Tips on Managing Stress Levels in Addiction Recovery
In this article we look at different ways of effectively managing stress for a healthier recovery from addiction.
Most of us, without hardly any acceptation, suffer from stress. We would hardly be human if we didn't. However, learning how to manage stress properly is a very important part of recovery, and it is a part that is often overlooked.
Stress is one of the leading causes of relapse. It is therefore vital that we keep a regular check on our stress levels and do all we can to keep them to a minimum.
Whilst certain types of stress are unavoidable i.e. financial worries, a relationship breakdown or a bereavement, they can still be managed if we remain mindful.
Stress cannot only put our recovery at risk, but can also have a huge detrimental impact on our health and our emotional wellbeing. This is especially true during times of acute stress or times of prolonged exposure to stress.
With stress being inevitable for the majority of us, lets look at ways in which we can manage stress and help to reduce its associated risks.
Helpful tips on managing stress in day to day life
Assuming you are not going through acute stress but that you suffer from stress on a day to day basis, there is a lot that can be done to manage it.
Check your work/life balance
Work can be a tremendous source of stress for many of us. Naturally, some jobs are more stressful than others. However, even the most stressful jobs can be managed with the correct stress busting measures in place.
If you are feeling stressed at work, you may be:
- Working long hours
- Managing a heavy workload
- Feeling undervalued and underpaid
- Having issues with management or work colleagues
- Feeling out of control over job-related decisions
- Receiving conflicting demands or have unclear performance expectations
- Feeling your work is monotonous with no new challenges
- Having fear over job security
Tips on managing stress at work
Stick to your contracted hours wherever possible
Many people are guilty of staying late at work and whilst this is sometimes inevitable, it shouldn't be a regular thing. If you feel you cannot manage your work load within your contracted hours, then this would be something for you to raise with your boss. Alternatively, you could ask work colleagues for help, or delegate some tasks if you are in a position to. Working long and excessive hours as unpaid overtime only leads to resentment and further stress.
Take regular breaks
This doesn't mean eating your lunch at your desk! It means taking regular breaks away from your working environment, even if you work from home. Finding a quiet place where you can relax and just ‘be’. Reading a book, listening to a podcast, meditating or just watching nature can all help you to just breathe. Taking a mindful walk during your lunch hour is another great way of clearing your mind and improving your mood. A brisk walk will help to raise the serotonin levels in your brain.
Ask for help
Pride can be an awful thing, especially when it stops you asking for some much needed help. Trying to comprehend something that doesn't make sense, no matter which way you look at it, or trying to fix something without success can take up a lot of time and thinking power. This can put you behind your schedule and add an unnecessary layer of stress and pressure. Asking someone for help is a proactive way of managing stress. No one is expected to know everything and everyone needs support.
Help your colleagues, don't enable them
Whilst it is always nice to be nice and help others wherever possible. There is a line you do not want to cross. When helping someone else becomes to your detriment, then that is known as enabling.
Do you find yourself constantly finishing other jobs that are assigned to others? Do you feel responsible for ensuring others get all their work done? Are you repeatedly picking up the slack for your colleagues? Does this impact on your own work load?
If the answer is yes, then you need to stop! Feeling constantly responsible for others will lead you to feeling very stressed. Try to remember what you can and cannot control.
Leave work at work
Easier said than done, I know. But your brain needs respite from the pressure you feel at work. When the day is done, commit to your life. If you cannot stop thinking of something that is going on at work, speak to someone you trust about it. If work is affecting your recovery and your home life, something has to give. Balancing work, recovery and a home life isn't easy for most of us in recovery. However, when we make our recovery a priority, our stress levels are generally much better in all other areas of life. Only you can decide if your job is worth the stress you feel.
Tips on managing stress at home
If life at home is causing you to feel stressed, its time to honestly look at what you can and cannot change. Your home should be your haven and a safe place for you and your family. If it is not, then something is seriously wrong.
Remember that we are looking at ways of managing day to day stress here, so I won't be suggesting any life changing events!
Look at your routine
Does your routine at home allow for some time, just for you? Time when you can relax, spend time on your recovery and do the things you enjoy? If it doesn't it may be that you are taking on more than your fair share of duties or chores.
Managing stress at home, means letting go of the things that have no real meaning. It means taking a break and walking away from heated arguments. It also means learning how to communicate honestly and effectively with others within your home.
You may be familiar with the saying: ‘My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life does not have to come last’
By putting your recovery first it is easier to make decisions regarding everything else. It is easier to manage your stress levels on a day to day basis and it is easier to recognise what you can and cannot control.
The effects of not managing stress
So, why is it so important to manage stress levels?
Prolonged exposure to stress can actually rewire your brain, and not in a good way. This can leave you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression and to relapse.
Stress releases the hormone cortisol and this can have profound effects on our body and our mind. Whilst at times a little stress can be helpful in keeping us productive and on our toes, too much stress will have the adverse effects.
The effects of stress on the body and mind include:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heart beat
- Poor diet i.e not eating a balanced diet, over eating or under eating
- Sleep disorders
- Reduced cognition
- Impaired decision making
- Premature ageing of the brain
- Skin problems - eczema, psoriasis, acne
- Suppressed immune sytem
- Sexual dysfunction and reproductive issues
- Digestive disorders
- Increased risk for heart attack and stroke
- Increased risk for mental and emotional disorders
- Higher risk of addiction relapse
Things you can do to start managing your stress levels better today
There are some simple things you can do that could help you to manage your stress levels better. Recoverlution’s addiction wellness hub is full of content designed to reduce stress and increase wellbeing. Aside from joining our wellness hub, here are some healthy ways of managing stress that you could try:
Taking time out just for you, to relax, unwind and focus on some inner healing helps to reset the brain. Even just a few minutes of focused meditation on your breath can work wonders in lowering your stress levels.
Mindfulness is a fantastic way to reduce stress. Being mindful keeps you focused on the here and now. By remaining present you can avoid worrying over things that have passed or have yet to happen. We have many articles on mindfulness and its benefits for the body, mind and spirit.
Exercise is not only great for reducing stress but it also boosts your mood and helps you to become physically stronger. There are so many forms of exercise available that it is adaptable and accessible to everyone. Exercise also offers many benefits for your mental health, which help to make you more resilient to the effects of stress.
Make improvements to your diet
By eating a healthy balanced diet, rich in anti-inflammatory foods you can reduce your cortisol levels. This means more whole foods and less processed foods. Often in times of stress, diet can fall by the wayside. However, incorporating foods that are high in omega 3, B vitamins, magnesium and protein, as well as foods that are soothing to the gut will all help to reduce your stress levels.
Engage with life
If life is all work and no play, it is no wonder you are feeling stressed. Often, trying to juggle a job, a home life and recovery can leave little time for self nurture in the form of play. It is important to have something you can do that you really enjoy. It may be you enjoy going our for dinner, spending weekends away or going the movies (even if you just take yourself). These are all proactive ways of saying:‘I am worthy of self care’. Having outside interests is all vital to giving life purpose and to making it worthwhile.
Check your thinking
If your inner dialogue is generally negative, guess what? This will make you feel even more stressed. Whilst we cannot always control the nature of our thoughts we can choose what we do with them. If you suffer from an inner dialogue that is constantly belittling and berating you, trying some positive affirmations or mantras can help to combat this. Writing a daily gratitude list can also help you to focus on the things that are good in your life instead of just the negatives. Your outlook and approach to life is everything when it comes to effectively managing stress on a daily basis.
Get to know your triggers for stress
Keeping a daily diary of your thoughts, feelings and events and marking out ones that make you feel stressed should quickly show a pattern. By doing this you are not only writing therapeutically, but you can also identify triggers for your stress. Once you have identified what causes you to feel stressed you can then apply healthy coping strategies to deal with them.
Have healthy boundaries
Having healthy boundaries in place at work, home and in recovery is vital to your wellbeing. If you don't have boundaries everything can start to feel too much. You can start to feel burned out, stressed out and frazzled. An easy boundary to adopt straight away is to never to commit to something on the spot. Instead, say: “ I will come back to you”. By doing this you are giving yourself time to process what is being asked of you, and whether it is something you can realistically commit to or not. This also gives you space to assess if you actually have the time, or whether it will be to the detriment of your wellbeing.
Talk to others who understand
This last one might just be the most important way in which you can manage stress. Bottling up feelings of anger, resentment, fear and worry is very unhealthy and only results in additional stress. Whether it is a sponsor, counsellor or trusted friend that you talk to, it is important to have someone who has your best interests at heart. Someone who has your back and helps you to feel heard. Talking things through can also help you to see the truth in a matter. Stress tends to cloud thinking and judgment, so talking something through with a person you trust can really shed some light and perspective on a situation that is causing you to feel stressed.
Dedicated to your wellbeing
Recoverlution are dedicated to your wellbeing and have many holistic treatments and therapies for you to try. We also are dedicated to helping each other, connect with one another more quickly and with ease.
If you are struggling with stress, you could always create a circle of people you can speak to within our platform. Having the right support is so very important when it comes to remaining healthy and managing stress levels effectively. Our Wellness hub also offers many proven methods of stress reduction including, mindfulness, yoga, breath work, therapy and much more
- Stress management - Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes - https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm
- Effects of stress on the immune system -https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2186751/
- “Protective and Therapeutic Effects of Exercise on Stress-Induced Memory Impairment.” The Journal of Physiological Sciences: JPS 69, no. 1 (January 2019): 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12576-018-0638-0
- Eat These Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety - https://health.clevelandclinic.org/eat-these-foods-to-reduce-stress-and-anxiety/
- Coping with stress at work. Working hard should not be confused with overworking at the expense of relationships and physical health - https://www.apa.org/topics/healthy-workplaces/work-stress