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Staying Clean in High-Stress Environments

Unfortunately, stress and addiction tend to go together. It’s difficult enough to stay off drugs or alcohol. So 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. Then, unless you have a strong support system and a nuanced understanding of relapse prevention when you leave rehab to go home, this can be when relapse occurs.

Your addiction is not cured when you leave treatment, but rather is a chronic disease like asthma or hypertension. It is now in a temporary controlled remission that it will take an aftercare plan and consistently working to practice self care to maintain. Try thinking of the treatment that you received not as an end of healing but a point at which you can begin the next steps of recovery. But with enough effort to cope, there’s no limit to what you can achieve in sober living.

We all go through hard times, and every recovering addict should prepare for the inevitable ups and downs they may experience. Long-term sobriety requires continuing strategies for coping with difficult situations and continual change. Be prepared that things may get harder before they get easier. Unless you plan ahead of time, stress can capsize any recovery efforts. Staying clean and sober while stressed isn’t easy, but it’s possible with a few simple strategies and solid coping mechanisms if you are caring enough to improve your habits.

Stress Management While in Recovery

The first rule of stress management is that you should know what you’re up against. That means being able to spot the warning signs. According to the American Psychological Association, symptoms of stress that could lead to emotional relapse 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 for relapse prevention in early addiction recovery. Here are some tips for staying sober from drug abuse even while in stressful environments.

  • Have a plan. Start by identifying your potential triggers—those people, places, or activities that remind you of drugs or alcohol. Stress itself can trigger an emotional relapse, so follow the other steps on this list to reduce the pressure you are facing.

Common triggers for relapse of substance use disorders also include physical discomfort, mental health disorders, other people you associate with drug or alcohol use, sights or even smells of a place you associate with drug or alcohol use, or feeling anger or any other strong negative emotion.

Addicts tend to relapse in these situations, so avoid people who you think might threaten your control, and parties or any other event where alcohol might be served. However, we understand that an event like this cannot always be avoided, which is why you should have a clear strategy in place to deal with the risk if you do have to attend.

To avoid giving in to these triggers for relapse, you need to create a game plan. A relapse prevention plan will help you maintain sobriety and avoid substance abuse, especially if you keep it current and are always aware of when it was last updated.

This period is not the time for you to be taking chances and leaving things up to fate. 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 finally comes. Here are a few helpful coping strategies you may want to add to your relapse prevention repertoire.

  • Don’t be afraid to get support. There’s no reason you need to be lonely just because you are batting an addiction. 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. Many treatment programs offer peer support groups you could take advantage of as well. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and similar 12 step groups are essential resources.

Attend meetings regularly for best results. Become a regular support group attendee and embrace the benefits of group therapy. You can develop relationships with other patients and enjoy the supportive environment as a safe place that you willalways  be encouraged. Don’t let yourself feel isolated and risk mental relapse. Eventually, you will be able to work on helping other participants in their own recoveries and pay your experiences forward, maybe even as a sponsor for someone else in 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 and you conquer early recovery, you can add more to your schedule. For now, you may need to avoid anything that might make you feel uncomfortable enough to relapse. The ultimate reward of recovery is worth staying committed to it at all costs, including techniques like avoiding relapse and potential triggers of it. At this early stage of recovery, it may not be worth it to take a risk. Getting exhausted or overly worried even if for a good cause, such as taking on too many hours at one of your jobs, is not worth it to you at the moment, so try not to apply for any position that sounds too stressful in the first place.
  • Stay healthy. Your diet and eating habits have a huge impact on your overall well being. The body needs proper nutrition in order to stay healthy, so eat well. A balanced diet will help you avoid mood swings caused by low blood sugar levels and help balance your brain chemistry as well. Along with eating a healthy diet, practice self care and get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep can raise your anxiety and stress levels, making you feel exhausted and less able to handle life’s challenges and avoid relapse. Getting too tired or hungry could put you at risk, but giving your brain the fuel it needs instead of taking poor self care will reduce cravings and help prevent relapse.
  • Deal with underlying issues. What caused your addiction in the first place? If you have any psychological problem or disorders that you have not yet addressed in treatment, seeking out therapy in addition could be the most important thing when it comes to relapse prevention. Family therapy may also be needed if any problem in the family remains unaddressed. For some disorders like depression, medicine might be needed to help you balance your brain chemistry. Mental illness is not your fault, and medications for chronic diseases, whether the disease is mental or physical, are nothing to be ashamed of. Medication prescribed by a qualified mental health professional will only enhance your ability to find the recovery you deserve.

Ways to Reduce Stress Without Drugs or Alcohol

Many people seek escape through substances. So, 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 relaxation activities that help you release the stress that builds up over the course of any given day. Pick up a new hobby you find brings you happiness, or engage with one from your past.

Here are a few other strategies for physical relapse prevention through stress management in recovery. If you practice self care with these techniques, you can feel confident and boost your overall moods.:

woman meditating outside to relieve stress

  • Exercise regularly, preferably on a daily basis. Studies show that exercise is one of the coping skills with the greatest effectiveness in helping you to control your moods and in giving you more energy. Long walks are healthy for the body and the mind, as is playing sports, and these pursuits can distract you from unpleasant moods and urges. Play soccer, play baseball, play golf—anything that might get you up and about!

If you are living close to Reco Intensive in Florida, its scenic, sunny location is perfect for enjoying the great outdoors, so you can stop by the beach and enjoy the calming sounds of the waves if you are having trouble staying inspired to get moving.

Not only do you get fresh air and exercise, but you can establish a routine that helps you stay accountable to your recovery plan. In a yoga class, you not only exercise, but you also learn how to control your breathing. That’s crucial since deep breathing is one of the surest ways to lower your stress levels.

Mindfulness meditation through physical movement as in yoga will also help you feel more comfortable in your own skin, which makes it a particularly important part of your self care. Breathing through mindfulness meditation will help you learn to be mentally present and peaceful even in painful feelings as opposed to when you would escape through addiction.

By learning to deal with boredom through mindfulness meditation, you can retrain your brain to be able to tolerate discomfort and overcome anxiety, which will serve as one of your coping skills in many areas of your everyday life.

  • Take up a Hobby. Hobbies are great tension-relieving exercises. Whether you knit, play music, or read a book, a hobby will give you much-needed relief and relaxation from the toils of the day. Excelling at something that has nothing to do with drugs and alcohol in your free time can also help you build self esteem and distract you from urges to use drugs.
  • Release Your Emotions. Find a healthy release of your feelings. Bottled up emotions only increase your stress levels. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, reach out and talk to those you trust—your family, friends, a counselor, a case manager, a mentor. Let them know what’s on your mind. Incorporate quality time with a loved one to avoid isolating and feeling lonely. Counseling and groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are always available for you to join. Hearing others respond to what you are open to sharing with your peers in an honest way could be incredibly powerful in your recovery.

Don’t feel like talking? Surrounded by people who don’t understand the recovery process? A journal can also be a great tool to express what you are feeling. If writing isn’t your thing, maybe another creative activity like painting or playing music could be a good outlet for you, or try engaging in some kind of physical activity that acts as an outlet for your feelings.

  • Hold yourself to a schedule. Even if you’re thinking you’d rather be more spontaneous and that it seems counterintuitive to schedule activities that are supposed to be relaxing, being accountable to oneself is the key to building a solid recovery. Behavior that is consistent will be most helpful.
  • Be positive. There are many psychological benefits to focusing on positive feeling and gratitude, so reflect on things you are thankful for as often as you can. To heal emotionally, you need to maintain hope, even amidst the struggle of long term recovery. Though some aspects of addiction will always pose challenges, focusing on what will encourage you is a smart recovery response to help you stay motivated. Surround your home with anything you might find inspirational. While you shouldn’t repress your negativity, you also shouldn’t spend too much time on resentments, guilt, and the rest of the dark stuff. As always, balance is the ideal.
  • Become self aware. Through journaling, counseling, and other methods, you can start to pay more attention to your thoughts. Examine your process of decision making and what might make you choose to use a substance, and try to clarify the combination of reasons that motivate you personally to maintain abstinence. What were you doing wrong that led you to get sucked into addiction the first time? Being honest with oneself will help you avoid toxic patterns. To acknowledge your past experiences and how you felt and to understand why you acted as you did will make it less difficult to choose a path with a difference in the days ahead.
  • Find your purpose. One of the easiest ways to tap into your long term goals and help prevent relapse is to focus on your personal growth. Figure out how you can make progress in your life by starting to explore options that will continue to help you grow. Maybe it’s time to return to your studies or to find a new career path, and to catch up on any developmental milestones your addiction may have initially tried to stop you from reaching. Setting forth these intentions will help you in the coming days, weeks, months, and even longer as it leads you to make connections and stay engaged in the real world around you.
  • Remember to be eager to celebrate. It is critical to celebrate your success in dealing with addiction with a loved one or with your social circle. Any length of time in recovery is a huge victory in the war against addiction, and it is vital to treat it as such to help keep up your morale. Make cultivating pride in yourself one of your lasting habits.
  • Beware of post acute withdrawal symptoms. Post acute withdrawal is one potential after effect of a substance use disorder that you should be aware of. These withdrawal symptoms occur after initial detox from drugs and alcohol and can include mood swings, depression, anxiety, cravings, and insomnia. Don’t give in to urges to continue using drugs and stay in control even when these symptoms make it more difficult, as a physical relapse will only prolong the mental illness. Also, remember in addition that your tolerance may change if you get clean and then begin to use drugs, which could increase your risk that an overdose could result if you do relapse. Withdrawal, as unpleasant as it may be, will start to fade in time, and the danger is not worth it.

Know When To Get Help From A Treatment Program

Relapse may happen despite your efforts, but it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. However, it does mean you need to seriously assess your actions and emotional state. If you notice the early warning signs of a mental relapse into substance use disorder or have recently relapsed, it may be time to get in touch with a treatment facility. You cannot always prevent relapse on your own, but you can continue learning from your mistakes.

Even if you do relapse, you don’t have to let one drink send you quickly spiraling all the way back into your vicious cycle of old habits and create profound negative consequences. Instead of trying to deal with your mental health alone, realize that physical relapse is a common step and normal part of the road to recovery and seek out appropriate substance abuse treatment or therapy. Don’t let denial take hold and try to cover up what has happened by lying, as a lie will only delay the inevitable and hurt anyone that you care about. Instead, be as honest as possible and quickly take a step in the right direction.

However, many people relapse but are later able to become fully committed to long term recovery once their underlying issues mentally are addressed. No matter what has happened so far, you still have plenty of chances to confront your struggles head on and to turn your life around if you are ready.

Need help creating a stress management plan to avoid relapse or with any other aspect of combating drug addiction? RECO Intensive can help guide you through the recovery process to ensure that you enjoy long-lasting sobriety. We can create a comprehensive rehab plan for you depending on your individual needs. No matter where you are in your recovery journey, our established expertise will get you through this moment with caring, compassion, empathy, and understanding.

If your questions have not yet been answered in this article page so far, feel free to explore the rest of the resources on our site or to contact us today to chat with a substance abuse treatment specialist 24 7. If you’d like, you can even chat without revealing any personal information.

If you want to phone for more information, try calling us today at (561) 464-6533 for advice on completing treatment, and anything you share with us will be entirely confidential. We are one of the premier treatment programs in south Florida, and in the country, and our staff would be happy to do whatever we can to help you to stay strong and to prevent relapse.

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