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Life is full of responsibilities and time-consuming obligations. Working, making dinner, relaxing for the night, and keeping up with child-care responsibilities all require time and energy. Unfortunately, for individuals in early recovery, too much stress can put their sobrieties in jeopardy. As relapse is always a potential risk, it is essential to discuss how work stress can influence relapse throughout long-term recovery.

What Is Relapse?

Regarding substance use disorder (SUD), a relapse is a return to patterns of substance abuse after getting sober. Meanwhile, the term lapse is used to address a one-time slip-up, such as having a drink of alcohol after attempting to cease use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies six chain reactions that are known to inform a relapse:

  1. Putting oneself in a high-risk situation, such as going to a bar
  2. Not having a plan for navigating the high-risk situation
  3. As a result, a small lapse might occur
  4. The lapse may inform negative thinking without a plan for navigating the lapse
  5. Another lapse occurs without a comeback plan
  6. Full relapse occurs

A stressed person cannot process or plan appropriately. Their thoughts get slower and jumbled. They cannot think of alternative options to using substances. In turn, too much stress becomes dangerous.

Toxic Stress

Experiencing an extreme amount of stress is not good for the mind or body. Stress can be dangerous because it can cause health and developmental problems. When stress develops into toxic stress, it can cause problems such as: 

  • Heart disease
  • Depression or anxiety disorders
  • Impairments on cognitive functioning
  • Weakened immune system functioning
  • Other physical health problems

Another unavoidable consequence of toxic stress is substance abuse. For a person with SUD, substance abuse can result in relapse. This is dangerous, as further substance abuse for someone with a history of addiction can cause even further damage to their health and well-being. 

Can I Manage the Stress Before a Relapse?

Not all stress turns into toxic stress, but in general, stress is overwhelming. A person can mitigate or lessen the intense feelings that come from being stressed by setting boundaries and making plans to reduce their stress.

Resist Negative Thinking

The first thing a person can do when they are becoming too stressed is to resist negative thinking and self-abuse. Focusing and obsessing about substances is not healthy, but thinking about using once or briefly is not a reason to abuse yourself.

Mistakes happen in recovery. It is not just an uphill journey but has its valleys and peaks. Recovery is not just about ceasing substance abuse but also requires an individual to address its effect on their entire life. 

A person’s thoughts influence their feelings, which then influence their behavior. To lessen stress, a person needs to resist thinking negative thoughts. 

Regain Control

Sometimes a person can feel stressed because of a lack of control. Responsibilities can weigh too much or feel impossible to accomplish. If a person feels out of control and too stressed, it may lead to a lapse in recovery. 

However, when a person has relapse concerns, they may feel like they can regain control of a situation. For example, writing a to-do list with time limits or tackling one task at a time may help to reduce pressure and stress. By gaining control of an out-of-control feeling or situation, a person can relieve feelings of stress.

Talk With Someone

Most treatment programs come with a sponsor or a recovery coach who is training to talk through specific struggles facing those in recovery. Regardless of who you are, talking through concerns can be especially valuable.

By talking through stressful events or feelings, saying it out loud can help a person process emotions and tasks. This can make everything feel more manageable. When situations are manageable, a person may not feel like they need to use substances again. 

Learn From the Relapse

If a relapse does occur, a person should learn from the situation, not punish themselves for the misstep. A relapse can tell a person when they have experienced too much stress or reached their emotional or physical limits. By learning from relapses, an individual can create plans to avoid or manage when feelings come up that could tempt them to use alcohol and other drugs.

How Can I Improve My Work Situation?

An income is necessary to live in the world, which means almost all people need to work. At work, a person has to manage other people, personalities, workloads, and potential clients. Since relapse may occur from too much work stress, a person may need to improve or change their work situation. Here are four suggestions to improve your work situation:

Create a Flexible Schedule

Talk with your manager or HR department to see if a more flexible schedule is an option. By working fewer hours, you may be able to relax more. Another option is to complete your work at a different time, if possible. Not working during peak hours can relieve stress as well. 

Don’t Hide From Your Disorder

No one is under obligation to tell others about their disorder. However, you cannot hide from your disorder. Having one or two people who you trust with the knowledge of your disorder can help when others may be pressuring you to join in trigger situations. 

Consider Changing Jobs

Depending on the work you are doing, you may need to take a break from it. If your work is consistently stressing you out, it may be time for a career change.

Participate in an Intensive Outpatient Program

With flexible planning, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) is an option for people who need more support in recovery while still working. Lighthouse Recovery Texas understanders that not everyone can put aside work or other responsibilities for treatment. However, treatment is essential to improve the management of SUD. IOP is a great option for individuals seeking recovery that may need some additional support managing outside stressors. 

Is work getting to be too much for you? Do you feel like you were doing so well in your recovery, but when you get to work, all you can do is think about your cravings? This may be a sign you need a break and should reprioritize your sobriety. Our professional and caring staff at Lighthouse Recovery Texas would love to get you assessed and find the right treatment option for you. With flexible programs, partial hospitalization programs, and extended care programs, there is an option to meet your life and recovery needs. Contact us at Lighthouse Recovery at (214) 396-0259. Together we can help you create a sober life.