Stress is a part of everyone’s life. Whether it stems from anxiety caused by an upcoming event, a deadline at work, or moments of worry or fear, stress affects everyone physically and mentally. For those in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, managing stress successfully is a crucial part of long-term sobriety. A publication from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that “internal and external forms of stress increase drug craving and may trigger a relapse.”
Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress in Recovery
When stress is managed properly, the risk of relapse decreases. Read on to learn some excellent techniques for managing stress.
Exercising regularly is a great way to reduce stress. It improves mood, increases concentration and cognitive functions, decreases fatigue, and improves self-esteem. Exercise does not have to be a gym workout. Find a physical activity you enjoy, like bicycling, swimming, hiking, walking, or spinning.
Eat a Healthy Balanced Diet
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will help you control your moods and feel better in general. It is important not to skip any meals. Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to drop, and your body releases cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. Your stress level becomes elevated, and you will most likely be in a bad mood.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for physical and mental well-being. When you do not get enough sleep, your mind and body are stressed. It seems much harder to deal with life in general. Not getting enough sleep often creates a vicious cycle of stress and insomnia. Establish a routine of going to bed close to the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning. By doing this, your body adjusts to a rhythm and reduces some stress. You will feel more rested.
Spend Time in Nature
Spending time outside in nature is a wonderful way to reduce stress and bring your body and mind in balance. It is good for your mental clarity and your health. Taking a long walk in a wooded area, the mountains, or near a body of water will release stress and frustration. If you do not have those natural resources near you, take a walk in a park, work in the garden, walk in your neighborhood, or just sit outside and observe nature.
Focus on Your Breathing
When you begin to feel stress building, focus on your breathing. Take deep, full breaths to help yourself calm down. It helps you to remove yourself from the stress of the moment. The deep breaths reduce the flight or fight response and activate the parasympathetic nervous system in your body, creating a relaxation response. Your nervous system is brought to a state of calm. Your heart rate slows, and cortisol levels lower.
Establish Healthy Routines
Creating a routine is an important part of recovery. It is also a great way to reduce stress in recovery. Having a plan for the day reduces the risk of boredom, often a trigger of relapse. By having a relaxed daily routine, you can focus on the schedule instead of current frustrations or sources of stress. Without a daily routine, your days can become disjointed. It can become hard to keep track of tasks, meals, items, etc. Establish healthy routines and follow them as much as you can.
Mindfulness is the ability to clear your mind and focus on the present moment, paying active attention to that moment. You are aware of what you are thinking and feeling without criticism or judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you are able to regulate your thoughts and control your emotions. Different types of mindfulness techniques include yoga and meditation.
Do You Need Help?
If you or a loved one struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, now is the time to get the help you need. Call and speak to a professional at English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We will answer your questions and help you begin your journey to living a clean and sober life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.