterns in order to cope.


2. Have a plan

Prepare for holiday events and know what to do before things go wrong. Ask yourself:

  • Why?: Do I need to attend? Can I give myself permission not to go if it doesn’t feel right?
  • Where?: Am I ready to handle this type of environment?
  • Who?: Can I bring someone with me? Is everyone here safe?
  • What?: What is my escape plan?
  • When?: When will I arrive? How long will I stay? When will I leave?


3. Practise what to say

Sometimes you’re invited to participate in holiday activities and events that could put you in situations that conflict with your well-being. Practising how to say no can help you stay happy and healthy:

  • I won’t be able to make it this time
  • I wish I could make it work
  • I’m focusing on other things right now
  • Sounds lovely, thanks, but I can’t
  • I’m not taking on new things right now
  • It’s not a good idea for me right now
  • Thanks for the invite but, no, I can’t make it
  • I’ve got too much on my plate at the moment
  • I appreciate you thinking of me but…
  • I won’t be able to help at this time
  • I may not be able to set aside time
  • I’m not feeling well


4. Use your support system

Holidays can be stressful! Reaching out to safe people or communities can help.

  • Identify the people in your life who you feel safe with and supported by. Make sure to make time for them.
  • Talk to people in your support system about what you need and how they can help you over the holidays.


5. Find the holiday spirit

Look beyond the traditions of the season. Can you practise:

  • Giving Thanks: Practising finding gratitude in the moment, even if it’s a chaotic one. Keep a list of things you are grateful for in your pocket to read through in tough situations.
  • Sharing Love: Spend time with those who encourage, support and inspire you.
  • Celebrating Beginnings: Each day is a new day!



For those practising abstinence over the holiday season:

For those practising harm reduction over the holiday season:

For parents and caregivers:

Need to get extra support over the holidays:


Holiday tips adapted from the Brandford Health Services Holiday Season Relapse Prevention (https://bradfordhealth.com/holiday-season-relapse-prevention)


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