HOLIDAY Triggers & a Few Tools to Cope


Feeling pretty anxious this time of year? Believe us: you’re not alone. In this blog post, our very own in-house recovery warrior Rachel Connor shares several helpful tips for a more peaceful and manageable holiday season.

Many of us have triggers that cause us to want to find relief or medicate, and this can be intensified over the holidays. We interact with our families more, we feel the pressure to go to any and every party we get invited to, and we may experience a heightened sense of loneliness or disappointment. The short, cold days don’t help either.

This time of year can be a major source of stress for so many reasons. If you’re like me, you get busy to distract yourself, and you have your go-to behavior that might seem like a quick fix to get through it. I find when I engage in my avoidant or medicating behaviors, I feel a short time of “relief”, followed by a tremendous amount of shame, guilt, and disappointment. 


I by no means have the magical answer to this very layered and complicated question. But I would love to share a few things that have helped me recently and some ways I’m choosing to do things differently this holiday season.

1. Understanding what my triggers are

It’s so important to know what gets me into the craziness of anxiety, codependency, and spinning in my head. The cycle starts something like this:  “I can’t believe she just said that to me!” “Did you see the way he just looked at me?” And the always productive, “What do you think they meant by that….?” - because I am SUCH a good mind reader.

I can find myself in a storm of projection, fear, frustration and wanting to flee or fight. These are the mindsets we can so easily slip into. Being proactive in learning to recognize when this is happening is essential for me. When I am able to recognize and identify who or what is bothering me, I am able to move to the next stage: reflection. 

2. Reflecting on what I am feeling 

This doesn’t need to be a long process. I can simply check in with myself. Where am I feeling this in my body? How old do I feel? What can I notice and allow myself to feel before I take any action at all?

When I take the time to notice and validate my own feelings, the situation feels more manageable almost instantly - not because I have the solution, but because I simply took the time to identify my feelings and to begin to explore why a particular situation feels triggering.

3. Using a Tool 

Tools are things we learn to implement rather than engaging in some unhealthy behavior (i.e. overeating, using a chemical substance to medicate, reacting, isolating, avoiding, gossiping, raging, picking a fight, etc.).

One might ask, where do I get these magical tools? I have found that this might look different for each of us. My own personal tools have come to me via therapy sessions (both individual and group), 12-step meetings, reaching out to my community, reading informative and encouraging materials, guidance from pastors, radio programs, yoga classes, best friend’s couches, and countless phone conversations.

I’ve discovered that the key is this: Be honest with yourself and others about what you need, and then DO THE WORK. Don’t try to avoid doing the work. It is invaluable, and there aren’t any short cuts to it. It’s always there, and I feel it has served me to put in the time attaining the tools versus wasting so much time in my own crazy, spinning, diseased brain of codependency and unhealthy patterns. 

In closing, I encourage you to stay in touch with that little voice inside that is signaling you to pay attention to it. Don’t push it down, because it will only come out sideways - and we all know that is never fun. Just breathe, pay attention to your little boy or girl inside, and give him or her the gift of recovery this year. 

-Rachel Connor