The Impact of Holiday Stress

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Impact of Holiday Stress

During the holiday season, many individuals may find themselves indulging in more alcohol or substances than usual. Whether it’s unwinding with a glass of bourbon, enjoying Aunt Sue’s eggnog,

or partaking in festive cocktails at parties, the temptation to overindulge can be challenging for those struggling with substance use disorders.

Studies have revealed a significant increase in unhealthy drinking habits during the holidays. People may justify their excessive alcohol consumption by saying things like, “It’s the holiday season, so it doesn’t count,”

or “I always have a few glasses of wine when we decorate.” Even individuals who typically drink moderately throughout the year may permit themselves to exceed their usual limits during this time.

The combination of holiday stress, feelings of loneliness or sadness, and societal pressure to engage in celebratory behaviors can contribute to the holiday blues.

For individuals in recovery or at risk of substance abuse, these emotions can be particularly challenging to navigate during the holiday season.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or experiencing holiday blues, it’s essential to seek support from trusted family members, friends, or professional resources. Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available.

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According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 38% of respondents stated that their stress levels increased during the holiday season. This heightened stress can lead to various negative outcomes such as physical illness,

depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. Some common reasons associated with this behavior include time constraints, financial pressure, gift-giving expectations, and family gatherings.

Interestingly, another survey revealed that the average American drinks 27% more during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reports that a significant portion of the $49 billion annual profits of the distilled spirits industry comes from the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

However, the consequences of increased alcohol consumption during this time are severe. New Year’s Day is recognized as the deadliest day for alcohol-related crashes, with 58% of crashes being alcohol-related, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

They also note a 116% spike in drunk driving-related deaths on this day, making it the most dangerous holiday for drunk driving. Additionally, alcohol-related deaths during the holidays can result from alcohol poisoning, incidents at home such as falls or domestic violence, and accidental deaths involving firearms.

Given these surveys, statistics, and behaviors, a question arises: why does the holiday season, which promotes idealized notions, magical folklore, and messages of peace and goodwill, often coincide with increased stress and anxiety?

To shed light on this phenomenon, let’s explore some common categories reported by individuals experiencing holiday stress.

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Before You Celebrate—Plan Ahead

During the holiday season, it’s important to be mindful of the potential risks and consequences associated with alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD encompasses various conditions such as alcohol abuse,

alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. Scientific studies have shown how alcohol can impact the brain and body, highlighting the importance of understanding its effects.

When it comes to alcohol, everyone responds differently, but certain facts remain clear. Intoxication impairs decision-making abilities, and there’s no quick way to sober up. It’s crucial not to underestimate the effects of alcohol during this festive time.

If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Offer a variety of alcohol-free drinks like water, juices, and sparkling sodas. These options can counteract alcohol’s dehydrating effects and provide alternatives for guests.

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Provide a range of healthy foods and snacks. Eating food can slow down alcohol absorption, reduce peak alcohol levels in the body, and minimize stomach irritation and gastrointestinal distress.

Prioritize the safety of your guests by promoting designated drivers, taxis, or alternative transportation options. Never allow anyone who has consumed alcohol to drive.

If you’re a parent, familiarize yourself with underage drinking laws and set a good example for your children.

Finally, have a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

For more information about alcohol use disorder and its treatment, please consult reputable sources such as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Mayo Clinic, and SAMHSA’s National Helpline.


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Recognizing the Increased Risk of Relapse and Substance Abuse

According to a survey conducted by Morning Recovery, alcohol consumption among the average American skyrockets by 100% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Shockingly, around 70% of Americans are more prone to excessive drinking during the holiday season, leading to about 36% experiencing unpleasant “rough mornings” that dampen their festive spirit.

The impact spills over into work life as well, with the average American being late to work three times and calling in sick twice during this period. Additionally, seven out of ten individuals feel that holiday hangovers and their lingering effects contribute to a decrease in productivity.

However, it’s not just alcohol that sees an upward trend during this time. Treatment center experts in Michigan have observed an increase in the use of various mind-altering substances throughout the holiday season.

“Despite the societal acceptance of alcohol, its harmful effects persist,” stated Paula Lipinski, CEO of Traverse City’s Addiction Treatment Services (ATS). However, it is not just alcohol that poses a concern during the holiday season.

There has been a notable surge in the use of hard drugs in Northern Michigan, primarily due to increased availability. Additionally, the added stressors of the holiday season put both current drug users and individuals in recovery at a significantly higher risk.

During the holidays, not only does the consumption of drugs and alcohol increase among current users, but the likelihood of relapse among individuals in recovery also rises sharply.

According to intake records from a treatment center in New Jersey, 25% of those seeking help in any given month had previously sought assistance for substance abuse. However, during the holiday period, this percentage more than doubled,

with 60% of those seeking help having received treatment before and now experiencing a relapse.


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Reasons Why Holiday Stress Can Make Addiction Worse

The Holiday Season: Factors Contributing to Increased Substance Abuse

  1. Financial Pressure: Addiction can already strain one’s finances, and the holiday season adds additional expenses. The pressure to buy gifts for loved ones, attend parties, decorate, and travel can lead to financial stress. This strain on the budget may drive individuals to turn to substances as a way to escape their worries.
  2. Holiday Stress: The Christmas season is often considered the most stressful time of the year. With numerous events, gatherings, gift shopping, and decorating, the demands can become overwhelming. Substance abuse may appear as a temporary solution to cope with the stress and provide a break from reality, albeit with consequences later on.
  3. Depression and Anxiety: Many people experience heightened levels of depression and anxiety during the holidays. Whether due to seasonal changes, the loss of loved ones, or other factors, these emotional challenges can contribute to an increase in substance abuse.
  4. Isolation: The holiday season can leave some individuals feeling overwhelmed by social gatherings, while others may find themselves alone. Unfortunately, addiction thrives in isolation. Without support or distractions, those who are isolated may turn to unhealthy habits, including drug or alcohol use.
  5. Constant Reminders: The holiday season serves as a constant reminder of festivities, financial struggles, loneliness, and comparison to others’ experiences. These reminders, whether through social media, conversations, or advertisements, can intensify the desire to cope with substances.
  6. Celebratory Atmosphere: The holiday season often brings various celebrations and parties, creating opportunities for increased alcohol consumption. The guise of celebration can mask escalating alcohol addiction, making it go unnoticed.
  7. Postponing Help: Some individuals may justify indulging in drugs or alcohol during the holidays to address their addiction in the New Year. Similar to a holiday food binge, they promise themselves and their loved ones that they will seek help or get clean after the festivities end. However, real change requires active commitment and effort, not just empty promises.
  8. Increased Leisure Time: The holiday season often provides additional time off work, which can inadvertently lead to more opportunities for engaging in addictive behaviors. Without the usual work routine to occupy their time, individuals may find themselves diving into their vices more frequently.

It is crucial to recognize these factors and seek support during the holiday season to maintain mental and physical well-being. Remember, reaching out for help is a brave and essential step towards recovery.


  • Anderer, D. (2019). 9 Out of 10 Americans Say Christmas Is the Most Stressful Time of Year: How to Cope. Study Finds. Link

Flipping the Switch: Embracing a Positive Shift this Holiday Season

As we enter the holiday season, let’s consider the incredible opportunity December brings to embark on a transformative journey toward sobriety. Amidst the festivities, this time can serve as a powerful catalyst for a fresh start and a new life.

With available time off or the ability to take a break, you can focus solely on yourself, dedicating your energy to personal growth and well-being. This intentional pause from the holiday stress allows you to prioritize your own needs, a decision that family and friends will truly appreciate.

Remember, the voices of countless individuals who have overcome addiction—will remind you that even your toughest day in sobriety surpasses the greatest moment spent in the clutches of addiction.

So, let’s flip the switch and embrace this opportunity to rewrite our story. It begins with a commitment to ourselves, a commitment to a brighter future filled with hope, resilience, and genuine happiness.


Disclosure Statement: At, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. This means that when you purchase through our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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