There’s no way around it: stress is frequently a trigger for substance abuse. Often, those who develop an addiction to alcohol and other drugs do so because they so frequently turned to their substance of choice as a way to decompress and relax. In recovery then, it becomes important to learn how to positively deal with stress. Because problems are unavoidable in life, and drug and alcohol use is no longer an option, it is imperative to address the issue of stress and incorporate ways to mitigate its power and manage it successfully in recovery.
How Stress Impacts Recovery
A number of things can cause stress in recovery. Dealing with past mistakes, grappling with guilt and shame, rebuilding relationships, looking for employment, handling legal issues, trying to overcome cravings – every aspect of life is stressful for someone who is newly sober. Add to that the kinds of stressors that come whether or not one has a history of addiction – small things like irritations at work or getting cut off while driving, and large things like the loss of a loved one or health problems – and it can be doubly difficult to refrain from relapse.
The truth is, however, that relapse only worsens the stress; it certainly doesn’t take it away. But when one is in early recovery, it is difficult to be rational and make choices that favor true relief from stress over taking the easy way out.
There are a number of different holistic treatments and therapies that can be effective in helping patients not only to lower high levels of stress that plague them but to also deal with surprise stressors that pop up throughout the day. These include:
- Yoga. Regular practice of any kind of yoga can improve physical health as well as mental health, which in turn improves sleep and breathing and aids practitioners in remaining calm when in crisis.
- Acupuncture. The “chi” is the life force that flows through the body, according to Eastern philosophy, and the gentle insertion of long thin needles into the top layers of skin at strategic points are said to unblock the flow of the “chi.” Some points are said to lower cravings for drugs and alcohol; others can help to relieve stress.
- Herbs. Certain herbs and supplements can help to lower stress, improve mood, or address underlying conditions that increase stress levels. Do not take any supplements without working with a certified provider or consulting with your doctor.
Learning how to make good choices that prioritize health and wellness throughout the day can lower stress levels and increase the ability to manage acute stressors. Things like eating healthfully, regularly exercising, having good relationships, and getting quality sleep can all contribute to feelings of peace and calm. In the same way, removing behaviors that create stress or lower one’s ability to manage stress is important too. For example, if you have a problem with insomnia, then addressing it by increasing exercise and decreasing stimulating activity before bedtime is a first step. If this doesn’t work, herbal supplements or seeing a doctor about the problem may be the next step; getting sound sleep regularly increases the body’s ability to function and improves mood, which in turn lowers stress.
The first step to mitigating the impact that stress has on drug use and abuse is to begin sobriety at an intensive drug rehab. Contact us today at The Oaks at La Paloma to find out how we can help.