Many Iowans may find the holidays to be the most stressful — rather than the most wonderful — time of the year. Des Moines psychologist Paul Ascheman says packed schedules can be both mentally and emotionally taxing. He recommends focusing on aspects of the holidays that are important to you. “And it’s also OK to say ‘no’ to things. If you don’t want to go to an event, it is alright to decline an invitation or to say, ‘I have too many commitments,'” Ascheman say. “And if you show up to an event, and you find that it’s dysfunctional or you’re not being respected, then I think it’s OK to leave.”

Holiday parties that include a lot of alcohol can also present a challenge for someone in recovery. Ascheman says it might be helpful for a recovering alcoholic to alert the host prior to the party. “Talking with the host may be a way to potentially change the event. Sometimes people will choose not to have alcohol at an event. Other times, people in recovery may feel OK with it being present, as long as they’re not being pushed to drink,” Ascheman says.

Holiday gatherings are not a good time to stage an intervention or confront someone with drug or alcohol issues, according to Ascheman. He recommends family members approach the person in a private setting when they are sober.