By Sandy Baker
Stress is one of the biggest risk factors for drug and alcohol addiction relapse. It’s a part of life: we cannot avoid it. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports, managing stress is one of the most important aspects of preventing alcohol or drug relapse.
Most people deal with some stress each day. Small problems build up, such as being late for work or having people ask you the same question five times. Sometimes the stress of difficult relationships, lack of work, or having to manage financial concerns makes it hard to focus on the day’s tasks.
You can’t rid your life of stress, but you can use any of the following methods to help reduce the frustration you feel.
#1: Develop Healthy Routines
A routine helps us to focus on the next step and not on the current frustrations. For example, if you have a routine for eating, sleeping, and working or going to school, your day flows well and your mind is at ease. If your days are disjointed, with different tasks taking place at various times each day, stress builds up. To help prevent this type of stress, establish healthy routines and stick with them as much as possible.
#2: Exercise the Frustration Away
Throughout recovery, you are sure to feel overwhelmed and anxious sometimes. Frustration is a component of change. It doesn’t have to fuel your relapse, though. Instead, put it to good work for yourself. By exercising, it’s possible to work away the tension and adrenaline from stress, leaving you in a more relaxed state. Plus, you’ll feel like you accomplished something.
#3: Learn to Meditate
Meditation allows you to move from a place of anger and pain to a state of well-being where you feel comfortable about yourself and life around you. It’s also highly effective when you are experiencing cravings for a substance. When you sit still and focus on your breath, you can allow negative thoughts and feelings to flow through you without reacting to or judging them.
#4: Turn to a Support Group
Support groups are beneficial to you in several ways. They are a social outlet, giving you a substance-free opportunity to interact with others who understand what you are going through and don’t judge you for it. They are also a source of help in times of weakness or insecurity. When you develop your relationship with a support group, you can also play a role in helping others–another good way to relieve stress.
#5: Find a Way to Have Fun
Finding activities that you enjoy can help you to stop focusing on your daily stress levels. For example, some people may love spending time with friends. Why not host a small get-together at your home, where you know it is safe? If your idea of fun is music, find a local music group to join or to listen to. Do something that’s new to you.
#6: Improve Your Sleep
Sleep is a very important part of stress management. When you sleep, your body is able to heal and restore your mental clarity. It is common for those in early recovery to struggle with insomnia. Aim for a routine of going to bed around the same time and waking up at the same time each day. This helps to get your body into a rhythm that may in and of itself ease some stress and help you feel more rested.
#7: Get Time Outdoors
Spending time in nature is good for your health and mental clarity. If you have a lot of frustration and stress, go for a long walk in a wooded area. Visit the park on your way home from work to just sit and observe. You can easily get active outdoors by biking or swimming.
#8: Know When It Is Time to Get Help
There are times when stress will overwhelm you. When this happens, make a point to see your therapist or your sponsor. Don’t put this off. If you are finding it hard to break through the stress in your life, your therapist or sponsor can listen, suggest strategies, and provide accountability.
#9: Know When to Take Yourself Out of the Situation
There are stressful situations in everyone’s life, but sometimes the only way to improve this is by removing yourself from the situation. If a relationship is always stressful, step away. If your work life is just too hard on you, it may be time to look for a new job.
#10: Focus on Your Goals
When stress is such a big part of your day, you may need to simply stop thinking about it and instead focus on your goals. What do you wish to achieve today? Put stress to the side and focus on that one task. Don’t put too much burden on yourself for managing all of those stressors.
Stress isn’t going to go away, but you can learn to successfully manage it. Ongoing treatment and support from your team at The Ranch at Dove Tree’s Lubbock, Texas, addiction recovery center provides you with the tools you need to contain and minimize stress.