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Managing Stress During Addiction Recovery

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Stress is a part of everyone’s life and a common trigger for Substance Use Disorder (SUD), OUD (Opioid Use Disorder) or AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder). During recovery, it’s especially important to manage how you deal with stress in order to avoid seeking an escape from it. This is especially true in the early days of recovery when you are more vulnerable. An addiction and mental health treatment recovery program can help to understand and address stress.

Stress can affect many parts of your body, including:

  • The central nervous system
  • The respiratory system
  • The cardiovascular system
  • The immune system
  • The digestive system
  • The hormonal system


Being keenly aware of the physical signs of stress you might experience can help you manage it and keep you on the road to recovery. These signs might include:

  • Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pains or rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Overeating
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory issues
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Short temper


A preventative approach to warding off stress is preferred to waiting for it to happen and then reacting to it. Of course, it’s likely you won’t ward off all stress, but there are several healthy lifestyle choices that can help you keep it to a minimum. A recovery care professional can help you to:


Keep your days structured

Planning your days and managing your time well can keep you from trying to take on more than you can handle. Trying to do too much can increase your stress level. Don’t be idle, but don’t over-plan. Prioritize by asking yourself what a reasonable number of things would be to accomplish each day. Remember to give yourself some time to deal with unexpected events. Try to keep a regular schedule, including waking up, eating and going to bed at the same times.


Talk about it

If you are feeling stressed, it can be helpful to talk it out with a trusted friend, family member or counselor. It’s okay to ask for advice or to find out how other people handle their stress.


Keep a journal

Beyond communicating to others, it can also be therapeutic to keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Just let it out.


Eat and sleep well

Nutritious meals, healthful snacks and proper rest (for most people, 7 to 8 hours a night) are great ways to keep you positive and provide a good foundation for emotional well-being.



Regular deep breathing exercises can work wonders when it comes to reducing anxiety and other physical effects of stress. Put it into your daily schedule. Do it in the morning, afternoon and night. Breathe deeply into your stomach and hold it there as long as you can. Do five to ten reps during each session.


Exercise regularly

Even if it’s getting out for a regular walk, do something physically to get your body and mind going. Studies show that exercise can decrease fatigue, increase concentration and improve your thinking. It can help you sleep and improve your self-esteem.



Take some time each day to do something that puts you at ease. Listen to music, sit outside and listen to nature, tend to your garden, read, whatever you like to do that helps you unwind.


If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from SUD, talk with your doctor or a recovery specialist.


Dale Willenbrink
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