There is no doubt we live in a highly stressful world. In recovery, learning how to reduce stress is an essential relapse prevention action, as stress is a common trigger for relapse. While we all have varying abilities to manage stress in our lives, being able to leverage those skills in recovery is key.
Why it is Important to Manage Stress in Recovery
While it would be wonderful if we could avoid all sources of stress or emotional unrest to protect our recovery, that is simply not realistic. Daily stressors are not going to go anywhere just because we have stopped using a substance. The trick is to adopt a few go-to stress-reducing techniques that can help you successfully navigate them.
Early recovery is a vulnerable period. New coping skills have not yet become habit, so when an upsetting life event occurs, or even if you are just having a very stressful day, the urge to return to the substance can overwhelm you. As you navigate recovery, make stress management a priority. By practicing the techniques daily when encountering stressful moments or upsetting events, you will be shoring up your recovery at the same time.
5 Stress-Reducing Tips
When confronted with a stress-inducing event, our bodies immediately react with a natural human stress response. The negative emotions spurred by the event trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones. This is also referred to as the fight or flight response.
Learning how to effectively manage these spikes in the stress hormones, as they occur throughout the day, will largely determine our ability to remain sober. Consider the following stress-reducing tips to employ as needed:
- Deep Breathing. One of the quickest ways to reduce stress and anxiety is through the use of deep breathing techniques. Try this deep breathing exercise to immediately reduce blood pressure and heart rate: Inhale slowly to a count of five; hold the breath for a count of five; exhale to a count of five…repeat four-five times.
- Mindfulness. Our thoughts can keep us off balance and mired in fear. Using mindfulness, you can redirect these thought distractions toward the here and now. Focus intentionally on your sensory experience, what you are seeing, smelling, hearing, or touching, to swiftly achieve a calmer mindset.
- Yoga. Yoga encompasses a broad category of various types of practices that use movement, stretching, and poses to induce relaxation. Yoga combines these physical activities with focused breathing and meditation for an effective form of exercise that not only tones and strengthens the body, but also helps control stress and anxiety.
- Walking. One of the best responses to stress is to get outdoors and take a brisk walk. Taking a daily 20-minute walk offers immense mental health benefits. Walking allows the beauty of nature to distract you from your troubles, it gives you sun exposure for increased vitamin D, and the endorphins released can improve your mood and help reduce stress.
- Meditation. Our busy, noisy lives can keep us distracted from what truly matters to us. Sitting alone in a quiet setting can help you cultivate a heightened level of awareness. Meditation can be practiced through guided audio sessions, through complete silence, or by connecting with your Higher Power in prayer.
Learning how to reduce stress during our everyday lives is a critical tool in our relapse prevention arsenal. Find the relaxation methods that work best for you and practice them daily to avoid the damaging effects of stress.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, and provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.