It’s impossible to live a completely stress-free life. Whether it’s due to anxiety over an upcoming event or related to moments of fear or worry, stress affects us mentally and physically.
At some point in our lives, most of us have experienced stressful situations stemming from relationship conflicts, financial insecurity, health challenges, school or job worries, and other life obstacles. At the time we’re writing this, the current coronavirus pandemic is causing many people to feel unusually anxious and fearful, for example.
For those in recovery, unmanaged stress can be especially dangerous. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that “internal and external forms of stress increase drug craving and may trigger relapse.”
Learning how to prevent stress from overwhelming us is key to living a healthy, sober life. Fortunately, there are many ways we can manage stress, even while practicing self-isolation and social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ways to Manage Stress
Stress may cause us to seek escape from feelings of fear, sadness, frustration, numbness, and hopelessness, sometimes through addictive substances. It may manifest in physical aches and pains, sleep disturbances, or stomach problems and can trigger risky and addictive behavior.
It is important to develop tools for managing stress that will not only improve our quality of life now (during the pandemic) but also in the long-term. Below are some ideas to help you live a healthier, more positive life.
Develop a personal health plan
- This should include regular exercise, sufficient sleep, approximately eight 8 oz. glasses of water daily and nutritious, well-balanced meals. Take this time to research and formulate a plan that appeals to you. Healthline provides 27 health and nutrition tips to get you started. YouTube has fitness workouts for every age and physical ability.
Meditate, practice yoga, try deep breathing for relaxation, learn progressive relaxation or take a relaxing bath.
Maintain contact with others
- Talk to people you trust who are positive, supportive and inspirational. Use apps like Skype, WhatsApp, Google Duo for Android phones or FaceTime for iPhones to reach out to people if you can’t meet in person.
Take advantage of online counseling, support groups, hobby groups and more. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers an extensive list of virtual recovery resources, including links for help with stress and anxiety, if you can’t meet up face-to-face.
Limit negative media stories
- The media bombards us with negative, frightening news. Take a break from negativity and turn to positive news sources like the Good News Network. Watch, read, and listen to inspirational movies, TV shows, and books.
- When you’re feeling stressed, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of negative self-talk, criticizing yourself, expecting the worse and spiraling further down the rabbit hole. Research has found positive self-talk to be invaluable in replacing dangerous negativity with an inner calm.
Healthline gives some good examples of how to turn a negative statement into a positive. The more you practice the technique, the more deeply instilled it becomes.
Find ways to have fun
- Boredom fuels stress and frustration and is a special danger to those in recovery. Keep busy with home projects, art, music, scrapbooking, writing, reading, a new hobby, gardening or learning a new skill. YouTube has instructional videos on virtually anything you want to learn.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Contact your doctor, therapist or a trusted loved one, or call a helpline, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (English): 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-888-628-9454 (Español).
Above all, take steps to manage stress in your life, both during tough times and everyday moments. Find healthy outlets to avoid relapse triggers.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.