It is hardly a controversial statement to say that life is stressful.
All of us are dealing with so many responsibilities, consequential choices, challenges of all kinds—we could go on and on.
Here is another not terribly controversial statement: Managing stress effectively can be difficult but is vitally important to overall well-being. And here’s a corollary to that statement: Managing stress is absolutely essential for a person in recovery from a substance use disorder.
Why? Because too much-unmanaged stress can be a relapse trigger. As stress piles up in your life, you might find yourself eager for quick relief. In those circumstances, it can be awfully tempting to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol so that you can set aside the stress for a little while.
To avoid that scenario, it is helpful to have a set of strategies that can help you deal with day-to-day stress so that it doesn’t add up to something unmanageable. This is not, of course, a comprehensive list of stress reduction techniques, but we hope they inspire you to consider other ways to reduce the negative impact of stress in your life.
Setting Some Boundaries: Hard but Necessary
We live in a culture that seems to value busyness—and this is perhaps particularly true at work. Workers are often encouraged to “do more with less” and to work long hours to help the company reach its goals, make the boss look good, and maybe—though just maybe—nab a promotion or a pay raise for themselves.
This approach to work often leaves precious little time for rest and relaxation, so the stress of the job can come to feel unrelenting. That can lead to a number of bad outcomes—including a relapse for a person in recovery.
Given all of that, it is important to set boundaries. And sometimes the place to start in that process is with yourself. Make a commitment not to eat lunch at your desk. Make staying late an occasional thing rather than your daily habit. Make the weekends as free from work as possible by turning off alerts on your phone and staying out of your email.
Those steps can be great stress reducers, but you may also need to set some boundaries with your coworkers or your boss. Being honest about when the workload is getting out of control can lead to positive conversations that might lead to a healthier approach for your whole team.
Relax Your Way: Find a Hobby
Many of us find it hard to relax because it feels lazy or unproductive. After all, you have so much to do, right?
One way to keep those feelings from creeping in is to find a hobby that you truly enjoy and continually find engaging. It can be most anything as long as it holds your attention and keeps your mind off some of the stressors in your life.
Take up a musical instrument or try painting or writing or working with clay. Spend time exploring your local parks or find a sport you enjoy. Read up on a topic you find fascinating. Try starting a garden or expanding your cooking skills or learning to play chess or Dungeons and Dragons or bridge.
Here’s a trick for getting started with a hobby: Put time you will devote to the activity into your calendar. It might seem odd to schedule relaxation, but it might be the only way to convince yourself to get started. Having a regular time when you know you will be doing something you enjoy gives you something to look forward to—even when (or especially when) the stress in your life is mounting.
Be Present Now: Mindfulness, Music, More
Often, our thoughts seem to be racing in every direction at once. You find yourself worrying about the future, replaying regrets from the past, and letting your mind flit from thought to thought in a disordered way that can add to your stress levels.
To combat this, it can be helpful to find activities that encourage you to stay present in the current moment. That is the whole point of mindfulness practice, which helps you bring your thoughts into the present while you focus on your breathing. This habit of staying present can be applied to day-to-day life, too, reducing and moderating the experience of stress.
Other activities can also help instill a sense of calm and presence. You can listen to a favorite album, for example, settling in to really listen rather than letting the music simply play in the background. You can try yoga, which is like mindfulness in motion. Slowing down and enjoying each bite of a meal can have a similar effect. Find the moments in your day that you can really focus on in a way that brings calm and enjoyment.
Don’t Stress Out: Treatment is Effective
At Wooded Glen Recovery Center in Indiana, we offer personalized treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. There are few things in life more stressful that battling drugs or alcohol on your own. Via our detox, rehab, and continuum of care programs, we work to reduce that stress while we help you reclaim your sobriety and your life.