Stress Can Trigger Relapse

Stress Can Trigger Relapse: Learn Ways to Manage Your Stress

If you are in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, then you are well aware of the possibility of relapse setting your recovery back and possibly leading to disastrous results.  While relapse is not uncommon and doesn’t mean a “failure” it is smart to do whatever you can to try and  prevent a relapse.

A recent study shows that preventing stress may be one of the most important things when it comes to avoiding a drug or alcohol relapse. The study, published in the Journal Addictive Behaviors, found that recovering addicts who don’t know how to effectively cope with stress are more likely to succumb to their drug or alcohol cravings and more likely to relapse.
How you cope with stress can predict if you will experience cravings. The researchers looked at people who worked through their problems and those who avoided them.

“Whether you avoid problems or analyze problems not only makes a big difference in your life but also has a powerful impact on someone who has worked hard to stay away from alcohol and other drugs,” said H. Harrington Cleveland, associate professor of human development, Penn State, in an article on Medical News “When faced with stress, addicts who have more adaptive coping skills appear to have a better chance of staying in recovery.”

People in recovery who avoided their problems were more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.
“We found that addicts who deal with stress by avoiding it have twice the number of cravings in a stressful day compared to persons who use problem solving strategies to understand and deal with the stress,” Cleveland said. “Avoidance coping appears to undercut a person’s ability to deal with stress and exposes that person to variations in craving that could impact recovery from addiction.”

Whether you are in recovery or not, it is impossible to avoid stress in your life. Instead of avoiding it, try these ways to manage stress so that it doesn’t have such an impact on you and your behaviors:

  • Take a Deep Breath. There’s no doubt that certain experiences cause you to immediately feel stress and want to shut down. But there is a good chance that, once you take time to calm down and step away from the situation for a moment, it won’t be as bad as you thought. Before you react, take a deep breath and give yourself some time to think about whatever is causing you stress. Once you examine it, it may be easier for you to tackle the problem.
  • Engaging in Relaxing Activities. As part of your relapse prevention plan, you may be encouraged to engage in physical activities, volunteer work or anything else that makes you feel more relaxed. Putting your energy into something you enjoy — whether it’s walking a dog, coloring with your kids, playing an instrument or reading – can help to lower your levels of stress and keep your energies focused on things that make you happy.
  • Eat Right. What you put into your body can impact your ability to handle stress. If you are stressed, you may be more likely to indulge in foods higher in fat and sugar, which can leave you feeling lethargic. But if you put healthy foods into your body, such as fruits, vegetables and healthy grains, you may feel more energized, alert and less likely to be as affected by stress.