manage stress in recovery

6 Ways to Manage Stress in Recovery

Published on December 20, 2019 by First Responder Wellness

Life requires us to find ways to cope with unpleasant feelings and circumstances, and managing stress is no exception.  During active addiction, you likely turned to substance abuse anytime you found yourself becoming stressed or overwhelmed.  Unfortunately, using substances to ignore your responsibilities or ease anxiety always backfires, and substance abuse ultimately contributes to stress more than it alleviates it.  During recovery, it is critical to learn healthy coping skills so that you can prevent a return to old habits and avoid relapse. 

Be Realistic

Stress is a normal part of life, and excess stress is a normal part of recovery.  The process of recovering from an addiction can be very stressful on its own, and acclimating to a sober lifestyle outside of treatment can present many unexpected challenges.  Something in your life going differently than how you wish it would should not be a reason to throw up your hands and turn to using once again. The best strategy for preventing stress-induced relapse is to expect obstacles and plan accordingly.

Stay Active

Establishing a workout routine and staying physically active is one the best ways to care for your body and mind, and help reduce the effects of stress.  Working out provides endorphins that make you feel happy and energized, making life’s challenges seem more manageable. Exercise also helps your brain produce neurotransmitters that regulate many bodily functions including brain processes that affect mood.   Additionally, working out regularly helps you to improve self-esteem and feel more confident in your ability to accomplish goals, which prevents unfinished tasks from piling up and adding unneeded stress to your life.

Practice Gratitude

This may sound abstract, but practicing gratitude has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and promote general wellbeing.  While most of us can easily point to something we are grateful for in our lives, practicing gratitude is a purposeful act rather than a casual acknowledgment.  While a gratitude practice looks different for everyone, it helps to incorporate a bit of ceremony in your gratitude routine. For example, you may choose to write down five things you are grateful for every night before bed, or to sit quietly every morning and focus on just one thing or person you are grateful for, and all the ways that thing or person brings you joy.  These simple practices have a concrete chemical effect on the brain, and can help you to focus on what is important rather than dwelling on worries and stress.

Spend Time in Nature

Many people can attest to the power of nature to alleviate stress and promote tranquility.  Science continues to back up these personal anecdotes by proving that spending time in nature improves mental health, and even just being in close proximity to plant life can uplift mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.  While taking a long hike or camping in the wilderness is a great option, even just a stroll through the park or a half hour spent in your own backyard garden can help you to feel calm and focused. Bodies of water have also been shown to have a significant impact on mental wellbeing, so if possible, spend time near a lake or ocean where you can relax and destress.

Prioritize Sleep

Healthy sleep is tied to nearly every aspect of our wellbeing, but many of us struggle to get enough of it.  While getting a full eight hours may not be easy in early recovery, especially if you have a job and other responsibilities that require your attention at odd hours, finding a way to prioritize a healthy sleep routine is essential to maintaining mental wellness and reducing stress in recovery.  Many professionals now advocate for the cultivation of healthy sleep hygiene to increase the quality and consistency of your sleep. This means establishing bedtime habits that have been shown in studies to lead to a healthy night’s sleep. Some examples are avoiding caffeine late in the day, turning off all screens two hours prior to laying down, and making your sleep space as quiet and comfortable as possible.

Let Go

Unfortunately, many of us tend to stress over aspects of our lives we can’t control.  If you find your stress is deeply rooted in regrets of the past, anxieties about the future, or the actions and behaviors of those around you, it is important that you learn how to let go.  Talking with a therapist can help you to let go of the things you can’t control and focus on what you have the power to change in your life.

Managing stress is an important part of recovery, and a skill that can be taught during treatment. The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships. By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.  First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.