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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dealing with Stress after Rehab

This article was written for alcoholics who have completed rehab and finding it difficult to deal with stress. When I read the article, I thought it would be good for anyone dealing with stress. 

By Mitch Webb

Stress is a normal part of our everyday lives. From work deadlines to noisy children to flooding in the front yard, there are many occurrences that can easily take us from calm to wanting to pull our hair out. However, drugs and alcohol change the
way our brains and bodies respond to stress. This makes us more susceptible to stress than we were in the past. Anyone living life after rehab must be able to recognize the signs of stress and know how to properly manage it.

Where Does Stress Come From?

Stress is a tool ingrained in our very beings that helps us to survive. One of the forms of stress presents itself as “fight or flight”, helping us to know the best way to ensure our survival. However, if left unaddressed or poorly managed, chronic stress can lead to a poor immune system, fatigue, depression, ulcers, digestive problems, and many other ailments.

Any individual in recovery will experience the regular stresses of life along with those related to overcoming the addiction. Difficult job hunting, difficulties at work, family stressors, rebuilding broken relationships, and conflicts with others may also arise, adding to the load to carry. Stress may also be triggered by people and locations that remind the individual of their former addictive behaviors.

Beyond vague definitions, stress is experienced differently by each person, for different reasons. You may find that you have insufficient skills to face the following situations after leaving rehab:

·  handling social pressures
·  psychological reminders of past use
·  physical reminders of the addiction
·  handling negative emotions
·  dealing with interpersonal conflict
Any of these situations can create a stressful situation in which a relapse may occur, as substances are often used as coping mechanisms.
Before leaving treatment, you can identify not only the factors that cause you stress, but also learn stress management techniques to help prevent relapse.

Stress Symptoms

Having an understanding of common symptoms of stress can alert you that stress management tactics need to be employed. Here are some common symptoms:

·  Thoughts: self-criticism, feelings of failure, forgetfulness, repetitive thoughts
·  Feelings: anxiety, irritability, fear, anger
·  Behaviors: changes in appetite, impulsivity, teeth grinding or jaw clenching, withdrawal
·  Physical Symptoms: trouble sleeping, muscle tightness, fatigue, dry mouth, rapid breathing, pounding heart, an increase in colds or infections
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it is time to implement stress management techniques.

Stress Management Techniques

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or one size fits all solution for stress, even for recovery addicts. It is important to try different techniques and find the ones that work best for you. Once you find something that works, stick with that approach. A few suggestions include:

·  Exercise - Physical activity is not only good for the body, but it also releases endorphins, promoting a positive reaction to the activity, rather than to a substance.
·  Meditation and Breathing Exercises - These practices can help you learn how to use breathing to relax and focus on listening to your body.
·  Play Calming Music - If you are easily moved by music, playing calming music may be a great way to increase relaxation and reduce stress.
·  Keep a Schedule - By outlining plans for the day and keeping a schedule, you can eliminate the chance of experiencing frustration, boredom, and idleness, which can all cause stress. This article suggests prioritizing responsibilities for the day in order to avoid feelings of panic and anxiety.
·  Talk it Out - A good support system is crucial to a successful recovery. Attending professional therapy, either individual or group, talking with a sponsor, or opening up to supportive friends and family can help to avoid bottling up emotions that result in undue stress.
·  Focus on Gratitude - Especially in difficult situations, it can be so easy to focus on the things that may not be going well and forget all the good. If you find yourself feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you may benefit from making a gratitude list. If nothing else, it may offer a change of perspective on the situation.
·  Challenge Negative Thoughts - Failure is a reality, but it is a natural part of life. Life is filled with ups and downs for everyone. When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, force yourself to think about something else instead.

By learning the symptoms to watch for and figuring out the right mechanism to counter each one, you can reduce stress and continue a successful recovery. 

1 comment:

Jacqueline Moss said...

Very good article, just what I needed today, thank you!