If you’re in recovery, you know how stressful it can be. Triggers are everywhere, and it’s important to have coping strategies in place. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 21.4% of Americans engaged in substance abuse in 2020. This equals to about 59.2 million individuals.
The road to recovery is hard, but the good news is most individuals can overcome addiction. A big part of success is learning coping strategies to deal with triggers that induce stress and cravings. However, the path to recovery isn’t always straightforward.
By recognizing triggers, building a support system, and having coping strategies, individuals can overcome obstacles and stay committed to their sobriety. There are always alternatives to using, even in difficult moments. Staying focused on the goal and moving forward will help individuals achieve lifelong sobriety.
Understanding Induced Stress During Recovery
When an individual recovers, stressful situations or stressors can trigger the urge to use substances. The body has learned to crave the temporary relief drugs provide, even though the long-term effects are damaging.
This stress response involves the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline from a part of our adrenal glands called the adrenal medulla. These chemicals cause many parts of our sympathetic nervous system to become active simultaneously, affecting our entire body. These changes include an increase in blood pressure, more blood flowing to our muscles that we need for immediate action, less blood going to organs that aren’t crucial for quick movement, heart rate increases, faster blood clotting, higher metabolism throughout the body’s cells, cortisol levels rise, stronger muscles, sharper thinking, higher blood sugar levels, and increased energy production in the liver and muscles. These changes combine to allow us to do more physically demanding tasks than usual.
The effects of stress responses may be heightened or prolonged for individuals in addiction recovery. As the brain has adapted to expect the instant gratification of drug use, facing stress without that crutch can feel unbearable. The good news is you can retrain your body and mind to respond differently.
How Does Induced Stress Manifest During Recovery?
During the recovery process from substance use disorders, the body and mind often experience various responses to stress as they adapt to a drug-free existence. This period can be challenging and comes with its own set of physical and psychological adjustments. Some common signs and symptoms of stress include:
- Headaches or Migraines: Stress can cause tension headaches and trigger migraines.
- Stomach Issues: Individuals may experience nausea, diarrhea, or cramps. Stress hormones can irritate your gut.
- Sleep Problems: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or restless sleep are common. Stress makes it hard for your mind and body to relax.
- Irritability or Mood Changes: Individuals may feel impatient, on edge, or easily upset. Stress affects mood and emotional regulation.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Feeling distracted, forgetful, or unable to focus are signs that stress levels are too high.
- Changes in Appetite: Individuals may lose their appetite or overeat to cope with uncomfortable emotions or negative thoughts.
Prolonged stress is dangerous for recovery because it significantly increases the risk of relapse. The best way to manage stress is through self-care. Some of the best stress management techniques include exercise, eating healthy, engaging in hobbies, connecting to others, practicing mindfulness, getting enough sleep, and avoiding triggers.
Identifying Your Triggers: People, Places, and Things
The recovery journey from drug addiction is a profound transformation that involves overcoming physical dependence on substances and addressing the complex interplay of physiological and psychological factors. As individuals embark on the path to a drug-free existence, their bodies and minds undergo a series of intricate responses to stress. These responses are part of the natural process of adaptation and healing, making the recovery period a challenging but vital phase in the recovery journey.
As individuals embark on this journey, it’s important to identify triggers that can induce cravings or stress. These triggers often involve people, places, or things associated with past substance or alcohol use. Some of the sources of stress may include the following:
- Avoid hanging out with friends or family members who are still using drugs. Their behavior and pressure can trigger cravings or tempt you to relapse.
- Stay away from places where you used to buy or do drugs. Drive a different route if needed. These familiar locations can stir up memories and cravings.
- Get rid of anything related to your drug use, like pipes, needles, or stash boxes. Having these physical reminders around acts as a trigger. Throw them away or give them to your sponsor.
- Find new routines and hobbies to replace the ones involving drugs. Engaging in new activities helps retrain your mind and habits. Try exercising, art, or volunteering.
- Be aware of emotional triggers like stressful events, trauma anniversaries, or relationship issues. Have coping strategies for these triggers, like calling a friend, meditating, or journaling.
How To Cope With Induced Stress During Recovery
Coping with induced stress during recovery from drug addiction is essential for maintaining sobriety and achieving long-term success. The journey to a drug-free life often brings about various stressors, but there are several effective strategies to help individuals manage and navigate this challenging period:
- Talk to someone you trust. Call your sponsor, a friend, or a family member. Let them know what’s triggering your stress and how they can support you. Having a strong support system will help you cope during recovery.
- Keep a routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time daily. Limit naps and caffeine. A steady routine will help reduce stress and keep you focused on your recovery goals.
- Streamline your to-do list. Permit yourself to cross off less important tasks. Focus on what matters – your health and sobriety.
- Meditate. Spending a few minutes daily focused on your breath can help shift your mind from stressful thoughts. Meditation strengthens your ability to live in the present moment.
- Journal your thoughts. Writing down your feelings helps you gain perspective. Look for solutions and insights into what’s bothering you. Journaling is a simple way to ease an overactive mind.
- Join support groups. Support groups offer a sense of community and understanding. Sharing experiences and challenges with others in recovery can be comforting and provide practical advice on stress management.
Seek Professional Help
Don’t hesitate to ask for help when things get tough in recovery. Call Riviera Recovery today at 855-207-9708. Our mental health housing and independent living programs offer individuals a transitional period to adjust to life outside of recovery. Our services help those struggling with mental health conditions or substance use disorders.
Overcoming addiction is difficult, but with the right help and support system in place, you can succeed.