Healthy Ways to Deal with Stress in Addiction Recovery

Young man stressed

Stress, we all have it and it’s something we all have to learn how to deal with one way or another. When it comes to long-lasting sobriety it is essential that a person learns healthy ways to deal with their negative emotions in order to prevent a relapse.

A major challenge when it comes to living a sober lifestyle is learning new ways of dealing with stress that does not involve drugs or alcohol. When someone who has a substance abuse problem begins to experience any sort of uncomfortable feelings the first thought that usually comes to mind is to drink or use. The longer an addiction has lasted the longer it will take to break these thinking patterns but it is possible and it will get easier with time.

In order to learn how to live a life without drugs or alcohol, it is essential that a person develop some healthy coping mechanisms. Let’s face it, even if you are sober, life is still going to throw you curveballs and having negative emotions is a part of the human experience. With all that said, let’s look at some various ways to deal with these feelings in a healthy and constructive manner.

1. Exercise.

Physical activity of one kind or another is a great way to deal with stress. The benefits of regular exercise impact every aspect of a person’s health. The more a person exercises the more they will begin to experience its benefits to their physical, emotional and mental well being. The healthier a person is the less inclined they will feel to negatively impact their health with drugs or alcohol.

2. Focus on the present.

There is something about taking the time to slow down and concentrate on breathing that can be extremely relaxing. Gaining the ability to clear one’s mind and to focus on the present moment is a lifelong skill with several benefits. This ability can help with all sorts of negative emotions from stress and anxiety to anger and sadness. Practice mindfulness and being present in the here and now. If you haven’t taken time out of your daily routine to try this, now would be a good time to start.

Young woman painting

3. Being creative.

The creative process can be extremely healing and it doesn’t matter what sort of medium is used in order for it to work. Anything from drawing, painting, writing, singing, dancing to playing music is a great way to deal with stress. This oftentimes comes with the added benefit of creating something beautiful which there can never be enough of in this world.

4. Taking a joy ride.

Sometimes we all just need a change of scenery. When life gets overwhelming it can feel liberating to get in a car, turn up some music and take a drive through the mountains or along the coast. By shifting our attention to the things around us we are able to get out of our heads for a while and experience the beauty that this world has to offer.

5. Talking it out.

Every once in a while it is good to just lay it all out on the table and vent. This is where it is good to have someone that is trustworthy who will listen to you without making you feel worse about the situation. We all need a friend that can be a shoulder to cry on. The important thing though is to not get stuck in the venting process and to make the conscious effort to move forward when it’s all done.

6. Getting some fresh air.

Getting out for a walk in nature can do wonders for a person’s spirit. If you live close to the ocean or the mountains then why not take advantage of those opportunities. If you do not have access to these sorts of natural resources, then parks are still a great way to go, or even going on a walk through your neighborhood can do the trick.

7. Reading a good book.

There is something almost magical that happens when you find a good book that you enjoy reading. It can be like being transported to another world. Reading is a great way to take a break from everyday life while also enriching the mind.

Healthy Food

8. Eating a healthy diet.

Consuming excessive amounts of sugar, caffeine and junk food all lead to anxiety. Our minds and bodies cannot function correctly if they do not have the proper fuel.

Eating a healthy diet is a proactive way to cut back on extra stress. It’s ok to have some pizza or cake every once in a while, but it isn’t a good idea to have it become an everyday part of your life.

9. Eliminating triggers.

Although it isn’t possible to eliminate every source of stress from a person’s life it is a good idea to see what sort of unnecessary stresses can be cut from the equation. Simple things like decluttering, cleaning and maintaining a balanced schedule can greatly enhance a person’s emotional wellbeing.

10. Creating a plan to take control of life.

Creating a list of goals and writing out how they will get done, figuring out what can be controlled and what cannot, and letting go of things that only cause you negativity are all great ways a person can begin to take control of his or her life.

In regards to addiction recovery, I cannot stress enough how important it is to find a system that works for you when it comes to dealing with stress. If a person does not learn healthy coping mechanisms to handle the ups and downs of life, then sooner or later there is an increased chance they will relapse. The important thing to remember is that everyone is different, so what may work for one person might not work so well for another, and that is ok — just find what works for you.



After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.