How to Deal With Stress in Recovery

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Learning how to deal with stress in recovery, like the recovery process itself, is an ongoing journey and can present formidable obstacles to the recovering addict. It is no surprise that a concrete relationship exists between stress and substance use and abuse. Finding ways to deal with stress in recovery will be key in the development of a sustainable and quality recovery lifestyle. As stated before, the presence of stress in the daily life of the recovering addict can be daunting and can take many forms.


Understanding the Symptoms of Stress

A huge part of learning how to deal with stress in recovery is knowing the symptoms of stress and the various categories they can fall under. There are four main stress symptom categories and they include the following:

  • Thoughts: self-criticism, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, forgetfulness, preoccupation with the future, repetitive thoughts, fear of failure
  • Feelings: anxiety, irritability, fear, moodiness, anger
  • Behaviors: increased or decreased appetite, “snapping” at friends, acting impulsively, persistent smoking, teeth grinding or jaw clenching, being more accident-prone, withdrawal from others
  • Physical symptoms: sleep disturbances, tight muscles, headaches, fatigue, cold or sweaty hands, back or neck problems, stomach distress, more colds and infections, rapid breathing, pounding heart, trembling, dry mouth.


Suggestions for Coping with Stress While in Recovery

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but for someone who is in recovery dealing with daily stresses without the use of substances can at times be very challenging. Over time, those who continue to work their recovery program know how to deal with stress in recovery. The following suggestions can be helpful:

  • Manage time. Poor time management or mismanagement of time is one of the most common sources of stress. Developing healthy routines that make the most of one’s time is crucial while in recovery. Making a reasonable schedule which includes time for 12-step meetings and other activities related to your recovery is crucial. Adding some margin for days when everything seeming goes wrong is also key.
  • Connecting with the right people. Being by yourself is okay for short periods of time but early recovery requires support and empowerment from those who support your recovery, like those found in 12-step groups for example. Additionally, there needs to be some distance between oneself and those who do not fully support your recovery. Some of these people may be friends or co-workers who care but may not understand addiction.
  • Talk it out. Bottled-up emotions increase frustration and stress. Sharing feelings with trusted people such as sponsors, supportive friends, and family members is vital. If necessary, seek professional help.
  • Get physical. Physical activity plays a key role in both reducing and preventing stress. Physical activity can relieve tension as well as both relax and energize. Find enjoyable activities and make regular time for it. Running, walking, weight lifting, swimming, playing tennis and playing golf are all good options. Talk with a doctor about any health concerns before starting an exercise program.
  • Eat well; sleep well. Well-rested and well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress. Like a car running low on gas, if you are running on fumes from lack of sleep or are not eating right an individual will be less able to go the distance when dealing with stressful situations



While the above-mentioned tips are helpful in learning how to deal with stress in recovery, the ways that will work best will take exploration and guidance.

Related Reading
  • A lot of stress comes from the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve, and indeed, achieve specific things in specific ways. Sanity consists of letting go of perfection and forgiving ourselves for being merely human – and granting the rest of the human race the same courtesy. When problems and challenges present themselves, look at them as opportunities for personal growth. The next time you are faced with a challenge remember this African proverb: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

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