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Stress Management in Recovery

Stress is a normal and unavoidable part of life, and just because we get sober, it doesn’t mean we won’t experience it anymore.  So, it’s important to learn how to handle this stress effectively, especially so it doesn’t become a trigger for relapse.  Here are some ways for you to cope with stress the next time life has got you overwhelmed:

Keep a Routine
Early recovery can be an overwhelming and stressful time for anybody.  You now have to live life on life’s terms and have to learn how to deal with your problems instead of turning to drugs and alcohol to cope.  Developing a routine early on, then, can be comforting.  Structuring each day provides stability and helps us feel in control and secure in taking on the week.  Allotting enough time in the week for exercise, work, recovery and sleep will help in minimizing stress and can give you peace of mind that you’re fitting in everything you need to.  

Take Care of Yourself
Chances are you weren’t getting a well-balanced diet or enough sleep while in your addiction.  But now that you’re more in tune with your body, practicing good self-care is key.  Without proper nutrition or rest, your body can’t function the way it should.  Stress becomes unmanageable, concentration becomes difficult and emotional stability becomes harder to maintain.  Sleep is the time when your body recharges, and the right diet keeps you from running on empty – both crucial elements to help you better cope with stress.  

Have Someone to Confide In
Sometimes, all I need to do when stressed is talk to someone about how I feel, and just having someone to listen and give advice on the other end makes a world of difference.  Whether your support system be a friend, family member, sponsor or therapist, having someone to confide in will help you tackle life stresses head-on and move forward.  

Practice Mindfulness
For those of us in recovery, there is no harsher critic than ourselves.  Self-criticism and self-judgment are often a common source of stress so it’s important to learn how to make peace with that inner voice.   By practicing mindfulness – the experience of paying attention to one’s thoughts, feelings and cravings without judgment – we can treat ourselves with more respect and reduce the amount of unnecessary stress we unwittingly place on ourselves.  

Get Moving
Instead of turning to drugs and alcohol as a stress reliever, it’s important to find healthy outlets to relieve our frustrations.  Exercise releases natural endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body; plus, it’s a great way to burn off the stress that has been holding you down.  

Stop and Breathe
Sometimes all we need is to take a minute and put the problem we’re experiencing into perspective.  After all, the majority of the time, what we worry about is trivial.  By taking a moment to pause and reflect, we can think rationally about what we’re experiencing, and then calmly arrive at a game plan to tackle the problem and move on. 

Sobriety doesn’t stop life from happening, but by learning new coping mechanisms, we can effectively learn how to deal with everyday stresses and keep moving forward.