Surviving the Holidays: Tips for Staying Healthy and Sober

Samantha Stein
4 min readNov 22, 2022

Why is the holiday season an especially tricky time? We are told relentlessly on television, at the movies, at our workplace and at school that this time of year is the most fun, spiritual, exciting, intimate, and joyful time of the year.

In reality, however, for many people it can be a difficult time, and trigger feelings of depression and anxiety as well as powerful urges to escape, use substances, and/or act out. Some of the reasons for this are:

  1. Our actual family experience does not match the “ideal” happy family that we are expected to have. Perhaps we don’t spend this time with our family or don’t want to, or when we do it is painful or brings up old, unhappy, or even traumatic memories.
  2. We feel tremendous pressure to create the perfect experience, purchase the perfect gifts, be the perfect host, etc, leading to a perpetual feeling of “falling short” and codependency.
  3. We don’t have the money this year to buy what we would like to be able to give.
  4. We are invited to parties at work and through family and friends that we are expected to attend even if we don’t want to.
  5. We feel “something is missing” or “something is wrong with me” if we are alone.
  6. There is a tremendous cultural increase in unhealthy behaviors, including alcohol consumption, sugar consumption, over-eating, partying, drug use, lack of rest and exercise, etc., all of which contributes to an environment of excess, low-self esteem, difficulty thinking clearly, and not feeling well. Additionally, alcohol or drug use can serve as a disinhibitor and make acting-out in other ways easier.
  7. For some people, they don’t feel a spiritual connection to the holiday or they are of a different religion or spiritual practice. This creates an experience of being an “outsider” and alienation.
  8. There is tremendous pressure to have a “date” or to be part of a “couple,” and to have the holidays be highly romantic. Whether someone is part of a couple or not this pressure can be tremendous and can lead to wanting to escape feelings of loneliness or dissatisfaction.
  9. In spite of all of the pressure and expectations we are expected to be relaxed, happy, and…
Samantha Stein

I’m a writer, photographer, and psychologist who (monthly) explores self, relationships, and mental health in an ever-changing world.