Treatment tips

How to manage holiday stress + triggers

Find out how to manage holiday stress and triggers with these 6 actionable tips for those undergoing opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment.

Ophelia team
Holidays: managing stress and triggers
Icon of shield with check mark inside
Fact checked by

The holiday season can be complicated for those dealing with opioid use disorder (OUD). Though the season is typically associated with merriment and joy, people with OUD may experience additional stress and other negative feelings during this period, leading to setbacks in their OUD treatment journeys. Even with these challenges, successfully managing holiday triggers during treatment is possible. Try these actionable tips to help you with the unique obstacles of addiction and the holidays.

6 Tips for navigating the holiday season

1. Be selective about accepting invitations

You may receive a wide variety of invitations to different holiday-related events and gatherings, and it’s easy to feel obligated to accept them all. Instead of always saying yes, carefully consider which events you want to attend. If you know that certain people are triggers for you and are likely to attend specific events, it may be best to decline those invitations. Avoiding these unhealthy situations is key to maintaining your treatment progress.

When it comes to the events you feel are safe to attend, be wary of over-committing yourself — trying to do too much will only result in you feeling overwhelmed. Instead, prioritize a few of the most important events and offer to schedule other visits after the holidays. Not only does this help alleviate the pressure of too many holiday invitations, but it also gives you something to look forward to beyond the festivities.

2. Maintain your OUD treatment plan

It’s normal to want to take a break from everything during the holidays and just relax, but make sure to keep up with your established OUD treatment plan. Make sure you have enough medication supply available to get you through the holidays or access to a pharmacy for refills wherever you’re going. Remember to continue taking medication as prescribed; if you accidentally miss a day, do not double up. If you scheduled appointments with your care team, be sure to attend them as planned.

Avoiding alcohol and other triggers is also key. Even one “day off” from your treatment plan could have negative consequences, so stick to it and reach out to your care team if you need help. 

3. Create an accountability strategy

It’s reasonable to want to participate in holiday activities even if you don’t know exactly how you’ll feel or what might trigger you. The idea isn’t to avoid everything altogether; it’s to think ahead about some of the challenges or obstacles you may encounter. Once you know your plans and main concerns, discuss them with your care team and create a strategy that specifically addresses each potential challenge. For example, it may be a good idea to bring along a trusted person to holiday events to help keep you accountable.

You may also want to create an exit strategy ahead of time in case you encounter a stressful or triggering environment. Additionally, plan out your care appointment schedule for the holiday season so you know when you’ll be able to check in. 

4. Create time for self-care

The holidays are often busy and can easily leave you without a moment to yourself if you’re not careful. Make sure you leave time for healthy self-care activities in addition to your holiday-related commitments. Self-care can take many different forms depending on your needs and preferences. Getting some exercise, eating food you enjoy, practicing mindfulness, and spending time in nature are all great options. Find one (or more) that works for you to practice this holiday season. Taking walks can be a great way to catch up with friends and family and get some fresh air.

5. Practice gratitude

You can’t eliminate all stress from your life, but you can manage it—and practicing gratitude is one of the best ways to do that. Practicing gratitude is all about intentionally extending grace to yourself and others. Reflecting on the positive things in your life helps put challenges into perspective.

Try to be thankful for what you have during difficult moments over the holidays. For example, reflecting on the progress you’re making during treatment can help you find the strength to push through momentary challenges and keep moving forward. 

6. Create a budget for seasonal expenses

Financial stress at any point in the year can cause significant stress that triggers the risk of relapse. The holidays, unfortunately, are often a time of extra financial strain between buying gifts, purchasing additional food, and possibly paying for travel. It may not be possible to eliminate all this additional stress, but you can limit it by creating a budget ahead of time. 

Your holiday budget will help ensure you don’t spend more than you can afford and give you peace of mind. Clear guidelines will go a long way toward limiting financial stresses and triggers during this period. If you’re unsure where to start, you can find free holiday budget templates online to help.  

Dedicated care wherever you are this holiday season 

There can be lots of disruptions and obstacles during the holiday season, but these factors don’t have to jeopardize your OUD care. Your dedicated online Ophelia care team will help you successfully navigate the holidays. We’ll make sure you have access to the medication and support you need to ensure treatment fits into your plans this season.


Treatment that works is right at your fingertips.

Get started