Managing Stress in Addiction Recovery
Stress is one of the leading causes of cravings and relapse in people recovering from addiction. Feeling anxious or overwhelmed often makes you feel like you have to escape the situation or find some way to cope. In the past, that coping mechanism may have been drugs or alcohol, so under stress, you may think of using again. This urge may be especially strong if you’re feeling overwhelmed or hopeless, like it doesn’t matter anyway, so you might as well relapse. Although these feelings are understandable and common, they are just feelings and they are temporary. Finding healthy ways to manage stress will reduce the intensity and frequency of these feelings. The following are some healthy ways to manage stress and minimize cravings.
Working with trusted consultants like our team at Patrick Hart Consultants takes the stress out of making treatment and recovery work. With strong relationships between our team and family members, in addition to treatment programs around the country, our constant communication and support helps to provide ease. Creating individualized, wrap-around treatment plans, the stress of what decisions to make or what path to choose for the recovery for a loved one is relieved. Together, we can help provide families with the tools they need to ensure recovery, healing, and serenity, for everyone.
Managing your schedule is one of the best ways to reduce stress. If you’re not overcommitted, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed. The easiest way to manage your schedule is to prioritize. You may have 20 things you could do today, but there are probably only two or three that are very important. If you make sure to do the most important things first, the rest are just bonuses.
Learn to Say No.
Related to the point above, learning to say no is a valuable skill for keeping your schedule under control. It’s great that you want to help people out, but your time and energy are limited resources. You may not get to everything that’s important to you; there’s no chance at all you can do everything everyone else wants you to do. Protect your time and energy by saying no to low-priority tasks.
Ask for Help.
Everyone needs help sometimes, whether it’s something concrete like running an errand, or something more ephemeral like asking for advice or support. We often feel like we have to be self-reliant and infinitely capable. While those are admirable qualities, most of us wouldn’t get very far in life without help and cooperation. You may be able to get a friend to do something for you or you might be able to delegate some tasks to an employee or freelancer.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Stress is essentially a feeling of being threatened. When our ancestors felt threatened, they typically had to prepare themselves to run or fight. However, we might go days or weeks feeling constantly threatened. Exercise is a good way to physically do something in response to feeling threatened. Exercise improves your mood and releases pain-killing endorphins. Regular exercise even reduces stress when you’re not exercising because it strengthens areas of your brain involved with emotional regulation. It essentially gives you more conscious control over what you perceive as a threat.
Get Enough Sleep.
Getting plenty of sleep is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety and getting too little sleep is one of the best ways to make anxiety skyrocket. Getting too little sleep magnifies your perception of problems. Even worse, lack of sleep impairs your memory, concentration, and self-control, making problems harder to solve. Unfortunately, stress and anxiety can also make it hard to get enough quality sleep, so while sleep is important, you will likely have to use other methods to help you get enough sleep.
Many studies have found that meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, is an effective way to reduce stress. Perhaps the best-known method is mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR. Mindfulness meditation helps you notice sensations in your body like tension and helps you connect those feelings to thoughts. You learn to examine those feelings nonjudgmentally and let go of them.
Rely on Your Network.
As noted above, your friends and loved ones may be able to help you out of a tight spot or give you advice, but don’t underestimate the stress-reducing power of just spending time around people you like. Socializing is an excellent way to reduce stress. Let people know what’s on your mind. Often just talking about what’s stressing you out makes you feel better. Having people you can rely on makes problems feel more manageable even if you don’t ask for help.
Examine Your Thinking.
Stress is mostly in our minds and our thinking about a situation can make it more or less stressful. For example, if you have a job interview and you think it would be a disaster if the interview went badly, you’re more likely to feel excessively anxious about it. However, if you take the more realistic view that even if the interview goes badly, there’s still a chance you could get the job, and if not, you can try to get a different job, then you may still feel nervous, but not overwhelmed. There are many such cognitive distortions that may increase your stress. Talking with a therapist might help you identify and correct those distortions.
Practice Relaxation Techniques.
Relaxation techniques can also help reduce stress. These typically include visualization, progressive relaxation, or deep breathing. For example, you might lie down and visualize each part of your body becoming warm and melting. For progressive relaxation, you might briefly tense each part of your body, then let it relax and feel the difference in muscle tension. There are also forms of meditation that focus on relaxation. You might continuously scan your body for feelings of tension and simply let that part relax. Deep breathing techniques are also excellent for relaxation. Steady, deep breaths, especially with a long exhale, activate the vagus nerve, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and calms you down very quickly.
Patrick Hart Consultants helps customize wrap-around treatment and transitional care programs for families seeking support for recovery from addiction, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions. Working with some of the country’s most trusted and renowned treatment programs, our team strives to ensure successful, stress-free recovery for the whole family. We coordinate with every member of a loved one’s treatment team to provide communication, progress, and healing. For more information on our services, call us today: (844) 262-7970