This year hasn’t been easy for most people. With a global pandemic falling on an election year riddled with civil unrest, depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness are affecting individuals of all walks of life. While 2020 has presented American’s with a variety of unique challenges to overcome, people struggling with addiction and those in recovery have been impacted in unique ways. Between having to turn to online meetings for support and dealing with increased rates of anxiety and depression, 2020 wasn’t an easy year to be in early recovery.

Well, the year is almost over, and there is only one more obstacle to overcome – the holiday season. Although the holidays are known to be a time of joy, companionship, and laughter, they may look different this year. If you’re in early recovery, you may be grappling with how you’re going to spend your holidays sober. If you live far away from family, you may be struggling with the idea of spending the holidays socially distancing, away from your family, and stone-cold sober. Whether you’ve been sober for 10 years or 10 days, here are 5 self-care tips to help you stay sober during the holidays.

Make a Plan to Connect With Your Loved Ones

With the winter wave of COVID-19 devastating families and communities across America, many people are planning to spend their holidays at home or away from their loved ones. If you are in early recovery and are planning to spend the holidays alone, it’s important to be aware of the risks of this. Isolation is a huge trigger for relapse, and isolating during this time of year can feel particularly depressing. Of course, it’s necessary to practice social distancing to stop the spread of the virus, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways you can connect with your friends and family who live far away.

Consider scheduling a Zoom or FaceTime call with your loved ones to celebrate. Whether you’re opening gifts together, having a meal, or simply visiting with one another, this will help you not feel so alone. It will also give you something to look forward to rather than dreading the thought of spending the holidays alone. You can also make an extra effort to reach out to your sober support group or friends you haven’t spoken to in a while. Reaching out to others will not only help you, but it will help spread holiday cheer to all of those whom you love.

Ramp Up Your 12-Step Meetings

If you are a member of a 12-Step fellowship, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), you may want to attend a few extra meetings over the holidays. Meetings are an important part of sobriety for many people as they provide companionship, healing, and understanding. Staying connected with a sober support group, such as those found in the rooms of 12-Step programs, can help reduce your risk of relapse and reduce feelings of isolation.

Even though most 12-Step meetings are being hosted virtually, that doesn’t mean you can’t step up your meeting attendance during this time. Going to extra meetings will help fill your schedule, keep you busy, prevent loneliness, and help remind you of why you need to stay sober in the first place.

Eat a Nutritious, Balanced Diet

Although the holidays are filled with sugary treats and wholesome meals, eating a healthy diet will help you stay sober during the holidays. Simple things such as eating a healthy diet, avoiding too much sugar, and drinking enough water can do wonders for your mood and your sobriety. Anxiety, depression, and mental health issues are major relapse triggers if left untreated. Fortunately, by eating a balanced and nutritious diet, you can take a proactive step towards improving your mental health and avoiding relapse.

According to Harvard Health, approximately 95% of serotonin – a neurotransmitter responsible for mood and feelings of well-being – is produced in your gut. If you aren’t fueling your gut with the right nutrients, it won’t function properly. In fact, the gut is lined with neurons that not only digest food but also help regulate mood and emotions. To benefit your gut and your mood, focus on consuming a diet full of lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole carbs.

Spend Some Time Exercising Outdoors

Exercise is great for your body – but it’s just as good for your mind, too. Exercise can improve your mood, decrease depression and anxiety, and promote higher self-esteem. It can also reduce levels of cortisol in the brain, thereby reducing stress. As a result, working out can benefit your mental health and your sobriety. The best part is that you don’t have to go to a gym or spend excessive amounts of money. Simple things like dancing, jogging, walking, or swimming can do wonders for your mood. For an extra mood boost, try working out outdoors so you can soak up some sunlight and breathe the fresh air. You may be surprised how helpful a stroll through the neighborhood can be at helping you stay sober during this holiday season.

Set Aside Time for Something You Enjoy

Self-care is important. While eating a healthy diet, connecting with loved ones, and taking care of your body are all vital aspects of self-care, you also deserve to sit back, relax, and do something you enjoy. Whether this means having a date-night for yourself with your favorite meal and movie, visiting a new place you’ve never been before, or volunteering in your community, doing something you enjoy will help improve your mood. It will also keep you busy and help you find a sense of purpose in life. If you have many things you enjoy, you can make your own sober holiday memories and you won’t have a reason to use drugs or alcohol. Stay sober during the holidays by filling it with joy, laughter, self-care, and things that make you happy.