Stress is a well-known risk factor in the development of addiction and in relapse vulnerability. Even after completing residential treatment and achieving sobriety, stress and depression can make it difficult to manage your job in recovery. As recovery is all about continually adapting and growing, you can learn specific skills to deal with stress and depression in the workplace.
Where Does Stress Come From?
The word “stress” is often used to refer to processes involving heightened stimuli from the environment. Human beings need “good stress” to meet survival challenges. Overcoming such situations relies on adequate motivational and executive functioning to achieve goal-directed outcomes. Stress is what activates these responses.
However, when stress becomes prolonged or chronic, it can harm the body and mind. Some people may seek substances as a way to relieve stress. In the long run, doing so only worsens the situation because drug and alcohol abuse can further aggravate chronic stress. Stress and substance use can become a vicious, comorbid cycle.
Emotionally or physiologically challenging experiences can activate stress responses which, if not properly managed, can become chronic sources of stress. Examples of emotional stressors include workplace demands, interpersonal conflict, loss of relationships, and bereavement. Common physiological stressors are hunger or food deprivation, sleep deprivation, or insomnia.
Chronic stress can cause problems in numerous systems of the body, including the central nervous system, the endocrine system, the immune system, and more. You may even find the process of treatment can even be a source of stress. As a recovering individual, you need comprehensive plans for stress management to ensure successful sobriety and relapse prevention.
Why Is Stress Still Here After Sobriety?
After completing addiction treatment, you still encounter stress, triggers, and cravings. Life is rarely completely stress-free, and while getting sober can help you manage stressful situations more healthily, it won’t stop you from encountering them.
Once you have achieved sobriety, you might face challenges in life that you used substances to avoid before. For example, you may now need to rebuild family relationships, regain work performance, or create a new social circle that doesn’t include people who will tempt you to use again. The work of recovery doesn’t end once you have achieved sobriety or graduated from treatment. There is still much work to do to patch up things that have been damaged by substance abuse.
For working professionals, workplace challenges do not stop because you are sober now. Workplace-related stress includes difficult co-worker relationships, long working hours, and heavy workloads. Before, you might have used substances to de-stress, but now you must relearn healthy stress management techniques.
How Do I Manage Stress While Working?
In residential rehab, you were likely coached by cognitive-behavioral therapists on how to identify and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. You can replace old, unhealthy mindsets with ones learned in treatment. Be aware of negative thought traps and learn how to steer away from them, and let positivity be the overriding mindset.
While at work, you can take mental breaks so their minds and bodies can rest. Without periodic rest, the brain and body may not recover from stress. This also includes taking time to avoid situations that induce stress at work. If necessary, have a conversation with a supervisor or employer about unrealistic workloads and how to share them to reduce stress.
You can build self-care methods such as mindful practices around your work schedules. Skipping lunches or break times just to catch up with work is unhealthy because you need breaks to stay healthy and stress-free. Lunch hours should be used to get a nutritious meal and maybe get a bit of exercise.
Below are a few practical tips to incorporate relaxation into the workday for stress management:
- Take a moment to pinpoint what is getting to you so you can gain perspective and power over it
- Identify what you can control and plan for actions, then practice mentally letting go of what you cannot control
- Make time to do what you enjoy in life
- Avoid making yourself vulnerable to excessive stress
When Should You Seek Help Again?
If you feel overwhelmed by workplace-related stress, it may be time to seek additional professional help. Because the danger of relapse is real even for people who have achieved long-term sobriety, seeking professional help is never a sign of weakness, but a recognition of vulnerability with the strength to manage it. Many treatment centers offer outpatient and alumni programs you can benefit from.
If you have a continued relationship with a recovery facility, inform your therapist about your need for help. You might need to re-engage with intensive support and treatment. Remember, relapsing doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, it means you have a chance to figure out what went wrong, learn from the mistake, and course-correct. Stress is a part of life, but, with help, it doesn’t have to mean the difference between sobriety and relapse.
If you or a loved one is looking for a good addiction treatment center, consider one that helps you learn stress management skills. Stress management can be helpful in many situations, including substance use and mental health recovery. With these skills, you have a chance to build deeper relationships that may impact you in the long term. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of stress management and mental health awareness. We will walk alongside you or your loved one to offer support and guidance. Our alumni programs offer stellar aftercare and connect you with a lifelong community of hopeful recovering individuals. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community, as peer support is key to recovery. For more information on our programs, call (866) 229-9923 today.