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Recovery 101: Identify and Manage Stress, Pt. I

Learning how to identify and manage stress significantly reduces the risk for relapse in drug and alcohol recovery. Learning how to identify and manage stress is a key component in any successful addiction recovery program. This is a two-part blog entry with the first post about identifying stress and the second about coping mechanisms for stress. Clients who learn how to identify and address stressful situations instead of avoiding them or letting them build, are less likely to relapse while in recovery. (Addictive Behaviors)

Prior to recovery, clients often use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress. So once in recovery, they need to acquire the tools to identify and manage stress. In addition to every day stressors, those just in recovery may face additional stress in the form of triggers or general stress that comes from rebuilding their new life in recovery. Developing a stress management program is essential to a lasting, successful recovery.

So how does one develop a stress management program? It will vary with each individual. (Remember, no two recoveries are alike.) A good suggestion is to start a daily stress journal and record the things that stress you out. This will enable you to begin to identify how you see stress, how it effects you, and how you deal with it. (Remember that sometimes minor stress can build and have just as damaging consequences as larger sources of stress.)

In your daily stress journal, log the following:

  1. What caused your stress? If you aren’t sure, make note of any number of things that could be at the root of it.
  2. How did you feel (emotionally and physically)?
  3. How did you respond?
  4. What did you do to make yourself feel better?

To identify the source(s) of your stress, it’s important to look at your habits, attitude and excuses. For example, do your explain away stress as something that is temporary even though it keeps recurring? Is this the reason you aren’t dealing with the stress in your life? Do you see stress as something that is a fixture in your life or personality (your house or job is always insane or you have nervous energy)? Do you see your stress as something normal and therefore not in need of your attention? Do you find yourself blaming your stress on other people or outside events? Asking yourself these questions will allow you to begin to see how you identify stress. This is the first step in learning how to manage it.

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but learning how to identify and manage stress is what’s important in not letting it negatively impact your life. This is a recovery tool that will significantly reduce your risk for relapse

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