Managing Stress to Prevent Relapse – Tips for Christians in Recovery

Managing Stress to Prevent Relapse – Tips for Christians in RecoveryStress is a natural part of life. We might feel stress while caring for young children, going about our daily jobs, or experiencing the loss of a loved one. While the strain and worry can impact anyone, it can present a significant challenge for those who have been through secular or Christian drug rehab and are now working to maintain sobriety.

Stress Affects Recovery Success

Avoiding stress can lead to increased cravings in recovering substance abusers. For example, in one study, addicts who coped with stress by working through the problem were less likely to report cravings. In contrast, those who avoided the problem reported more cravings [1]. Researchers in another study found that stress damages dopamine neurons in the brain region linked to stress-induced drug relapse [2].

How to Manage Stress During Recovery

Stress is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to handle it without resorting to old habits. There are many healthy, addiction-free ways to cope. If you completed secular or Christian drug rehab treatment, you likely learned strategies for dealing with the urge to relapse. But it’s also vital to learn coping techniques for dealing with stress in general so you’re not constantly plagued by feelings of anxiety.

  • Biofeedback – Biofeedback can be a very effective stress reduction strategy.  It involves monitoring your body’s automatic stress response and then training yourself to voluntarily control that response. Scientists don’t fully understand all the factors that make biofeedback an effective treatment, yet research does suggest it works in some people. In a study of veterans being treated for alcoholism, those who received biofeedback showed lower levels of specific stress indicators than patients undergoing traditional alcohol treatments. A four-year follow-up also found that the biofeedback patients had a much higher positive recovery outcome [3]. Talk with an addiction specialist, psychiatrist, or psychologist to find out if biofeedback is a good option for you.
  • Affirmations – You may have already become familiar with Christ-centered affirmations in Christian drug rehab. As you continue recovery you can use affirmations to calm your mind. Try repeating a Bible verse, such as “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).  You might also use a calming, affirming thought from a saint, like this one from Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
  • Journaling – Writing down your thoughts and emotions is a safe and healthy way to express your anxieties. Write down your fears and worries, or share why you’re frustrated with a particular situation. Expressing stress in a tangible way is a simple but powerful technique for lowering anxiety levels.
  • Prayer – The blur of daily life can make it hard to talk with God or hear what He’s saying. Set time aside each week or, even better, each day, for prayer.  Say a prayer in whatever way is most comfortable and natural for you, whether it’s saying the Lord’s prayer or simply having a personal, heartfelt conversation with God.
  • Exercise – This is often an important part of relieving stress as you work to maintain sobriety. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are brain chemicals that help boost your mood naturally.  Not only does exercise enhance your sense of wellbeing, it will help you rebuild a body that may have been depleted and weakened by substance abuse. Working out will also increase your self-confidence, making it easier for you to choose healthier responses to stress.
  • Relationship repair – There’s no question that relationships with parents, spouses, and children can trigger significant stress in anyone’s life. Those relationships were likely still there when you completed formal treatment at a secular or Christian drug rehab. Now is the time to manage negative relationships, before the strain of being in them drives you to relapse. You might try to repair broken relationships through marriage or family counseling. However, destructive relationships – whether with a spouse or best friend – may need to be severed for you to have the best chance for long-term sobriety.
  • Sober living – This kind of environment gives you a safe place to live while you’re recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. Sober living facilities free you from the constant anxiety that comes from living in a home that’s not drug-free or one that’s not stable. Talk with your addiction recovery team to find out if this is an option for you.
  • Relax – This is, frankly, one of the simplest (but often underused) ways to relieve the unpleasant feelings that come from stress. Never underestimate the power of relaxation. Make time to relax a high priority in your life.  You might re-discover a favorite book, soak in a hot bath with candles and soft music, enjoy a cup of tea before the kids wake up, or take a walk in a nearby park. You can relax even if you don’t have an ideal setting or environment.  For instance, if you’re stuck at your office desk, close your eyes for a few minutes and visualize your favorite beach or a happy memory from childhood.

Stress “Relief” to Avoid

Some methods of stress relief are clearly unhealthier than others. Since you already struggle with one addiction, it’s essential to avoid turning to other potentially addicting substances. If you’re recovering from alcohol abuse, don’t use marijuana to calm your mind. Likewise, if you’re addicted to drugs, don’t use prescription medications, like benzodiazepines or sleep aids, to calm your nerves or help you fall asleep at night. Don’t be tempted by the promise of a relaxing night out with old party pals either. No matter how resolved you are to stay sober, the environment may be too tempting to avoid a relapse.

Lower Stress to Reduce the Risk of Relapse

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, so you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). This verse is a reminder that you can find a healthy way to escape addiction. Continue the aftercare recommended by your addiction specialist or Christian drug rehab team.  Use it to lower the stress levels that can easily trigger relapse so you can live the life God intended for you.