Managing Stress in Addiction Recovery
Everyday life is stressful no matter who you are. While certain types of stressors or stressful situations can be avoided, it’s impossible to live an entirely stress-free life. For patients in addiction recovery, the same is true. Managing stress in recovery, though, is vital for maintaining the balance needed to stay sober.
This is where stress management in recovery comes in. There are many ways that you can both ease the stress placed on you and ensure that stress doesn’t undo all the progress you’ve made towards sobriety. Understanding what stress is, how it affects the body, and ways to mitigate stress are essential tools on your personal recovery journey.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a physiological response—a physical reaction to a stimulus. In general, stress can be defined as anything that causes physical or emotional discomfort. While in recovery, there are many sources of stress, including:
- The loss of a job
- Financial troubles
- Relationship conflicts
- Conflicts with children
- Uncertainty about the future
- Alienation from friends or family
Addiction, and its nature, produce many stressful situations. In many cases, a person’s addiction can cause a strain on the most important aspects of their life leading to increased amounts of stress. Moreover, when it comes to stress, there are several different kinds you may experience that vary in duration and intensity. Some types of stress that you may encounter during recovery include acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress.
Acute stress is the kind of stress you experience in the moment when something feels overwhelming or fearful, such as when you’re faced with a new situation that is exciting or challenging. This type of stress is common and happens to everyone periodically.
Episodic Acute Stress
This stress response is similar to acute stress but occurs more frequently. When people frequently are in high-stress situations, work a high-stress job, or experience a mild level of anxiety, their stress is considered episodic.
Chronic stress occurs when your stress response is activated by daily life events, such as managing finances, work issues, or taking care of the kids. Chronic stress lasts for long periods of time and can be detrimental to mental and physical health, contributing to the following issues:
The negative impacts of chronic stress go beyond the norm. In fact, those who experience it may find that it affects their sleep or ability to function normally in life. This can create a snowball effect where more stress piles on as a result of the effects of chronic stress.
The Importance of Managing Stress in Recovery
While everyone experiences different levels of stress at different times in their lives, the stress brought on by addiction can be difficult to deal with. However difficult, managing stress is of the utmost importance for people who are recovering from addiction. This is especially true when you’re living in an environment where drug-related paraphernalia and triggers are everywhere. In these particular situations, managing stress can help prevent a relapse.
Stress is a completely normal reaction to events that cause an elevated heart rate, increase blood pressure, and activate the “fight or flight” response in your body. When stress becomes a chronic condition, however, it can have negative consequences on your health. Some of the ways stress manifests during recovery are:
- Stomach upset
- Heart palpitations
- Shallow breathing
- Shivers or tremors
- Trouble concentrating
- More frequent cravings for drugs or alcohol
Managing stress is how you can set yourself up to meet life’s challenges head-on, without having to turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort or to abate uncomfortable symptoms of stress. With a set of coping mechanisms to rely on in stressful situations, you will be better equipped to handle the obstacles you encounter. This is important for maintaining your sobriety and, subsequently, maintaining relationships, productivity at work, positive parenting, and your overall quality of life.
The Connection Between Stress and Addiction
There is a connection between stress and addiction. This is why managing stress in recovery is imperative. Stress is thought to trigger cravings in recovering addicts because it interferes with the brain’s ability to make decisions.
Further, stress symptoms like depression, anxiety, and even anger often manifest when managing addiction. During periods of high stress, managing cravings becomes difficult. This is where coping mechanisms and therapeutic techniques come in. With the right tools, it’s possible to both get ahead of stress and deal with it when it occurs.
Managing Stress During Addiction Recovery
Stress will always be a part of life. As with many things, it’s how you handle the stress that makes all the difference. There are many ways to handle stress to keep yourself on the road to recovery. The following methods can help you feel more at ease and set you up to handle whatever life throws at you so you can manage stress in recovery effectively.
Eat Healthy Foods and Get Enough Sleep
Eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep may seem like a simple task, but many adults fail to do this even when they aren’t recovering from a substance abuse disorder. When it comes to managing stress in recovery, sleep and nutrition take on even greater importance.
When we are hungry, tired, or exhausted, our stress levels elevate. This makes managing stress harder when we don’t have the necessary tools to handle it. While eating right and sleeping enough may not reduce the stressors in your life, these actions will ensure you’re able to handle them when they do happen.
Proper sleep is vital for managing stress, depression, and anxiety. Getting enough sleep will help you manage your emotions better. When it comes to sleep, try to go to bed at the same time every night and get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, if you can. As for nutrition, try out a new recipe or ask your friends or family to help you cook a healthy meal.
Engage in Physical Activity
Engaging in physical activity is a great way to manage stress. Signing up for a gym membership is an easy way to incorporate physical activity into your life. Gyms are free from alcohol and drugs and are likely to be full of other people who are looking only to exercise. While at the gym, you don’t have to do any extreme workouts to reap the benefits of exercise, even doing low-intensity workouts can produce the benefits of exercise that include:
- Improve heart health
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve the quality of sleep
- Improve memory and brain function
- Reduce the risk of chronic diseases
- Reduce feelings of anxiety and depression
Additionally, walking, biking, and hiking are all good ways to get moving outside of a gym. The key is to find the type of exercise that you like and will stick with. Make sure to avoid overdoing it right away if you aren’t used to exercising regularly. Take things slowly and increase your activity level as your fitness improves. You could even ask your friends and family to join you. Not only will you be managing your stress in recovery, but you’ll also be bonding with the people you love!
Try Some New Sober Activities
You can also try managing stress in recovery by finding activities you enjoy that don’t revolve around drinking or doing drugs. If you don’t currently have a hobby, it’s not too difficult to find something that may interest you. Go to a museum or art gallery with your friends, take up painting, go see a play, volunteer for charity—whatever it is that gets you excited.
Not only will this method of managing stress in recovery help you feel better, but it will also give you the chance to meet new people. Taking a local art class or joining an adult sports league can provide a way to socialize without ending up in a bar or around drugs. If you’re generally a shy person, you could also always bring a relative or a friend for support.
Whether you choose to talk to a friend or discuss your stressors in a support group meeting, connecting with others can be a great way to manage stress in recovery. Addiction often isolates the addict, and managing stress in recovery can be hard if you’re feeling isolated. With no one to turn to for support, the temptation to use drugs or drink alcohol can be difficult to overcome.
Talking to a friend or support group member about what’s going on in your life helps to ensure that your stressors don’t eat away at your mental health. Additionally, by connecting with others you can learn coping mechanisms that have worked for other people who are managing stress in their own lives.
Maintain Your Routine
Getting yourself into a healthy routine can ease any stress that comes from feeling unorganized. With set times for lunch and dinner, your daily workout routine, and downtime, life becomes a little more predictable and easier to manage.
On the other hand, it’s important to not get too attached to your routine. If a disruption in your newly created schedule affects you greatly, practicing patience and flexibility can help. It’s important to remember that we can’t control everything in our lives. Routines add balance and flow to your day but can be altered as needed.
Managing Stress in Recovery with Harmony Place
Whether you’ve completed a treatment program, or are considering one, you don’t have to manage stress alone. Here at Harmony Place, we offer various types of therapy in our clinical addiction treatment program. Our programs are designed to provide patients with education about their particular addiction as well as impart relapse prevention tools and short-term stabilization.
During addiction rehab, which includes individual, group, and family therapies, recovery obstacles are explored and underlying issues that contribute to substance abuse are examined. This is so we can help address the source of addiction and the factors that are exacerbating it. If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, contact us today to see which treatment program is right for you.