Managing Stress in Recovery
• August 2022 •
From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Executive Director’s Message: Managing Stress in Recovery
One of the challenges of addiction recovery is finding new ways to cope when life gets difficult. The very process of recovery is stressful in itself; we have to learn new ways of being, new strategies for dealing with life’s ups and down. And we have to come face to face with the consequences of our previous actions, coping with our feelings, rather than numbing them. All of these things are tricky, and can lead to a feeling of being completely overwhelmed. Getting sober is just the start of the journey. Even people with long-term sobriety struggle with managing stress as a part of recovery. Fortunately, there are many reliable strategies we can turn to. Here are ten tips a lot of people at L.A. CADA find useful:
- Deep Breathing: Deep breathing can reduce the “flight or fight” response to bring our nervous system to a place of calm.
- Creating an Attitude of Gratitude: A daily gratitude practice is scientifically proven to help reduce stress and increase wellbeing.
- Connect to Nature: Walking in a park, tending to a garden, being close to water, or hiking in the hills all have a grounding and healing impact on our wellbeing.
- Getting Enough Sleep: It helps to create a relaxing evening routine, reduce your caffeine intake later in the day, and step away from the screen before bedtime to give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
- Talk it Out: Talking to someone about your worries can help, allowing you to put things into perspective, figure out solutions and know that you are not alone.
- Prioritize Your Goals: Be careful not to overburden yourself with projects; remember that your recovery and wellbeing is the most important project.
- Let Go of What You Can’t Control: Realizing your own behavior is the only thing you can take control of is hugely beneficial in managing stress.
- Reflect on Your Progress: If you’re feeling demoralized and anxious in recovery, celebrate how much progress you have made and how much you have grown.
- Exercise. Make time for this powerful stress buster and mood booster.
- Make time for Self-Care: Set aside a period of time to take care of you. This might mean taking the meds you need, getting in the shower every day, resting when you need to, saying no when you need to, making time for meditation, prayer, reading, or spending time with pets.
Check out this video on: Stress Management
“I was the addict that wanted to chill. Booze, pills, pot. Nothing that revs you up. Because, my family, there was always so much drama. Fighting, yelling, anger, all of that.. When I got a girlfriend, it was interesting that she was the same way. We broke up; we got back together, lots of jealousy and drama. With all the stress of school, sports, and my family, it was just too much. I was using, drinking, and smoking every day to have some peace. I went to my best friend’s house where his mom was cool with it. But stress was always there, waiting for me. My friend and I got into selling drugs, but we were obviously pretty bad at it. We got caught at school and there went the family drama. I was going to die, I was going to kill myself, I was just a loser. I went into this program just to get them off my back. But it was cool. The counselors are like me, but in recovery. They taught me journaling, and anti-stress exercises. The surprising thing was my family got into counseling and started learning too. My life today is 100% better than before.”
SPOTLIGHT – THE EVIDENCE IS IN:
Positive Peer Journaling
Many people keep a journal and many counselors recommend it. Surprisingly, few journaling studies have ever focused on addiction recovery. Amy Krentzman, Ph.D. of Minnesota’s School of Social Work has developed a journaling practice specifically designed to support addiction recovery, called Positive Peer Journaling.
Positive Peer Journaling focuses on three disciplines: positive psychology – promoting thriving, flourishing, wellness, and behavioral activation; journal writing to improve mood and foster positive thoughts; and 12 Step theory, specifically taking a personal inventory. No extensive writing is required for this practice and lots of prompts and suggestions are provided. The journal is meant to review the past 24 hours, recording bullet points for “good things” and “bad things”, and to plan the next 24 hours, including a bullet point gratitude list and list of “good wishes for others”. There is also space to bullet point goals in the areas of Work; Education; Home; Joy; Health; Recovery; Spirituality; Community; Social; Financial; and Amends areas of life.
In two research studies of this practice, quantitative data showed improvement in a range of well-being, addiction, recovery, and mental health-related factors. Qualitative data showed that the intervention helped participants to recognize what was positive about recovery, to achieve meaningful, short-term goals, and to experience a sense of achievement and progress in recovery.