Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction means getting your life back, rebuilding your relationships, and most likely dealing with a great deal of stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, stress is an unavoidable side-effect of not only withdrawing from a substance, but also going back into the regular events of life without having a substance to fall back onto. Because many of us use substances to escape from stress in the first place, handling stress in recovery can be doubly difficult.
However, because stress is one of the primary triggers of relapse, it is crucial that you learn to manage your stress, so that you can stay clean, and stay happy. You can use these five ways to handle stress in recovery to reduce stress, and to handle it without resorting to substance use.
Ways to Handle Stress
1. Be More Mindful – Mindfulness is increasingly popular, for addiction recovery and for stress management. Mindfulness based stress reduction or MBSR has been studied since 1979, and is proven to be effective, providing you continue to practice. Mindfulness focuses on teaching you to be aware of the present moment, rather than thinking or worrying about the past or the future. This can in turn help to reduce cravings, will reduce stress, and will help you to deal with stressful environments more easily, because you can shift your attention to the present as soon as you leave that stressful environment behind. For the best results, you should talk to your doctor or look for an MBSR facility near you. In some cases, you may also be able to find a treatment facility for your addiction that offers MBSR as part of your treatment.
2. Find an Outlet – An outlet is something that you do to deliberately work off stress. Because stress varies from person to person, your outlets may vary a great deal. For example, many people find that aerobic or cardiovascular exercise will greatly reduce stress by stimulating blood flow in the brain and creating a reward sensation through dopamine and serotonin production. However, any moderate exercise will stimulate dopamine and serotonin production in the brain, which naturally works to relax the body and reduce stress. You may also find that taking walks, having positive social interactions, building something, or even taking a hot bath works just as well. Other ideas could include playing a musical instrument, taking time to read every day, meditation, yoga, taking time to cook and eat a nice meal, or dozens of other activities. If you can find something to do that requires you to focus your attention on that thing, and you enjoy it, it’s probably a good stress outlet.
3. Take Care of Your Health – Health and stress are very much interconnected. If you don’t exercise and eat poorly, you will be much more stressed than if you eat well and exercise. Most studies show that if you exercise at least 30 minutes per day, you can boost your self-esteem, reduce stress, and improve your sense of self. At the same time, quality nutrition can help you to reduce stress, while reducing your stress response system. This is crucial in recovering addicts, because many addicts suffer from cooccurring nutrient disorders and gastrointestinal damage due to substance abuse and a poor diet during substance abuse. Neurotransmitters like vitamins B6, B12, and folate, as well as Omega fatty acids can cause anxiety and mimic depression symptoms if you are deficient. Eating well will help you to stress less, while boosting the natural levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, so that you will be happier.
4. Take Time to Relax – Recovering from an addiction is difficult, you may spend a great deal of time pushing yourself to do better, and you will probably get tired. It’s important to take time to relax, do something fun, and spend time with friends or family. Relaxing is still one of the most important ways to reduce stress, because you need to stop and calm down for at least part of every day. However, you should be careful to ensure that you don’t get bored or lonely, as these can be triggers for a relapse. Keep yourself occupied, but make sure you take time out when you need it.
5. Actively Work to Reduce Stress – Stress is everywhere, but if you are in a situation that causes consistent stress, you should work to get out of it. Many of us have stress from our jobs, family, debt, neighbors, or our car. You can try sitting down to identify what is causing you to stress, and then working to get away from it. For example, if you write down events that cause you to stress as they happen, and continue every day, you will very quickly have a good picture of what is making you stress. For example, your boss may be too demanding, you might have debt, you might be under too much pressure from family, etc. Once you identify what is causing you to stress, you can work to get rid of it. However, not all sources of stress will be easy to get away from, so it’s important to learn to manage stress and how you react to it as well.
Learning how to handle stress can be immensely helpful to your recovery. While everyone stresses about different things, and in different ways, you can work to handle your stress using the methods listed above. By taking care of yourself, exercising, eating right, finding outlets, and acively working to reduce the causes of stress in your life, you can manage more easily. Recovering from an addiction will cause stress on its own, so make sure you take time to relax and find a healthy outlet, so that you stay happy and stay clean and sober.
The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California. To talk to us about financing options at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs, call (844) 494-4939.