When you’ve worked hard to achieve sobriety, daily life is easier in many ways. But few of us are completely stress-free. Often through no fault of your own, any number of circumstances can interfere with your desire to maintain a peaceful life. However, what’s in your control is the ability to recognize stressors early on so they don’t have to erode at what you’ve accomplished and threaten a relapse.
What’s Stressing You Out?
Honestly? Sometimes it’s difficult to know. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that stress is challenging to measure, as we experience multiple levels of it at any given time—and occasionally, all at once.
Common stressors include:
- Financial difficulties
- Employment issues, whether with the work itself or co-worker/management conflicts
- Feeling pressure in various areas of life
- Being a full-time caregiver
- Grief over the loss of a loved one
- Uncertainty about the future
- Major life changes
- Having a complicated health condition
- Conflict in relationships with a significant other, child, parents, or relatives
- Not having a support network
For individuals choosing sobriety, all of these plus an undercurrent of key triggers play a part in escalating stress levels.
The NLM indicates that stress can be felt:
- Physiologically—which features symptoms that include, but aren’t limited to, dehydration, difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue, headaches and muscle aches, and even panic attacks.
- Psychologically—which often presents as anxiousness, binge eating, constant worry or rumination, depression, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and trouble concentrating.
- Socially—such as a combination of the above but also indicated by challenging relationships, discrimination, isolation, significant life changes, and socioeconomic disadvantages.
Every person has to learn what their primary stressors are and use healthful methods for managing them. However, people in recovery have to be even more proactive with stress management to maintain their health. Prolonged stress is a primary cause for relapse, especially if you also have a co-occurring disorder such as depression or anxiety.
Non-Judgmental Stress Awareness in Recovery
Society frequently dictates that stress is just a normal way of life and consequently, we’re just supposed to “deal with it” and not admit we’re struggling. However, as you’ve learned in treatment, not allowing feelings to surface to address them head-on is often a catalyst to maladaptive behavior.
Stress awareness and acknowledgement is like shining a flashlight into a darkened room. Chronic stress wears away at our whole-person health. But simply noticing what’s troubling you and why is the first step toward feeling better. Having an open conversation about the stress you feel helps eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health issues, removes the burden of dealing with everything on your own, and provides a springboard to support.
Have you been conditioned in the past to just soldier on, regardless of the stress you feel? Mental Health America offers a stress screener so you can check in with yourself and determine if you need to reach out to someone who can help.
Coping With Stress Healthfully
So you’re stressed, and you know why. Now what? Learning to deal with it healthfully might take some time, but there are plenty of ways to do so. Here are just a few from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Take time to care for yourself. This includes regular exercise, a healthy eating plan, good sleep hygiene, meditation, and spiritual rituals, if you’re so inclined.
- Surround yourself with support. Don’t isolate yourself. Ask for help from members of your sober network, a church fellowship, family and friends, your counselor, and others who care about your well-being.
- Dedicate time to unwind with activities you enjoy. Being in nature, working on special hobbies, and other pursuits help you reduce brooding and provide clarity to your circumstances.
- Avoid news and social media for a while. There are some things that are simply out of our control. Reinforce your health by circling the wagons and not letting external forces overshadow your real feelings.
- Seek professional help. If you don’t have a trusted therapist, find one. But depending on the issue, additional guidance may be found through a financial or debt manager, your human resources department, a special agency that helps with economic or family difficulties, and other resources to help you stress less and take more action to resolve the complication.
Gain Additional Sobriety Support at Willingway
If you’re a graduate of Willingway’s Georgia-based inpatient rehabilitation program, outpatient services, or extended sober living opportunities, you have numerous tools at your fingertips to help you stay on track with your sobriety. Our aim is to provide you with continued involvement and support so you don’t have to handle stressors all by yourself—you have options to stay connected to Willingway and recovery. Tools such as the CaredFor app offer assistance from other alumni and staff, and our weekly continuing care community groups throughout the Southeast are available to you, members of your family, and the public at large to reinforce the value of sobriety.