Staying Clean in High-Stress Environments

Stress and addiction go together. It’s difficult enough to stay off drugs or alcohol. When life gets tough, it can seem impossible to stick to a healthy routine that promotes sobriety. Your feet may be on solid ground until you start a new job, face a pressing deadline, or experience financial troubles.


We all go through hard times, and every recovering addict should prepare for the inevitable ups and downs. Long-term sobriety requires strategies for coping with difficult situations. Unless you plan ahead of time, stress can capsize any recovery. Staying clean while stressed isn’t easy, but it’s possible with a few simple strategies.

Stress Management While in Recovery

The first rule of stress management is knowing what you’re up against. That means being able to spot the warning signs. According to the American Psychological Association, symptoms of stress include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck or back pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pains
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased desire for comfort foods
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability and anxiety

Create Stress-Free Environments During Recovery

If you want to stay sober over the long term, it’s important to learn how to structure your environment in early addiction recovery. Here are some tips for staying sober while in stressful environments. 

  • Have a plan. Start by identifying your triggers—those people, places, or activities that remind you of drugs or alcohol. Stress itself can trigger a relapse, so follow the other steps on this list to reduce the pressure. Finally, create a game plan. What are you going to do when temptation strikes? What will you say when someone offers you a drink or a pill? What will you do if a friend invites you to a bar or old drug hangout? If you prepare, you won’t get caught off guard when a stressful time comes.
  • Get support. Seek out family members, friends, and mentors who will help you through the recovery process. Research suggests that a strong support network is tied to a successful recovery.
  • Stick to a routine. Keep your routine simple, particularly during the early stages of recovery. Focus on the essentials—work, family, recovery activities, etc. Cut out the rest, so the stress doesn’t pile up along with the unfinished tasks. As time goes on, you can add more to your plate.
  • Stay healthy. Your diet has a huge impact on your overall wellbeing. The body needs proper nutrition in order to stay healthy, so eat well. Also, get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep can raise your stress levels, making you less able to handle life’s challenges.

Ways to Reduce Stress Without Drugs or Alcohol

Many people seek escape through substances. In order to get through life without relapsing, it’s important to learn how to relax without drugs or alcohol. Whether you take long walks, read a book, take a cycling class, or watch TV, you should have a few activities that help you release the stress that builds up over the course of any day.


woman meditating outside to relieve stressHere are a few strategies for stress management in recovery:

  • Take a Walk. Long walks are healthy for the body and the mind. Not only do you get fresh air and exercise, but you can establish a routine that helps you stay accountable to your recovery plan.
  • Take up a Hobby. Hobbies are great tension-relieving exercises. Whether you knit, play music, or read, a hobby will give you much-needed relief from the toils of the day.
  • In a yoga class, you not only exercise; you also learn how to breathe. That’s crucial since deep breathing is one of the surest ways to lower your stress levels.
  • Release Your Emotions. Find a healthy release of your feelings. Bottled emotions only increase your stress levels. Talk to those you trust—your family, friends, a counselor, a mentor. Let them know what’s on your mind. Don’t feel like talking? Surrounded by people who don’t understand the recovery process? Consider keeping a journal, or engaging in some kind of physical activity that acts as an outlet for your feelings.

Need help creating a stress management plan? RECO Intensive can help guide you through the recovery process to ensure that you enjoy long-lasting sobriety. Contact us today to speak with an addiction treatment specialist.

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