Stress is one of the most common relapse triggers for people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction.
With the global pandemic creating unprecedented levels of job loss, social isolation, and fear of the virus itself, many people are dealing with an unusual level of stress.
If you are concerned that increasing levels of stress may cause or you have already experienced a relapse, these four techniques can help you cope.
1. MEDS Techniques
MEDS is an acronym for meditation, exercise, diet, and sleep.
These techniques are recommended for people with a substance abuse disorder who are experiencing anxiety related to increased cortisol levels, brought on by the body’s fight or flight response to a threat.
Studies have shown that 30 minutes of mediation per day can improve brain function and lower anxiety levels.
30 minutes of daily exercises, such as walking, hiking, or yoga, have also been shown to reduce anxiety levels.
Be sure to observe local social distancing guidelines and find activities you can either do in your home or safely do outdoors while remaining at least six feet away from other people if you are feeling well.
If you are sick, you should consult a medical professional and follow any self-quarantining guidelines.
Some researchers believe that decreasing processed foods, sugar, and dairy from your diet while increasing vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds can lower cortisol levels.
Finally, getting adequate amounts of sleep is one of the most effective ways to eliminate excess cortisol from your body.
2. Therapy Sessions
A therapist can help you identify what is stressing you and suggest techniques for healthily dealing with your stress.
Due to social distancing guidelines, it may be difficult or risky for some people to attend an in-person therapy session.
Many therapists have been making sessions available through video chat or telemedicine so that clients can seek help without increasing their risk of COVID19 infection.
If you do not already have a therapist you are working with, you may want to consider an online therapy option.
3. Daily Stress Reduction Steps
The more sources of stress a person has, the higher the chance is that a new acute stressor will lead to stress & relapse.
No one can make the current pandemic just go away, but there are steps a person can take to reduce other stressors in their life, such as exiting stressful relationships and working to form new positive relationships.
Social distancing can make this process more complex.
For people who live with a toxic person, that relationship will be difficult to end, though there are resources available to people dealing with being forced to shelter in place with an abusive person.
Conversely, social distancing may make it easier to end unproductive relationships with people outside your home.
Making new positive relationships can also be challenging during this time.
However, the existence of the internet, video chat, social media, and other online resources can make it possible to improve communication with existing friends and make new friends, while remaining at home.
Familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of a pending relapse can help you avoid one.
Warning signs include romanticizing substance use, talking about being able to use substances again without becoming addicted, sudden changes in behavior, and doubting the recovery process.
Speaking to someone or re-entering a therapy program may help avoid these warning signs leading to a relapse.
The added stress that comes with the social isolation, uncertainty, and the fear that comes with living through a global pandemic can trigger a relapse in some people recovering from addiction.
However, if you are struggling with a stress-related relapse, there are steps you can take to recover from or prevent a relapse.