Being in early recovery can add a seemingly insurmountable amount of stress on a person’s life. Most of us used drugs or alcohol in order to numb our feelings and emotions. When we get sober, we experience an array of emotions that we typically are not accustomed to feeling. This can cause normal feelings of stress to feel unbearable. Due to this, it is important for recovering addicts to develop healthy stress-management techniques.
Stress and anxiety have the ability to damage one’s health in varying ways such as physical, emotional, and behavioral issues. Some examples of the side effects of stress include but are not limited to; chest pains, fatigue, emotional outbursts, and even social withdrawal. Dealing with the effects of stress as a recovering addict can lead to an unnecessary relapse when the person does not have the tools they need to manage it effectively.
Stress Management Techniques for Recovering Addicts
Stress and anxiety can be uncomfortable but are commonly experienced whether a person is in recovery or not. Because of this, it is vital to learn how to manage your stress in a way that allows you to accept how you feel while working through solutions in order to be able to self-soothe rather than self-medicate. Recovering addicts typically begin to learn which stress-relieving tools work most effectively for them through addiction treatment, therapy, or a recovery fellowship of their choice.
Take Mental Breaks and Stop Being Hard on Yourself
Being in recovery from addiction as well as having normal, everyday responsibilities can mean that you may not have much time to yourself to unwind and relax. Many people find themselves caught up in trying to maintain “perfect sobriety”, which frankly is not possible. Recovery is not linear. Sometimes you may attend recovery meetings, go to work, attend therapy, and help another addict out all in one day. However, it is perfectly acceptable to take time out for yourself.
Spend a weekend laying in your room and reading a book. Allow yourself the time to do whatever it is that relaxes you. Many adults, in recovery or not, find themselves feeling guilty when they take a day for themselves. This can be extremely detrimental, as people can become burnt out and overworked. Self-care is extremely important to one’s mental health, especially if you suffer from stress.
Prioritize your Goals
Sometimes we get caught up in trying to achieve all of our goals simultaneously, rather than allowing ourselves the time we need to craft a plan of action in order to effectively reach each goal. Achieving any goal takes time, planning, thought, and patience. When we begin to obsess over how long it is taking to achieve our goals, we begin to stress ourselves out immensely. This makes it difficult to get anything done.
Prioritize your goals by creating a list of which goal needs to be reached first and so on. By doing this, we will be able to let go of our hard-to-reach expectations and work towards our goals in a less stressful manner. This also allows us to see how far we have come. Once you begin to check goals off of your list, you can begin to feel a sense of accomplishment for actually being able to make your dreams come to fruition.
Journal your Thoughts
Sometimes our thoughts can begin to overpower our minds, especially when we are stressed. Writing them down can help to organize our thoughts, feelings, and emotions when they begin to become too much. It is easier to spot patterns of negative thinking, as well as signs of a relapse when we have them laid out in front of us on paper. Once we are able to see these patterns and signs, we have the opportunity to take action and make positive changes.
Journaling can also be cathartic for those of us who have experienced past traumas. Sometimes writing out what happened to us, how we felt, and how it continues to affect us can lessen the anxiety or fear that surrounds the past traumatic event. It allows us to feel some form of closure. This can make it easier for us to begin to move onto something positive, rather than continuing to relive the dark details of our past.
Many recovering addicts choose to remain in therapy because it is extremely beneficial for finding solutions to real-world problems. Stress can become a serious mental health issue if it isn’t addressed and managed properly. Therapists and psychiatrists are licensed professionals who are trained to help people find solutions to issues like stress management and relieving anxiety.
Some of us may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, rather than just normal stress. If you find yourself unable to self-soothe, it is important that you find a therapist that you trust who can help to decipher if you are suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder. It is extremely common for those of us in recovery from addiction to also have a co-occurring disorder; mental illness in combination with a substance use disorder. These disorders are typically manageable through talk-therapy and sometimes through medication.
Exercising does more for your body than just simply making you look better. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that work to relieve stress naturally. When you suffer from stress, sometimes your sleeping patterns are interrupted which causes you to feel even more stressed. Exercising promotes a better sleeping routine, which also lowers a person’s level of stress. Of course, you want to ensure that you aren’t overworking your body by exercising too rapidly or too frequently. You should slowly ease yourself into working out by starting with small increments of physical activity and gradually increasing the intensity of your workout routine over time.
When we eat unhealthy foods, we begin to damage our body’s ability to perform properly. If we are already stressed out and continue to eat foods with no nutritious value, our stress and anxiety may only worsen. Stress heightens a person’s blood pressure in the same manner that eating unhealthy foods will. With two separate factors increasing a person’s blood pressure, its easy to understand how someone’s stress levels would increase. Eating a nutritious diet can help your body to build up its immune system, stabilize your mood, and lower your blood pressure.