Once you’ve passed your twelve step program, left the treatment facility and are working your way toward a complete recovery, you may find yourself feeling more agitated and anxious from time to time. This is completely normal, especially as you may still be coping with the fear of relapsing. Family stressors, relationship drama and work problems can all take their toll on you, especially if lack of sleep and inability to eat proper meals become an issue. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can counter distress during these early stages of sobriety.
It’s been said time and time again, but it’s a tried and true method; when you feel like you’re in over your head, stop and take a deep breath. If you’re on the move, try sitting down, put your head between your knees and just count your breaths. Tina Tessina of Psych Central states:
Deep breathing will calm your body and burn off the adrenaline that’s been released in the panic. Slow down, count to ten and focus on thinking clearly and factually rather than reacting emotionally.
As the amount of stress increases, it can be more difficult to calm the tense emotions that you’ll be feeling, so catch it early and don’t let it elevate.
Make A Time And A Place
One way that you can nip stress in the bud before it gets too big to control is to make a designated time and place that you can think about the things that are building up and bothering you. Let yourself get worked up and stressed about it during a time that you’ve set aside specifically for the task. Set the time for a day you don’t have to work, when you have some privacy at home to sit on the edge of your bed and have ten minutes to just let your worry come out in your thoughts. Help Guide says:
If an anxious thought or worry comes into your head during the day, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone it to your worry period.
If you have a special time to be stressed about things then you’ll be far less likely to have a panic attack throughout the day because you know there will be a chance later to let it all out. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have times when the anxious feelings get away from you and you feel yourself getting upset, but it can certainly help this happen less and allow you a sense of safety and comfort.
Idle hands will often lead you astray when negative thoughts start invading your mind. This is because if you’re not doing anything then you’re allowing your mind to wander and thoughts of relapse are bound to enter these imaginings. Find something to do that causes you to think about something other than the trouble at home or the problems at work that make you feel weakness in your newly found sobriety. Throw yourself into a project like cleaning out your closets at home, knitting a scarf, learning to paint, or get more involved in paperwork from the office; anything that makes the wheels in your head turn to a tune other than what’s bothering you.
Don’t just get your mind onto other tasks; get your body on the go as well by throwing yourself into some physical activity. Hit the gym in the afternoon during your lunch break, take the kids to the playground after dinner, or go for a run in the morning when you wake up; there are plenty of ways to keep calm by moving your body. The Calm Clinic writes:
Exercise improves neurotransmitter production and synthesis in the brain, especially if the exercise is fairly intense – like jogging for 30 minutes.
You can take this method of anti-stress even further by not just exercising, but doing it in nature. Getting out and breathing in fresh air while catching a glimpse of trees, grass and sunshine can all add to your experience and relax you. Think about the way that it feels to sit back on a porch and watch the sun set in the evening, those relaxing feelings can stay with you over the length of the entire day if you catch glimpses of the outside world while you’re keeping yourself busy.
Make A Switch
It isn’t always easy to change the way that you react to things, but over time you can alter your behaviors. There are bound to be activities, conversations and even images that cause your feathers to ruffle and leave you upset and unable to cope with the way that you’re feeling. When you sense those things coming, prepare yourself for a different reaction than what you normally give. Chad of Spiritual River suggests:
If your normal reaction to a frequently encountered situation conjures up a lot of anxiety, then try to do the exact opposite.
If somebody dumping a pile of paperwork on your desk just as you’re getting your jacket on to leave for the day causes you to get angry and crave an escape in the form of something which you had an addiction before, then try to turn those feelings around. Smile at the employee dropping off the work and make a light-hearted comment about the job never ending. It doesn’t change what’s happened, but it will halt any sense of anxiety that may have taken over in that moment.
The above are suggestions to help you cope emotionally and mentally with the stress that can come from normal everyday activities during your post-treatment lifestyle. These anxious feelings can arise from little tasks that may never have bothered you before you went through your addiction, and although the situations aren’t dangerous to you physically, these stressors on your mentality can be dangerous to your recovery. If it becomes too difficult to use the tricks above then you should definitely speak to your therapist, the professionals at your treatment center, or your doctor for more help on staying on track.