One of the most important recovery skills you can practice is learning how to manage stress. We live in a stressful world as it is, with a current stress burden that is very intense due to the pandemic. Stress and anxiety are common triggers for relapse, as someone in recovery may succumb to a substance when seeking ways to relieve the stress. The trick is to have a healthy stress management strategy that will replace the need for a substance.
There are some easy and highly accessible methods for reducing stress. There is no need to spend any money at all, and most can be easily practiced at home. Get familiar with these stress-busting activities so you can reflexively turn to them when anxiety levels creep up.
5 Tips for Stress Relief
Managing anxiety in recovery can definitely be a challenge. This is especially true in early recovery when adjusting to life without the substance to numb emotions. But this aspect of recovery care is now considered so fundamental that most quality treatment centers now include holistic activities in their program elements. Those in treatment are introduced to a variety of relaxation techniques that not only help to assist them through the treatment process, but that will also become useful recovery tools.
Consider these 5 ways to manage anxiety in recovery:
- Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a very powerful tool for redirecting anxious thoughts. We tend to get swept up in questioning our prior actions, ruminating over things we have no control over, or fretting about the future. By practicing mindfulness we shift the mental focus from the worrying thoughts toward our present moment experience. This means that instead of being overwhelmed by “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” you instead focus on the fresh breeze on your face, the song of a nearby bird, or the prayer in your heart.
- Take Daily Walks. Something as simple as a brisk 20-minute walk can have a significant impact on stress. Aerobic exercise causes the body to produce a chemical called endorphins, which will boost your mood. Exercise also elevates the production of neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, and these can help reduce stress. Regular exercise also improves sleep quality, enabling you to feel more rested and calm during the day. Getting outdoors increases vitamin D production, too, which also boosts mental wellness.
- Keep a Journal. You wouldn’t think that writing down the things that are troubling you would help reduce stress, but it actually does. When you put into writing the events or emotions that have stirred up anxiety you diminish their power. As you write, you are actually processing the emotions associated with the event, which helps you get to a place of overcoming its impact. Try to update your journal weekly, if not on a daily basis, to help manage stress.
- Practice Yoga. Yoga is a mind/body activity. This means that practicing yoga will have a positive impact on both your mental health and your physical health. Each executed movement increases flexibility and strength while the simultaneous focused-breathing reduces stress. There are a multitude of forms of yoga, something for everyone. Free yoga sessions can be accessed on YouTube or other streaming platforms so you can practice it from the comfort of your home.
- Practice Deep Breathing Techniques. Nothing will reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate faster than deep breathing exercises. Focused breath-work provides immediate relief from anxiety and stress and can be practiced anywhere at any time. There are several effective deep-breathing techniques, including the 5-5-5. This involves slowly drawing in the breath and filling the lungs to a count of 5, holding the breath for a count of 5, and then releasing the breath completely to a count of 5. Repeat 5 times.
By practicing these easy strategies when anxiety strikes you will soon feel in control of your stress response. This adds an extra layer of protection in recovery that helps you at the very moment you encounter a stress-inducing event. Keep them at the ready for a speedy deployment as needed.
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 both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.