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How to Manage Stress and Overwhelm at Christmas When You Don’t Drink

This will be my second sober Christmas and, just like my kids, I feel so excited for it already. I am looking forward to decorating our (homemade, pallet-wood) tree making biscuits, planning the big lunch, what we will watch on TV and how we will spend Christmas Eve.

Manage stress and overwhelm at Christmas

Even staying at home and despite my excitement, I am starting to get a little stressed already and I imagine you might be worrying a little too. I write this post with love and some helpful tips on how to manage stress and overwhelm at Christmas when you don’t drink.

This year is so different from previous drinking years when a large part of my time and energy would be spent thinking about how much booze to buy, what to buy, when to buy it, and when we could start drinking it. The problem I find is that it is so easy to get swept up in all the craziness of this silly season and if you are trying to cut back on your drinking at the moment or if you have had some time off for Sober October for example it can be so hard to avoid throwing caution to the wind and joining in with everybody else.

sober at christmas

If you are newly sober then the thought of Christmas can turn from one of happiness and excitement to pure stress and anxiety about how to deal with the whole thing, manage your emotions and not drink through it.

Just because it’s Christmas is not a reason to throw away all your hard work or give in to temptation (and I know it’s soo hard with all the booze ads being pushed on us)  You want to start this brand new decade feeling great, healthy and strong and not feeling bloated, unhealthy or full of regret and sad that you missed it all because you were too drunk to remember it or too hungover to really appreciate this special time of year.

Here is my best advice on how to manage stress and overwhelm at Christmas when you don’t drink.

Plan Ahead

As I write there are less than 4 weeks to Christmas Day so if you haven’t started planning yet then now would be a good time to do it. Write down any events you have been invited to, make a list of what you need to have done by a certain date, any school activities, any family get togethers anything really that you have coming up, make a list and write it on your calendar.

Now is there anything stressing you out? Is there anything you can remove or get someone else to do? Do not feel forced to go to something you don’t want to and cross off anything that is making you anxious and you can skip. If you are going to a party or two, then this video I made with Clare Pooley is full of great tips about how to socialize sober.

Break everything down into small chunks and deal with one thing at a time. Dealing with things in small manageable steps is far less overwhelming than looking at a long list and feeling you have to tackle it all now!

Schedule blocks of time for yourself and stick to it.

This is super important if you feel you might get overwhelmed. In order to protect your sobriety and mental wellbeing it is essential to make some time for yourself.  If I have a lot going on, I need to have some alone time, whether that is walking the dogs by myself, doing some meditation or just escaping to be early with a book.

Self care is so important, even more so when you are having Christmas when you don’t drink. Have a look at this blog for some practical self care tips.

sober planner for christmas

Look at your calendar and write down when you can have some time just for you. Make this a priority and try to schedule it in when you know you will be struggling. Even an hour alone to unplug and reset will give you a boost and provide some much needed breathing space.

Set boundaries and don’t be afraid to say no.

This can take a bit of time and practice but learning to say ‘no’ and not feel guilty will honestly make life much easier for you and everyone else.  If you are a people pleaser like me, then this can be especially hard but it is so important.

If you are not comfortable being around people who are drinking and know you will have trouble saying no to a glass of wine, then don’t be afraid to say no to the whole event.

Your sobriety is the best gift this Christmas

Work out what you are happy with doing and say no to everything else. You don’t have to give a long winded explanation if you don’t want to but being firm in the first instance will save a lot of stress and heartache later on.

Stick to the self care schedule you made for yourself. You are important and your energy needs protecting so don’t give in to drink pushers or unreasonable requests from others.


Take some time out every day and go for a walk. This is so simple yet very powerful and you can even schedule a daily walk into your self care plan. Being in the fresh air away from people, noise, technology and to do lists is the best way to clear your head, take some deep breaths and just appreciate being in the moment.

christmas when you don't drink

Walking in nature is also a fantastic way to get through a craving or get you away from any triggering situation.

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Look after your sleep.

Even if you are travelling or staying with friends and family, you need to make sure your sleep is a priority Sleep is hugely restorative and at this time of year we need all the help we can get to manage stress and anxiety.

If you sleep well, you will have more energy and focus to be able to enjoy your days and cope with it all. If you can, try taking a nap during the day and stick to your own sleep schedule as much as possible.  If you have trouble falling asleep without alcohol, then read this post for top tips for sober sleep.

Spend time with the kids

This has to be the best tip on the list!  Kids just oooze Christmas fun, sparkle and excitement, so it’s fantastic to get on their level and enjoy the wonder of it all through their eyes.

Do fun activities like making homemade decorations, collecting pine cones, decorating the tree or if you are lucky enough to have snow, build a snowman or go sledging.

If you are at a party and need to escape for a bit, go and sit with the kids for a while to help you take a step back and join in with some fun (not drunk) conversation!

Keep it simple

I know it is easy to get carried away with all the craziness at this time of year but taking a step back and really thinking about what Christmas means to you and what you want to happen will take a lot of the stress and overwhelm out of the holidays.

Just keep things simple, you don’t have to go to all the parties, you don’t need fancy table decorations or extravagant presents. You don’t have to cater for tons of people and have a Pinterest worthy home.

You, your family and spending time with the people you love and who love you for who you are, not what you are drinking is what Christmas should be all about.

Make yourself a priority, make your sobriety a priority and you will have the most wonderful Christmas ever.

Sober New Years Eve?

1000 1000 Gayle

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Hi, I’m Gayle. Mum, teacher and living a life of sober bliss. My mission is to help you change your relationship with alcohol to help you rediscover your true self and live a life of sober bliss.

Written by: Gayle

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