Stress is unavoidable.
It is a part of everyone’s life. But if you are in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, stress can cause relapse. Knowing healthy ways to manage stress is crucial to maintaining your sobriety.
Addiction & Stress
When a person uses drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, their brain releases more stress hormones, causing the individual to feel depressed, anxious, and irritable. The increased stress hormone level causes them to use more drugs or drink more alcohol. When faced with a stressful situation, the brains of people with substance use disorders have higher levels of stress hormones than the brains of people without addictions.
When you are in a stressful or frightening situation, either perceived or actual, your body has an automatic biological response. The stressful or dangerous situation activates the sympathetic nervous system, releasing hormones and chemicals that spread through your body. The response provides a burst of energy. It triggers the fight-or-flight response, preparing your body to fight or run from the perceived dangers. Once the danger has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system should kick in, allowing the body to relax. However, if you are under constant stress, your body remains in a fight-or-flight response, causing you to experience chronic stress.
Nine Healthy Ways to Manage Stress in Addiction Recovery
1. Take Mental Breaks and Stay Positive
Just as you have to rest your body, you have to rest your mind. Your body and brain need periods of rest to recover from stress. It is essential to stay positive and keep stress in perspective during difficult situations. You can improve your overall mental health by learning to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
2. Remove Yourself from Stressful Situations & Breathe
If you find yourself dealing with a stressful person or a stressful situation, remove yourself as quickly as possible and take a few deep breaths. The simple act of breathing stimulates the part of the brain that promotes feelings of relaxation and calmness.
3. Eat Healthy Meals
Eating a proper diet is crucial in addiction recovery. When you eat nutrient-heavy, well-balanced meals and energy-boosting snacks, you will feel better, reduce stress, and increase your energy level.
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise in a way you enjoy. Whether you play a sport, walk, run, dance, practice yoga, swim, or take a spin class, exercise is a great way to reduce stress. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, making you feel good. Your mind gets a break from worrying. You naturally relax and feel happy. Exercise gives you energy, decreases fatigue, increases concentration and cognitive functions, and improves your self-esteem and mood.
5. Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep is important to help manage stress. When you sleep, your stress hormones go down. Your brain releases hormones that help build, repair, and restore damaged areas. You need this time to keep up your energy, strength, immunity, and ability to handle any stress the next day will bring. Going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time every day allows your body to get into a natural rhythm. You will feel more rested, have less stress, think more clearly, and have an overall sense of well-being.
6. Practice Good Self-Care
Taking good care of yourself does not mean only eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest. It also means being good to yourself. Take time to do things you enjoy. Take a leisurely bath, play with your pets, enjoy a favorite hobby, or settle in a comfortable chair to read a good book. The list of things to do is endless. By doing what makes you feel happy and grounded, you will be better able to handle stressful situations when they arise.
7. Spend Time in Nature
Spending time outside reduces stress levels and helps protect you from its harmful effects. It helps to balance your body and mind. Walking outside for only 30 minutes reduces stress, improves your health, boosts your mood, and promotes a sense of well-being. If you cannot get outside, look at pictures of nature scenes. Even looking at the pictures will reduce your stress levels.
Practicing meditation decreases stress and anxiety levels. When you are quiet and mindful, meditation allows you to move from a place of stress, pain, or anger to a place where you feel comfortable with yourself. All types of meditation are useful tools to help you manage stress.
9. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude
Practicing gratitude each day helps reduce stress, put things in perspective, and increase well-being. It is almost impossible to feel upset and stressed while feeling grateful. If you feel stressed, take a few deep breaths and focus on someone or something you are grateful for, or something you appreciate in life. You will feel the changes in your body.
Help Is Available
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 recovery.
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.