7 Tips for Managing Stress in Early Recovery

7 tips for managing stress in early recovery

Addiction recovery can come with lots of emotions. Some days, you may feel confident and excited about your progress. On others, you may feel frustrated with challenges that feel overwhelming. Recovery requires a lot of dedication, support, and self-care.

Finding ways to reduce your overall stress can make recovery feel more manageable.

What is Stress?

Stress describes physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that come from strain or tension.[1]

Physical symptoms

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Sleep disruption
  • Lowered libido
  • Upset stomach

Emotional symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Depression or sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Trouble concentrating

Behavioral symptoms

  • Angry outbursts or aggression
  • Overeating or not eating enough
  • Reducing physical activity
  • Isolating
  • Tobacco use
  • Drug and alcohol abuse

Stress can arise in many situations throughout the day and can range in intensity. Most people face minor daily stressors–getting stuck in traffic, being late for an appointment, losing their keys, and other irritations. These minor stressors can pile up and make people feel strained beyond their ability to cope. Other problems, such as facing homelessness, living with a chronic medical condition, or the breakup of a relationship, could lead to overwhelming stress on their own.[2]

Why is Managing Stress in Recovery So Important?

Stress can harm your mental and physical health. Chronic stress is linked to serious health conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease

People who live with chronic stress are more likely to use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate stress’s physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms. Drugs and alcohol can temporarily dull the symptoms of anxiety but can lead to severe harm to your mental and physical health, including addiction. People in recovery must find ways of coping with stress in recovery to improve their overall well-being and avoid relapse.

7 Tips for Coping with Stress in Recovery

1. Find balance

Your daily tasks–work, parenting, appointments, commuting–can overwhelm your day and demand all of your time. Finding time each day to do something you enjoy and rest is essential. You don’t have to take much time–just 15 minutes can make a difference in your stress levels.

2. Get support

People aren’t meant to be isolated. All of us need the support of others. This is especially true for people in recovery. Addiction recovery requires a lot of time and energy. It’s important to have support. Make it a priority to have at least one person you can reach out to, day or night. Build support into your schedule by attending weekly 12-step meetings, individual therapy, or support groups. Join an alumni network to stay connected to others in recovery. Make time to see supportive friends and family.

3. Get moving

Exercise can get your blood moving, boost endorphins, and help relieve muscle tension. Other benefits include:

  • Better self-confidence
  • Healthier body composition
  • Better sleep
  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases like arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes

Some research suggests that exercising may help repair brain damage caused by heavy, prolonged substance use.

You don’t need to devote hours to working out in the gym. Getting about 20 minutes of moderate daily exercise–brisk walking, dancing, yard work, etc.–can lead to significant improvements in your health and mood.

Exercising can also be social. Join a softball team, take a group class, or find a local walking group to get moving and make new connections.

4. Go outside

Adventure therapy is an essential part of addiction recovery programs. Research shows that your mental health can benefit from spending time outdoors in nature.[3] Immersing yourself in the sights, smells, and sensations of the great outdoors can help you unwind and relax. Regularly getting outdoors can lower your risk of anxiety and depression. It can boost your self-esteem and improve your communication skills.

Trying a new outdoor activity in recovery can help you make friends, uncover new abilities, and find a new purpose in your life after addiction. Some outdoor adventure activities to consider include:

  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Rock climbing
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Horseback riding

If you do not have access to these activities, do what you can. Take a walk in a local park, explore a nearby State or regional park, start a garden, or simply eat or read outdoors whenever you can.

5. Prioritize sleep

Getting good sleep can help you feel better and have more energy the next day. Getting enough sleep has been linked to a more robust immune system, better mood, stable blood sugars, and better heart health.

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Develop a pre-bedtime routine that helps you get good sleep and go to bed at the same time each night. Keep your sleeping area dark and cool. Avoid screens for about an hour before bedtime, and spend a little time reading or doing another calming activity before turning off the light.

6. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a powerful stress-reduction tool that can benefit people in recovery. Mindfulness is the practice of staying focused on the present moment instead of worrying about the past or future. Meditation is one aspect of mindfulness. You can practice meditation with guidance from an online video or app or just sit quietly for a few minutes and focus on your breath. Recent research suggests that regularly practicing meditation may be as effective at reducing stress and anxiety as taking medications.[4]

7. Eat well

What you eat affects your mood and stress levels. Lots of sugar, caffeine, and saturated fat are linked with depression, anxiety, and poor sleep. Skipping meals or overeating can tax your boy and cause physical and emotional stress. Opt for regular, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to stay satisfied and energized throughout the day.

Get Help Now

To learn more about coping with stress in recovery or to start a treatment program, reach out to the Moving Mountains Recovery specialists today.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/
  3. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7287297/
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