Stress is an unfortunate aspect of daily life, especially now while we’re dealing with the additional fears and isolation as a result of the conoravirus. Avoiding stress is just not practical or possible, so learning how to manage stress is the key.
If you are in addiction recovery, then you are all too aware that stress and accompanying anxiety can lead to relapse. The importance of developing a strong set of coping skills cannot be overstated. When returning to real life following treatment, which involves also returning to the obligations and responsibilities that were neglected or ignored while in active addiction, having a strong relapse prevention plan and grasp on effective stress management is crucial to your sustained recovery.
So how do you learn to manage the way you respond to stress?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a powerful tool for creating new thought-behavior response patterns in recovery. In treatment, the therapist guides you towards recognizing how your thoughts associated with a stressful situation are often disordered and negative, and the behavioral response to the disordered thinking is then self-destructive. The therapist uses cognitive behavioral therapy to assist you in reaching that aha! moment when you realizes how self-defeating the old thought-behavior patterns were, and then work toward reshaping these patterns. You learn to reframe the responsive thought to the stress source into something positive and affirming, and learn to follow that new thought process with constructive, healthy behaviors.
There are also a variety of activities that help to solidify the new healthy thought-behavior patterns, while also enhancing relaxation and reducing stress. Incorporating these practices into daily life in recovery can help protect sobriety while strengthening your coping skills.
Mindfulness training is the practice of purposeful attention to the present moment, especially by focusing on the breathing process. Practicing mindfulness can help rein in stressful thinking. Mindfulness teaches you how to pay close attention to the physical and emotional sensations of the moment while expressing self-affirming thoughts. Here is a link to some mindfulness training sessions that you can follow along with online.
Cardio exercise, practiced on a regular basis, will have profound effects on mood, fitness, and physical health. Cardio activities, such as walking, cycling, swimming, or running, cause the body to produce endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, that boost mood, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality. Playing music that makes you happy while you exercise can further enhance the relaxation effects. Exercise has proven to be an important stress management tool in addiction recovery.
Deep breathing techniques are very effective at reducing stress. Deep breathing slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and reduces tension in your body. A basic deep breathing exercise involves breathing in deeply through the nose to a count of 5, holding the breath for a count of 5, and then releasing the breath slowly and completely through the mouth for a count of 7. Follow along with some of these deep breathing videos.
Yoga has a wide range of restorative health benefits, including stress reduction. Yoga uses purposeful poses and stances that involve stretching, balance, and core work, calming the central nervous system along the way. It is a peaceful, quiet form of exercise that relieves stress and reduces muscle tension while lowering cortisol levels. Try some online Yoga classes.
Support groups provide a sounding board for people to share their painful events, anger-provoking situations, or anything that has caused distress. Being able to share openly in a safe and supportive environment can be an excellent outlet for stress. Give us a call at 330-330-8777 for recommendations of local support groups for your particular situation.
If you are in recovery, and even if you're not, managing stress should be high on your priority list. Successfully managing the effects of stress, both psychological and physical, is a powerful skill, and can help you sustain sobriety and enjoy a much more balanced and happy life.