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Being in a stressful situation can be incredibly difficult if you are recovering from addiction. Your sobriety may feel compromised, and you may want to return to old habits of using drugs or alcohol to cope.

Evidence suggests a strong link between feeling stressed and addiction vulnerability, which encompasses both the risk of developing an addiction and the likelihood of relapse.

Therefore, it is imperative to have some healthy mechanisms to ensure that you can handle stress when it arises and minimize the chances of relapse.

It is a great time to confront the notion of stress management during recovery and calm your mind in the knowledge that there exist many strategies for maintaining sobriety during challenging times.

How Can Stress Affect Sobriety?

Post-rehab, going back to situations and people that contribute to the stress you encounter can be challenging. This is because stress is a common relapse trigger.

A relapse trigger is something that makes you crave drugs or alcohol after achieving sobriety. There are many times in life when you may feel stressed, so it is essential to be aware of how this may affect your sobriety.

Turning to drugs or alcohol may feel tempting due to the escapism and short-term relaxing effects they can have. However, using substances to cope with stress will ultimately lead to poor mental health.

Some signs to be aware of that may indicate that you are experiencing stress and may be vulnerable to relapse include physical symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain or tension
  • Stomach problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Chest pain
  • Racing heart
  • Fatigue

Stress can also induce mental symptoms such as:

  • Concentration issues
  • Memory problems
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Racing thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Not being able to relax
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite

Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress

Fortunately, many healthy ways of coping with stress do not involve substance abuse. Trying one or a combination of the below things will help you stay on top of your sobriety. They will also help you cope with stress better.


Exercise is an excellent way of managing stress, releasing feel-good endorphins, and staying healthy.

If you find exercise difficult or unappealing, try something new! If team sports aren’t your thing, perhaps try climbing. If running isn’t for you, maybe join the local basketball team.

Participating in an outdoor sport, such as hiking or surfing, will also give you the added therapeutic benefits of being in nature, which will help to calm the mind and the body.

Support System

Having a support system in place is essential as it will provide you with people to talk things through with when the going gets tough. This could be friends, family, sober support groups, or twelve-step meetings.

Stress may also arise from unhealthy family dynamics or friendships, so it is vital to work through these. A trained therapist can help you with this if you are unsure of how to tackle specific issues.

Healthy Habits

Setting a regular sleep schedule and eating healthy meals are great ways to manage stress. If you find it challenging to get a good night’s sleep due to stress, try to establish a routine. For example, switch off electronic devices before bed, try breathing exercises, or read a relaxing book.


Hobbies can help you to feel relaxed, fulfilled, and distracted. For some, this may include something creative, such as pottery, painting, or playing music. For others, it may be a practical project they can get stuck into.

Pick something that interests you and try a few new things out until you find a good fit.


Having someone independent from your personal life to talk things through with is a great way to manage stress. A trained professional will help you to find practical ways of identifying and managing stress. They can also help you understand the root causes of your stress.

Stressful situations may make you feel worried about relapse, but by implementing these measures, you will be better equipped to deal with stress in a healthy way instead of turning to drugs or alcohol.

Healthy coping mechanisms will not only make you feel less stressed, but they are also sustainable long term. You are not alone in this, and you can get through it.

If you or a loved one are struggling with managing your sobriety, contact us at Cirque Lodge for more information.


Our former clients say it best...

Dr. Stone, I am so grateful to your program and also your generosity. I was a hopeless addictwho believed there was no way of getting clean. Thanks to my sister and Cornerstone staff, I recently took my 90 day chip in N.A. Thanks, my life has been changed.
~ Isaac C.

“This was the best foundation I could have asked for to be sober. My case manager was the Best!! She showed me your life can be exciting and sober.”
~ Tina H.

It is the truly caring staff that makes Cornerstone the best rehab I have been to. The best part was finally getting my depression medications right, after many others tried for 2 years.
~ Jim V.

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