While no one can avoid stress entirely, any type of anxiety can be especially damaging for people entering a newly sober life. Adding some tried and true recovery stress management techniques into your life can give you the edge as you head into your successful recovery.
1. Plan Ahead
Thinking through what usually causes anxiety ahead of time can help you avoid -- or at least be ready to cope with -- stressful situations when they arrive.
When it comes to dealing with people, writing out a little “script” beforehand can help prepare you when a stressful situation arises. If you are late to an important appointment or need to explain to friends why you want to avoid bars or parties at this point in your recovery, practicing beforehand can make a world of difference.
In addition, your support team may be able to help you with coping mechanisms in stressful situations that involve only you, such as driving in an unfamiliar place. For example, calming breathing techniques or quietly spoken affirmations are enormously helpful to many people in recovery.
2. Learn to Love a Physical Pursuit
Many people flat-out hate exercise. Yet some sort of physical outlet is ideal for boosting your mood and banishing stress -- all without addictive substances. Chances are, there’s at least one activity out there that you can not only tolerate but that you actually look forward to.
If running and pushups are too hard on your joints, for example, consider swimming at a local lake or affordable fitness center. Water -- whether it’s in a natural setting or an indoor pool -- has a way of soothing the spirit, while also supporting your body to ease aching joints.
When boredom threatens to kill your fitness ambition, turn to any of the dozens of storyline-focused fitness apps out there that will have you dodging zombies or delivering secret documents as you run or hike.
Whatever you end up doing, developing a healthy workout habit that kills stress can be a key component of your recovery in 2018.
3. Take the Weight of the World Off Your Shoulders...with Weight!
A weighted blanket is one of the hottest trends in self-care -- and for good reason. Sleep is essential to maintaining positivity throughout the day, making feeling miserable in the middle of the night doubly treacherous. (For obvious reasons, people in recovery often need to avoid oral sleeping aids.)
Weighted blankets can come to the rescue for restless and anxious sleepers. They work well because they apply just enough pressure that your body’s touch receptors are soothed, much like a hug. In addition, the weight is calibrated just right, so that you’ll feel grounded and secure, yet not oppressed by an overly heavy pressure.
4. Count Your Blessings
Too many people with problems are dismissively told to “count their blessings.” Of course, it’s especially unwise for recovering addicts to ignore their very real issues simply because well-meaning people urge them to do so. But you can strike a balance, by practicing daily gratitude.
By helping yourself remember the daily graces of life, whether it’s something that happened or a person in your life who’s made you feel better, you literally begin to increase the stress levels in your brain. So taking time to jot down the pleasure of a cup of cocoa after shoveling the snow, the nice phone call from a friend, or the person at the bank who helped you make a complicated transaction, will genuinely help you battle back some anxiety.
5. Discover the Joy of Healthy Foods
It’s pretty common for people who are addicted to substances to lose their appetites -- or at least their interest in healthy foods. One of the joys of recovery can be regaining a positive relationship with food.
If you like to cook, de-stress after a long day by chopping vegetables and other immunity-boosting ingredients. If you don’t, nutritious smoothies will do just as well. The point is to re-acquaint yourself with healthy foods, which helps lower anxiety in two ways: In the short term, savoring a meal connects you with the simple pleasures of life. In the long term, eating a balanced diet will better help your body fight off stress when it does come.
6. Get Serious About Decluttering
Often the things left lying around your home represent things you should be doing or will have to do -- always a source of pressure. Recovery experts suggest seeking out minimalism as a stress-relieving way of life.
Minimalism starts with donating or discarding the things you truly won’t need again -- outdated clothes, old paperwork and bills, defunct gadgets and fussy kitchen paraphernalia.
Even if cozy and “artfully cluttered” is what makes you happiest, you can still strike a happy medium that will reduce anxiety. Just create systems for yourself that make it easy to put away items when they aren’t in use or you haven’t gotten to them so that even items like unpaid bills and unfolded laundry have a place to hide.
7. Create a Support Network
A “network is a good way to think of the people in your life who can help you when stress makes it hard to keep going with your recovery. Networks have several different branches so that you can have your “family group,” your “recovery group,” your “sponsors and therapists group,” and so on.
Let the different people in your life know that there may be times when you really need to be able to call or meet up. If they agree, keep their phone numbers close by at all times.
Above all, know that you don’t have to go it alone. Pax House is here to help, with a range of recovery stress management services including behavioral cognitive therapy, one-on-one counseling, art and music therapy, vocational training, and relapse prevention. Reach out today to learn more.