Successfully completing in-patient rehab at a center like Pacific Ridge is a great start on the path of living a sober life. However, once you’ve completed rehab, you may feel that you have less support in your effort to stay sober than you did while in a formal rehab program. At the same time, you now have to deal with everyday stressors without depending on alcohol or drugs. This can be hard, and research shows that stress contributes to alcohol and drug abuse, and can contribute to a relapse. In turn, substance abuse can actually make you more sensitive to stress, creating a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. However, you can break it by learning how to manage your stress in healthy, effective ways. Take a look at some stress management techniques that can help you control your stress.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Negative self-talk is something that many people do without even realizing it. You’re assigned a tough project at work, and you think, “I can’t do this.” You burn dinner and your first thought is, “I’m so stupid”. Your car breaks down in the rain and you muse that, “everything is going wrong”. Do you notice the negativity in these thoughts? You’re actually creating additional stress for yourself by thinking negative thoughts about yourself and your circumstances.
Instead, you should practice positive self-talk. Instead of “I can’t do this,” tell yourself, “I’ve got this, and I can ask for help if I need it.” Instead of, “I’m so stupid,” say, “we all make mistakes. I won’t let this bring me down.” Instead of “everything is going wrong,” say “I know how to handle this. I’ve dealt with this before.”
It may feel strange to say positive things to yourself in times of stress. If negative self-talk is a habit for you, you will probably have to consciously push the negative talk out of your mind and replace it with the positive talk. But if you do it consistently, positive self-talk will eventually become your habit, replacing the negative self-talk. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to handle stressful situations when your internal monologue says, “I can do this,” instead of “I can’t do this.”
Find Your Support Network
It’s vital that you have people in your life that you can talk to and turn to for help. Isolating yourself from other people can leave you feeling bored and lonely, and not having anyone to call when you need a helping hand or someone to talk to can increase your stress. The truth is that it is sometimes difficult for recovering addicts to find a support network. You may have burned bridges when you were actively using, or you may find it difficult to talk about your experiences to people who don’t understand addiction and recovery. But humans are social creatures, and you need other people in your life.
One option is to find a support group for recovering addicts, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. There you’ll meet people who can empathize with your experiences and can give you support. You should also ask the therapist you worked with during your rehab if they can refer you to a counselor or therapist who will see you on an out-patient basis, so that you have professional support if needed. Finally, you should try reaching out to your friends and family, even if you’ve become estranged from them. You might be surprised to find out how willing they are to reconnect with you.
Find What Makes You Feel Good
When you’re feeling stressed or sad, you need something that you can do to make you feel good. In the past, you may have reached for substances to make you feel good. Since that’s no longer an option, you need to find something else that gives you a happy or contented feeling.
That could be listening to music, taking up a hobby like painting or sewing, reading a book, or watching a movie. Physical activity can give your mood a boost when you need it most – exercise produces endorphins, which are “feel-good” hormones that give you a natural high. Try taking a nature walk or running around the block. Finally, simple deep breathing meditation can relax you and remove any stress that you’re feeling. Just sit in a comfortable spot, visualize a peaceful setting, and take deep, slow breaths for several minutes.
Taking concrete steps to manage your stress is an important factor in your recovery. By using these tips, you’re taking responsibility for your stress and learning how manage it without relying on harmful substances.