How to Overcome Gambling Triggers this Holiday Season

15 Dec 2021

The holiday season can be a time for celebration and a chance to rest and recharge. But it’s common for stress and anxiety to arise among the excitement, as well as an increase in gambling.

Factors such as financial stress, family conflict, and substance use may trigger gambling urges during the holiday period.

We hope these tips help if you’re bothered by urges to gamble over Christmas.


Know your gambling triggers

A trigger is a stimulus that ignites an urge or craving. Triggers can be people, places, and things. Being aware of your potential triggers can help you put strategies in place to overcome them.

The holiday period can be a triggering time for many reasons. Some common gambling triggers during this time might include:

  • Financial stress
  • Family conflict
  • Holiday events
  • Change in routine
  • Increase in substance use
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Additional free time.

These are just some of the stimuli that might disrupt your intentions to reduce your gambling and/or gamble safely.


Be prepared with strategies

Having pre-planned responses to your triggers can help minimise your risk of problem gambling.

Here are some ways to prepare for some of the common holiday gambling triggers.

Financial stress

In a recent survey, Australians reported financial stress as the leading cause of stress over the past five years. In the same research, gambling was found to be a common coping mechanism for stress.

For some, the holiday season can be the most expensive time of the year, with pressure to spend money on gifts, attending parties, and entertaining. In fact, in a 2016 survey, 45% of Australians shared the belief that Christmas is a “financial nightmare”, while 13% were worried about how they’d pay for Christmas.

A little pre-planning can help you manage financial stress during this time.

  • Plan a budget and put limits on spending
  • Pre-plan family gatherings and events
  • Discuss gifts and be specific.

A financial counsellor can help you with budget planning and money management. You can learn more or make an appointment by calling 1800 858 858.

Family conflict

For many people, the holidays involve a lot of time with loved ones. Unfortunately for some of us, this means tension and conflict across the dinner table.

If you’re worried about butting heads with family during the holiday period, these tips might help.

  • Express the topics you’d like to avoid prior to meeting up
  • Practise self-care before interactions so you’re in a calm headspace
  • Have an exit strategy for when you feel stressed or provoked.

Holiday events

If your social calendar is filling up for the holiday season, you might be worried about certain people or places triggering your gambling urges.

These strategies may help you overcome these urges.

  • Spend time around positive influences
  • Avoid locations and situations that make you want to gamble, and offer an alternative location to catch up (e.g. instead of the pub, suggest the park)
  • Let your friends and family know you want to reduce your gambling.

Substance use

The silly season is often associated with celebrations, which can involve overindulgence.

Here are some ways to help maintain control if you’re worried about your gambling while under the influence.

  • Know your limits and stick to them
  • Avoid gambling when drinking or using drugs
  • Request no holiday gifts in the form of alcohol or substances.


It’s normal to feel sad or lonely during the holidays. Some people may not have friends and family close by. Or perhaps they’re grieving a lost or estranged relationship.

If the holiday season triggers feelings of loneliness for you, these tips might help.

  • Stay in regular contact with loved ones
  • Fill your time with hobbies and activities
  • Avoid social media and comparing your experience to others’.


Manage stress in a healthy way

The holidays can be challenging for these reasons and more – especially if you rely on gambling as a way to cope with stress. Having some healthier coping strategies prepared can help you navigate stressful situations without veering off course.

Look after your physical health

Our physical health can make a huge difference to our mental wellbeing. When we haven’t been looking after ourselves, our ability to cope with stress can significantly decrease.

Exercising daily, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and finding time to relax can all help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Be kind to yourself

Having positive self-talk and being gentle with yourself can make all the difference. In fact, research shows self-compassion helps people overcome cravings, cope with the stresses of early recovery, and better manage their emotions.

Another study shows people with problem gambling who have self-compassion are less likely to engage in risky behaviour and more likely to have self-control than those without self-compassion.

Some ways to be kinder to yourself include:

  • Forgiving yourself for your mistakes
  • Aiming for improvement over perfection
  • Talking to yourself as you would a loved one.

Return to an old hobby

Hobbies can bring a sense of personal fulfilment and fun to life and help to minimise the impact of stress. They’re also a great way to fill our time and distract from urges – especially as boredom can lead to gambling.

Pick up an old hobby that you stopped, or put more time into something you’re good at and enjoy during your downtime.

Talk to someone you trust

Venting about your worries to a trusted loved one can make all the difference. It can help you see the problem more clearly and consider different potential solutions you may not have thought of on your own.

If you feel a sense of relief after talking it out, get in the habit of confiding in a friend or family member who’s happy to listen.

Seek professional help

As you prepare for the holiday season, make sure you know where to find support if you’re bothered by urges to gamble.

You can learn about our counselling options here, or call the 24/7 Gambling Help QLD helpline on 1800 858 858. It’s free and confidential.

You can find more self-help tips here.

Contact us

If gambling has become a problem for you, or someone you care about, get some help. It’s free and confidential.

Call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Click for face-to-face counselling locations

Click for online counselling and real time chat