12 Tips to Cope with Stress in Recovery

Face it; you’re going to run into some stressors in life. Stressors are those daily situations that cause anxiety or frustration. If you’re trying to stay sober, being able to cope with stress could effectively be the difference between maintaining sobriety and falling back into old habits.

We all have stressors, and sometimes we forget that everyone else is dealing with them, too. The key is to not let these pesky daily stressors derail you from your plans or your sobriety.

An over-worked woman dealing with a lot of stress takes a break to meditate while coworkers hold out work papers - symbolizing tips for dealing with stress.

Stress Happens

Keep in mind, stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion can lead to stress.

When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This “fight or flight” response helps you to deal with threats to your safety. But your body can’t tell the difference between a life-threatening threat and an everyday problem such as traffic jams or deadlines.

If you have too much stress for too long — like when you’re juggling schoolwork and two jobs — it can cause health problems. Chronic stress increases the risk for heart disease, depression, obesity, and diabetes. It also increases the likelihood that you’ll reach for a drink if you don’t have coping mechanisms to handle stress.

Because alcohol is a depressant, it slows down the central nervous system and alters your mood. Drinking too much can exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s not a long-term solution for coping with stress or mental health problems. In fact, it can make them worse.

Managing daily stressors takes practice and sometimes professional help. A good place to start is by identifying what causes stress in your life and finding ways to manage it. The 12 tips below from your friends at 12 South Recovery are a good place to start.

1. Get Lost in a Good Book

A book and a cup of hot tea sit invitingly on a window shelf. Reading can be a great tip for helping to deal with a lot of stress.

Drop what you’re doing, pick up a great book, and dive in. You’ll be transported to another place (and time period) entirely. This is one of the best ways to pull yourself away from your everyday stresses.

2. Feed the Travel Bug

A woman walks up the great wall of china, smiling and alleviating stress by getting away on vacation.

Even if you don’t go far, traveling can help you take a much-needed break from your daily routine. Plan a trip that’ll help you relax or try something completely new — it’s up to you!

3. Try Yoga or Meditation

A lady experiencing stress takes times to meditate on the shore near the water at sunset.

No matter what your reason for stress might be, sometimes it helps to take a few minutes to clear your mind. Yoga and meditation can help you calm down and let go of the things that are causing you stress. Other forms of exercise are beneficial, too, such as walking or hiking in nature.

4. Give Yourself a Break

A man takes a break in his office during a stressful week, staring out the window relaxing.

Remind yourself that you’re not superhuman, and that it’s OK to take a break when you need it. When stress gets the better of you, take some time out to recharge. Step away from your desk, call a friend, grab a cup of tea, or do anything that takes you away from your stressful situation.

5. Breathe Deeply

A woman breathes deeply, imagining herself outside in the forest. Using deep breathing to help with stress.

Try this simple breathing technique whenever you feel stressed or anxious: Sitting comfortably and with your eyes closed, take a slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. Hold your breath to the count of “three.” Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach. Try out different breathing exercises to calm your nerves.

6. Do Something for Someone Else

A friend bakes a cake and gives it to a man on his birthday. Happy and stress-free by giving to others and being selfless.

People who tend to have rigid and habitual behaviors may be just as prone to substance abuse as those who lack Doing something nice for someone else will make you feel good as well as lift their spirits! Whether it’s making someone a batch of brownies or taking them out for lunch, give this a try and see how it instantly boosts your mood.

7. Become a Student of Stress

An overworked man sits in front of his computer with his glasses and head in his hand, attempting to get in touch with his stress. Becoming a student of stress.

Next time you feel stressed, ask yourself: What is this trying to teach me? Is my body trying to tell me something? Take a few deep breaths and let yourself calm down. Then ask yourself: What resources do I have at my disposal right now to deal with this situation? How can I overcome this challenge? Sometimes, forcing your brain to answer these questions and articulating the responses is enough to help you cope with daily stressors.

8. Use Stress as a Source of Power

A man works late into the night in his office, channeling his stress into productivity.

Although stress can be a negative, it can also increase your energy level, sharpen your focus, motivate you to solve problems, and boost your self-confidence. To take advantage of these benefits, try changing your inner dialogue from “I’m stressed” to “I’m energized” or “I’m ready for this challenge!” This small shift can make a big difference in how you perceive stressful situations.

9. Get in Touch With Your Emotions

A stressed office worker looks out the window as his reflection shows, symbolizing self reflection.

Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling during times of stress — identify whether you are angry, sad or afraid and why. Label your feelings so you can take the next step toward addressing them.

10. Know Your Triggers

A group of guys poke fun at their friend for drinking water, showing being sober when others are drinking alcohol is a common and stressful addiction trigger.

Triggers could include people, places, or things that remind you of drinking. It could also be a big life event, like the holidays or the anniversary of a loved one’s death. Whatever they are, it’s important to identify them and avoid them when possible. If they aren’t avoidable, then come up with ways to deal with them ahead of time so you don’t get caught off-guard.

11. Have an Exit Strategy

A man in recovery from alcoholism smiles and says goodbye to his friends who are drinking beer.

Sometimes you just need to get out of there. If you’re in a situation that’s stressing you out or you feel overwhelmed by something someone says or does, have a plan for getting out of there as quickly as possible. Of course, this doesn’t mean storming out without saying anything. Just have a go-to excuse in case you need it, like saying you’re sick or have another commitment so you can leave early if needed.

12. Get Support

A coworker with his hand on his shoulder supporting another worker who is very stressed out.

Tap into recovery groups and lean on them if you get tempted. You might also call someone who cares about your sobriety and ask for support when stress starts to get the better of you.

Cope With Daily Stressors and They Might Just Go Away

The more you focus on facing your stressors head-on, the less powerful they will become. If daily stress and substance abuse or mental health issues are affecting you, reach out to us at 12 South Recovery. Our caring team of professionals is here to help guide you towards a fulfilling, stress-free life.

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