Everyone experiences stress. Under normal circumstances, stress can be beneficial. It’s a survival mechanism that we use in our everyday lives. For example, it can help you determine whether a merging car may hit you on the road, in which case you’ll take the necessary steps to swerve or avoid them.
But in many cases, we let everyday stress build over and over without addressing behavioral concerns that may have led to stress in the first place or our emotional responses to it.
Importance of Stress Management in Recovery
For those in recovery, stress can be one of the biggest contributors to relapse. Learning how to effectively manage stress can prevent relapse and reduce the frustration that comes along with daily triggers.
Stress Management Techniques
Stress can build up when you are late for work or you have someone in your office ask you the same question 10 times. Stress might be the result of problems in your relationships, financial struggles, or situations like wanting to run errands but not having a valid license or a car.
While you certainly can’t remove stress from your life, there are stress management techniques you can apply in recovery.
The first method of stress management in recovery is to build a routine. Routines are essential for many reasons, and they become an integral part of addiction treatment because of the benefits they afford.
Building a routine helps you focus on what comes next in your day rather than the frustrations that might be going on around you. If you have a routine for your work, sleep, and eating schedule, you’ll know that even if there is stress, there is a flow to your day instead of a disjointed schedule that allows stress to build.
Moreover, building a routine means you have a higher tolerance for stress. If you choose to eat the same thing for breakfast every day, get up at the same time, or wear the same clothes, then you don’t have to exercise willpower to make those decisions throughout the day. Willpower is like a muscle: you have to train it, but you only have a certain amount of strength every day.
That said, if you use all your willpower making silly decisions like whether or not you should eat a donut at the company lunch party or what shoes to pair with your outfit, you won’t have willpower left when you face legitimate stresses throughout the day, and this is more likely to lead to relapse.
Exercise is an essential part of dealing with anxiety or depression. Frustration is going to happen when you are stressed, but you can apply that frustration to exercise, working away your tension and helping you feel more relaxed. Exercise can be vigorous, especially when you are experiencing high stress, but it can also be something as simple as relaxed morning yoga to get in the right mindset.
Meditation helps you acknowledge all of the emotions you feel, good or bad, and not let them control you or change your behaviors. This is a highly effective tool when you are experiencing cravings because of your stress.
You can choose to sit still and focus on your breathing, bringing your thoughts back to the present and allowing those negative feelings to move through you without reacting to them.
Sober activities can help you manage your daily stress. When you have activities that you know you enjoy, you can carve out time when you are stressed to go do those things. These activities can be things that improve your mood, such as singing in a church choir or hosting a small group of friends at home where you can control your external environment and feel safe.
You can also participate in support groups. These serve as an essential outlet for processing stress, especially if you are the type of person who needs to talk through your stress and the ways you have managed it. When you are feeling weak or insecure, these groups give you a judgment-free space where you can relieve stress and learn other stress management techniques from people who have been in similar situations.
A Foundation for Recovery
Overall, learning how to manage stress on a daily basis builds a successful foundation for recovery. The chronic nature of addiction means that relapse might be part of the process, but changing deeply held behaviors like responses to stress can postpone or prevent relapse and even ensure relapse is less severe if it happens.
When you are ready to integrate stress management techniques in your recovery, contact Water Gap Wellness Center to learn more. We are a Pennsylvania mental health program and treatment center offering substance abuse treatment and mental health care.