Ways to Overcome Stress in Addiction Recovery
The use of drugs or alcohol often begins as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of stress. Unfortunately, seemingly harmless habits can turn into addictions that require treatment. How those affected address stress in addiction recovery plays an important role in the rehabilitation process.
Fortunately, professional treatment centers have strategies to help you overcome stress during the recovery process including:
- Keep a stress journal
- Self-examination of coping skills
- Fitness regimes
- Get better sleep
- Socializing with friends
Applying one or more of these methods can help decrease stress levels, improve life balance, and reduce the chance of relapse.
Keep a Stress Journal
Starting a stress journal and making daily entries can provide insight into the stressors that affect you. Over time, you can use the journal to identify the actions you take that led to the exposure of stressors. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to track any mistakes you made in dealing with them, giving you a blueprint of how to avoid them in the future.
Maintaining a stress journal should be simple. Spend just a couple minutes a day collecting a few key pieces of information include the following:
- Cause of the stress
- Your reaction to the situation
- How you alleviated the stress
- Emotional reactions to the stressor
Combined, these details will paint a picture you can reflect on, opening up opportunities to avoid stressors and enhancing your recovery.
Examine Your Coping Skills
In the past, you may have turned to drugs or alcohol to deal with stress in your life. However, if you have been through treatment, you now recognize this is an unhealthy response. Similarly, excessive sleeping, cigarette smoking, binge watching TV programs, and procrastinating are also poor ways of dealing with stress. Using your journal, identify when you turn to one of these coping mechanisms.
The ways in which you cope with stress in addiction is the second part of developing a healthy approach to managing stress. The first, identifying what and where your stressors exist, is balanced by examining and changing poor coping skills.
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Get Your 30 Minutes of Exercise
While a keeping a stress journal and examining your coping methods can reduce stress by themselves, one of the most powerful ways is through exercise. Doctors recommend getting a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day. A moderate to high intensity workout can consist of any physical activity that engages and strengthens your different muscle groups.
In addition to the various physical health benefits that exercise provides, exercise reduces stress. As blood pumps faster and delivers more oxygen to the brain, the brain responds by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that interact with pleasure receptors in the brain. The result is the creation of a natural “high” and positive emotion.
The joy you experience may very likely encourage you to exercise more often. More importantly, more exercise will continue to lower the level of stress hormones in your body.
Socialize with Friends
Socializing with friends you trust can help you in two ways. First, it provides a safe outlet for your negative feelings. Discussing your problems with friends can reduce the stress you feel about different situations. This is true even if they are not able to offer advice on resolving a particular issue.
Secondly, socializing and enjoying the time you spend with your friends is a positive escape from stress. Having fun with friends takes your mind off of stressful problems and gives your body a chance to reduce the stress you’re experiencing. Socializing is a return to normalcy, a feeling that is a positive reflection of your recovery progress.
Get a Better Quality of Sleep
While sleeping excessively to avoid problems is unhealthy, many people experience a sleep deficiency that can become equally problematic. If you are not getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night, you may be causing a boost in stress levels.
To counteract this imbalance of stress, look for ways to get a better quality of sleep each night. You may need to limit caffeine consumption to the morning hours, shut down electronic devices an hour before bed, or engage in relaxation techniques. Yoga, meditation, or reading books can help you relax before bed. As an added bonus, these practices are also great for reducing stress by themselves.
Laughter is Still the Best Medicine
When people are stressed, the body creates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol, combined with a boosted release of adrenaline, causes a more intense feeling of stress. However, when we laugh, the brain releases endorphins that counteract the effects that stress hormones have on the body. You can initiate this biochemical reaction by watching a funny movie or TV show, searching for videos of stand-up comics, or going to a live comedy show. Any entertainment that will bring out your sense of humor can help you reduce stress in a natural and healthy way.
Successful Stress Management
The road to recovery can be long and hard. It is important to work with a treatment center who understands the complex rehabilitation journey. Sobriety is not only about breaking free from physical addiction through detoxification, but also about the mental fortitude required to remain drug and alcohol free.
Rehabilitation centers such as Desert Cove Recovery, have trained professionals specializing in treating the mental aspects of recovery. Much of the mental recovery process is indeed about managing stress and how to cope in the presence of stressors.
If you or a loved are may be struggling with substance abuse, addiction, or stress in addiction, know that there are specially trained professionals here to help. It is never too late to seek professional guidance when it comes to substance abuse. The most important step is finding the help you or your loved one needs.