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Tips for Stress Management In Recovery

- 8 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Stress is one of the leading causes for the start of and continuation of drug and alcohol use disorder. As a result, stress management is critical for starting and maintaining sobriety. People with substance use disorder often abuse drugs and alcohol to self medicate in order to manage stress on their own. However, when someone is ready to get sober, it is important to replace the old habits with new, healthy ones in order to decrease day to day stressors.

Fortunately, many stress relief techniques are free and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Let’s take a closer look at stress, what causes it, and how you can manage stress in recovery.

Stress: What Is It?

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but it is important to recognize when it is getting out of hand. Stress is both a psychological and physiological response. When a stressor is encountered, the body’s “flight or fight” response is triggered.[1] Everyone experiences stress from different things, however, people suffering from addiction tend to experience much higher levels of stress than the average person.

Many different situations trigger stress including dangerous events or psychological discomfort, such as speaking in front of a large group of people. Not everyone gets stressed out by the same thing and it is important for each individual to identify what triggers them. High levels of stress lead to increased risk of relapse as well as having other health consequences, so knowing how to manage stress can help you in recovery.

Negative Consequences Of Stress

Negative Consequences Of Stress

Stress causes the release of stress hormones in the blood including cortisol and adrenaline.[2] These hormones trigger a physical reaction and induce:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing rate
  • High levels of alertness

This puts a strain on the body and causes people to feel unpleasant side effects such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Higher frequency of illness or infections. [2]

Stress becomes more dangerous to a person when they use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. This increases overall levels of stress and drives a person to use substances more frequently and at higher doses creating a vicious cycle of addiction. Furthermore, self-medicating and addiction significantly increases the risk of alcohol poisoning or drug overdose.

Stress Management Tips For People in Recovery

Keeping stress levels low, especially during early recovery, helps make the process easier and increases the likelihood of maintaining long term sobriety. The process of getting sober is stressful alone, as many people have to address deep-rooted problems that are contributing to their addiction. However, suffering from chronic stress makes staying sober even harder. Instead, having healthy coping strategies to decrease stress will help prevent the desire to turn back to drugs and alcohol and reduce the risk of relapse.

Here are several stress management techniques that will help you in recovery.

Get A Full Night Of Sleep

Studies show that people who get less than 8 hours of sleep experience higher levels of stress. That stress increases as the amount and quality of sleep decreases.[3] Getting a good night of sleep helps to decrease stress in addition to improving mood and energy levels. Make sure you’re going to bed at the same time each night and trying to stick to a regular sleep schedule as closely as possible.

Spend Time Outside

Going outside has a positive impact on stress levels. Getting exposure to sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, which is a hormone that has been shown to improve mood and decrease stress. Spending as little as 5 minutes in the sun is enough to increase serotonin levels, so you don’t need a lot of time to experience the stress-relieving benefits of the sun.[4] Whether it’s a short walk around the neighborhood or a morning jog, a little time outside will do your mind and body good.

Talk To A Friend Or Family Member

Connecting with other people is extremely helpful for people in recovery. It allows them to share their thoughts and feelings with another person, which helps take some of the burdens off of themselves. It also gives people an opportunity to gain a new perspective and solve problems they thought they couldn’t solve on their own, which significantly decreases stress.

Set Aside Time For Yourself

Making time for self-care is an essential tool when learning stress management techniques. It allows people the time they need to slow down and decompress, which is very important especially after being in a stressful situation. Self-care can include getting exercise, taking a bath, reading a book, or spending time on a hobby you enjoy. All of these activities increase feelings of happiness and reduce stress levels.

Stressed Out About Getting Sober? We’re Here to Help.

Getting sober is hard and may seem impossible to do on your own. Carolina Center For Recovery in North Carolina is here to help make the process less stressful for you. Our highly trained staff will help you to develop stress management techniques tailored to your unique needs. We are here to take the stress out of the recovery process and let you focus on recovery.

Don’t wait any longer – contact us today to start a new, better life.