Many aspects of a person’s life improve when they’re in recovery, but the stresses of everyday life don’t go away when they leave the treatment center. Stress is a normal and inevitable part of life, and it’s important to learn how to deal with tension and worry in healthy ways through stress management.
Studies have shown that stress doesn’t just play a major role in active cases of substance abuse, but it can also trigger relapse. Developing a strong set of stress-management techniques and coping skills can help recovering individuals learn how to handle stressful situations and stay on track.
Stress and Relapse
Stress is a common trigger for all kinds of addictions. The more stress a person experiences, the more likely that they’ll try to escape it through drugs, alcohol or other addictive substances or activities. A report by the National Institute of Drug Abuse indicates that stress is the leading cause of relapse among individuals recovering from drug addiction.
When a person experiences stress, the body responds in a number of ways. Hormones are released, veins constrict, and increased amounts of blood are sent to the major muscle groups. These responses are valuable in classic “fight or flight” situations, but chronic stress can take a major toll on the body. Some research suggests that the brains of substance abusers are more sensitive to the effects of stress, which may increase the risk that they’ll turn back to drugs as a coping mechanism.
The Importance of Stress Management
A relapse prevention plan is what separates your newfound sobriety from falling back into old habits. Ask any recovering addict and they’ll be the first to tell you that relapse prevention plans are essential. Because let’s face it: the things in life that made us want to use in the past, be it stress, anxiety, unresolved emotional issues, etc. all still exist. Our personal issues and demons never go away entirely. What changes is how we react and deal with the things that use to set us off.
Some proven stress-management strategies include:
- Exercise Regularly. Exercise is a great way to manage and reduce stress. It helps you feel good, it improves your mental and physical health, and it energizes and revitalizes.
- Deep breathing exercises can make all the difference in moments of stress by helping you calm down and think clearly.This stress reduction technique calms the mind and allows you to return to the issue at a later time with a more levelheaded perspective.
- Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a type of meditation that can be practiced anywhere at any time. It focuses on living in the moment and truly being aware of your surroundings, how you feel, what you are doing and other elements of each moment to reduce stress and reconnect.
- Find the Time to Enjoy. Be sure to manage your schedule in such a manner that allows you to have sufficient time for your hobbies and spending time with your friends and family.
- Find the Time to Relax. It’s vital to have enough time for yourself. Organize your time well to have sufficient “me time”. Do whatever will relax you most whether it’s lying on a beach or reading a good book.
- Use Time Management. So many major sources of stress are connected to a lack of proper time management. Avoid stress from being late for work, traffic issues, missed appointments and other problems by effectively managing your time well. Give yourself sufficient time to plan ahead and be prepared.
- Utilize Your Substance Abuse Treatment Program. Use the stress management techniques learned in your substance abuse treatment program and look to your substance abuse treatment peers for inspiration on great ways for managing stress.
- Eat Well. A balanced diet can help combat stress so be sure to get the proper nutrients from fruits and vegetables and to minimize your intake of sugars, oils and fats.
- Get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule throughout the week.
- Think Positively. Positive thinking works wonders against stress. Make it a part of your lifestyle!
These tips and techniques can help lower stress levels and create a sense of balance. Some stressors may be too much to handle alone, however. Working with a mental health professional can help people get a handle on stress before it interferes with their recovery.
It’s important to remember that everyone experiences stress differently. A situation that doesn’t bother one person at all might be extremely stressful to someone else. Similarly, there’s no single set of stress-management techniques that work for everyone. It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out which strategies work best for you or your loved one. Being aware of the signs of stress and learning how to handle stressful situations can help reduce the risk of relapse.
Having a strong support network is a key component of relapse prevention and stress management. Many treatment centers work with the families of people dealing with addiction to help them understand the challenges of recovery and learn how they can support their loved one in the future.
Remember that recovery from addiction and alcohol abuse treatment means learning how to cope with intensely emotional situations and identifying when you need help and support. Treatment for addiction relapse, counseling and aftercare can help you do this, so please call us today.