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Managing Holiday Stress

Stressed out Caucasian man wearing red Santa hat screams in disbelief on white background

While the holiday season can be a time of great fun and festive celebrations all over town for you and your friends or family, for many gay men it can be a time of increased stress. These holiday stressors can include:

  • Not having a partner at a particularly “romantic” time of year
  • Having family visiting who “get into” your business, or not having family nearby, and missing them
  • Lack of money for buying gifts, or lack of energy to keep up with social demands
  • Dealing with Mother Nature at Winter, including drier skin, fewer daylight hours, and cold/flu season

Special stressors for people in recovery from alcohol or drugs abound, too – especially in a holiday season saturated in egg nog, mulled wine, and champagne. Dealing with all these stressors means developing skills to cope with them. Here are some tips to help reduce the stress:

  • Make a list of all you want to do this holiday season. Then give a rating/score to each item, such as 1-10 or 1-100. Work down the list from your highest priority down, and see which items you can simplify, delay, or even drop altogether.
  • Allow yourself to take it easy and not try to do everything – you’re not Martha Stewart!
  • Reach out for support from friends, family, and supportive professionals — I always call the holidays “The Therapist’s Busy Season!”
  • Set realistic goals and expectations of yourself and others
  • Develop and use a budget for your gift-shopping list, and stick to your maximum
  • Shop online whenever you can to save time and the stress of mall parking and crowds
  • Be assertive and learn to say “no” when the demands on your time get overwhelming.
  • Focus on being with people who support you, and distance yourself from relatives or “friends” who aren’t supportive.
  • Take extra care to eat healthy foods and get enough sleep/exercise.

For people in recovery, extra tips for coping can include:

  • Going to extra 12-Step meetings beyond your normal weekly meeting schedule
  • Plan ahead to visit local meetings at your destination if you’re traveling out of town
  • Increase the frequency of communication with your Sponsor
  • Surround yourself with sober friends who “get it” on why the holidays can be tough
  • Do some extra journaling and write a holiday story
  • Be extra-aware of the holiday-related “people, places, and things” that trigger you to drink/use
  • Plan ahead to do some fun events that don’t involve alcohol, especially for New Year’s Eve

Remember the “reason for the season”, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, or Kwanzaa – sharing love and good will with people you care about. By taking the time to take care of yourself, you’ll leave plenty of time for being naughty and nice at the same time!


If you want support for your specific stressors at the holidays, give me a call at 310-726-4357, or email me at

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