Why Relapse Prevention Therapy Needs to Include Stress Management

Stressed man massaging temples

Stress affects all of us in different ways. Some of us might experience elevated blood pressure and a headache. Others might feel agitated and angry. We could even experience sore muscles and neck and back pain and find ourselves tossing and turning all night long.

For the person in a recovery treatment program, stress is often one of the influencing factors that led to their addiction and eventually help from a long-term rehab facility. Even after completing treatment programs, people with addictions still must deal with stress just like everyone else.

Have you have been finding yourself turning to drugs or alcohol more frequently to deal with stress? Learning how to deal with stress in a positive manner and manage it is important before you develop an addiction.

Are you already addicted and must rely on drugs or alcohol to get through your day? Then seeking help from a long-term rehab facility should be your first step. Attempting to stop using on your own can be dangerous and risky. For your own safety, it is essential that you go through medically supervised detox.

If you are already on the path to recovery, managing stress should be part of your relapse prevention strategies and techniques. No matter where you are on your path to recovery or if you are looking for ways to deal with your stress in a more meaningful way than using drugs and alcohol, these tips are very beneficial.

Tip #1: Acknowledge Your Stress

The first thing you need to do is accept you are stressed before you can start to develop techniques to reduce and alleviate it. If you feel on edge and are in an internal battle with yourself about using to help deal with stress, you need to take a step back and accept you are dealing with stress.

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Tip #2: Take a Deep Breath or Ten

Before you can decide what relapse prevention therapy techniques to use, you need to clear your mind. One of the easiest ways to let off a little stress in a productive manner and quiet the mind is through deep breathing.

Find a quiet place, sit, or lie in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and then inhale deeply through your mouth and exhale through your nose. Each time you exhale, try to relax a little more and let go of the stress. Gradually release everything that you are thinking about in order to quiet your mind and increase your focus.

Tip #3: Think About What Is Triggering Your Stress

To deal with your stress successfully, you need to know the cause of it. After you do some deep breathing, you will find your mind is more focused so you can think clearer. Play out in your head your day and what has occurred that has made you feel stressed.

Rewind and go through it a second time. Think about how you felt when specific things happened. Were you happy, sad, overjoyed, upset, etc.? Your emotional responses are often a guide to pinpoint what is triggering the stress.

Two black women embracing each other and smiling

Tip #4: Learn Acceptance

Acceptance goes a long way in dealing with and successfully managing stress. Learn to accept the things you have no control over and will never be able to change. Once you do, you can let go of the stress they are causing you.

Next, learn to identify the things you do have control over like your job, living arrangements, and so on. If any of these things are causing you stress, think about what you could potentially do to resolve the stress.

Granted, all jobs have some degree of stress, so you need to accept that, no matter where you work, there will be times when you will feel some stress. However, if you are in a high-stress career where you have set deadlines or sales goals to meet, a career change to a less stressful job could be the right thing to do to deal with your stress and avoid a relapse.

Last, accept that it will take time to change the things you do have control over. It is important to work on those things one at a time, much like your recovery treatment taught you to take your recovery one day at a time.

Athletic Caucasian man stretching his leg on a track

Tip #5: Stay Active

It is easy to slip back into old habits once you are no longer in a long-term rehab facility. Once you are back at home, you may start making compromises about exercising. You might tell yourself you are going to skip today but make it up later.

Eventually, you find you are skipping more days and exercising less until you completely return to your formal habits. Remaining active and exercising three to four times a week for at least 30 minutes is a great way to let go of stress.

Your body will naturally produce hormones and chemicals that cause your stress to fade away and stress levels to decrease. Plus, you will find you feel better about yourself mentally and physically.

Tip #6: Eat Healthily

It is easy to allow ourselves to turn to comfort foods when we are stressed because they make us feel better in the short term. Sitting and enjoying a half-gallon of ice cream or a mega-size bag of cheesy puffs isn’t going to alleviate the stress as well as we think.

While the stress may seem to fade away temporarily, it will return once the satisfaction from eating our stress dissipates, just like coming down from taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Rather, focus on eating foods that are healthy like fresh fruits, leafy and colorful vegetables, and beans, raw nuts, and seeds. Learn to prepare them so they are appetizing and appealing. Look up recipes for sauces and dressings. Discover new tastes and cuisines from around the world.

Eating a well-balanced diet ensures the body is getting the essential nutrients it requires. When the body is getting what it needs, we feel better and healthier and are better able to cope with whatever stress comes our way.

Tip #7: Talk About Your Stress

Just like you talk about your addiction in your support group or one-on-one with a counselor, be open and share what is making you feel stressed. When we talk about our stress, it is not surprising to discover others are dealing with stress too—often just like how we are.

Through sharing, we can also learn new coping methods and techniques we may not have thought of that others have been using successfully. For instance, you might discover that yoga has helped others reduce and release their stress. Now that you know about yoga, you may want to give it a try too.

Caucasian woman shitting on a beach facing the ocean

Tip #8: Schedule Time for Yourself

Set aside time each day where you do something relaxing, fun, and enjoyable. You might like soaking in a hot bath full of bubbles with the lights dimmed and relaxing music playing in the background.

You could enjoy painting, as it helps you relax after working all day long. You may want to curl up on your favorite chair with a good book. You might head to the beach and find a quiet spot to relax while listening to the waves.

The important thing when it comes to stress and relapse prevention is to find things that help you relax and release stress. Once you discover what these are, make sure to include time for them each day.

Tip #9: Make a List of People You Can Call

You should have a list of people stored in your smartphone or written down on a piece of paper you keep in your wallet or purse. The people on your list could include your sponsor, rehab treatment facility support line, a trusted close friend, and so on.

If you find that you have tried other strategies and nothing seems to be working, get out your list and call someone. Let them know you are stressed and need someone to “vent to” to help calm down. Aside from listening, they might even offer some advice on how to help you figure out what is causing your stress.

The phrase "you got this" written in chalk on black pavement

Tip #10: Don’t Give Up

It is important to remember everyone experiences stress. You are not alone and all by yourself. Your friends, relatives, co-workers, boss, and even the people in your support group all must deal with stress.

While we cannot avoid stress, we can develop effective relapse prevention therapy methods to deal with it in a productive manner to reduce the risks of a relapse. If you are looking for help with stress management methods to avoid a relapse or are ready to start your journey on the path to recovery, please feel free to contact Dedicato Treatment Center at 626-921-0113 today!