Stress and Addiction Recovery
Stress can be a serious issue during addiction recovery–add a global pandemic to the mix, and we’re on overload! Oxidative stress, which builds up in our systems over time, can cause many health challenges, such as decreased energy, abnormal sleep patterns, and increased chances for chronic diseases such as cancers and immune system disorders. By regulating our oxidative stress levels, we lower our chances of these risks; this allows our bodies to process both physical and emotional stress more efficiently.
At St. Gregory Recovery Center in Bayard, Iowa, we understand that the COVID-19 restrictions can add stress to the addiction recovery process due to the inability to participate in social activities and hobbies. However, we encourage you to find solace in the many social-distancing-friendly activities still available. Check out the ideas below.
1. Start an arts & crafts or DIY project.
Research has shown that art therapy is not only effective for lowering stress and anxiety levels, but may also help you alleviate emotional imbalances, cultivate a better relationship with yourself, and provide an effective outlet of communication other than talking. Many arts and crafts can be done with common items found around the house, up-cycled and repurposed for a creative project. From painting to tie dying, there is sure to be a creative outlet everyone can appreciate during this time of isolation.
2. Try aromatherapy.
For centuries, aromatherapy has been practiced by medical professionals, herbalists, and healers alike as a holistic and noninvasive method to unwind and destress. Some seem to benefit from the uplifting scent of the herbs while others claim it has a more anatomical effect, such as reducing headaches and boosting immunity. Either way, aromatherapy is an accessible stress reducer and may prove beneficial during the recovery process. Hand-cut, dried flowers, such as lavender and eucalyptus, and plug-in diffusers that use essential oils are easily purchased online at affordable costs.
3. Adopt a Pet.
If you have the time, the space, and the love in your heart, consider adopting a pet. Research has found that interacting with a pet can distract our bodies from fully reacting to stress. Having a pet or therapy animal can also provide a greater sense of responsibility and empowerment for those moving through addiction recovery. Pets also help to combat loneliness and depression during these isolating times.
4. Grow a garden or get a houseplant.
There is something immensely satisfying about eating something from a plant you helped grow or watching a flower mature and bloom right on your window sill. Gardening, on any scale, can be a relaxing and rewarding activity. Many find enjoyment in kitchen herb gardens, filled with culinary delights for meals and tea. Others are enamored by the incredible amount of produce they can grow in even the smallest spaces using creative ideas like vertical gardens and raised garden beds.
Meditating regularly provides numerous benefits to the body and mind. Research shows that a meditation practice can increase in cognitive ability, clarity, and endurance. If meditation sounds intimidating, never fear. Free online videos, classes, and applications provide user-friendly and guided meditations for everyone, no matter your level of expertise.
6. Explore nature.
The COVID-19 virus has temporarily closed many outdoor recreational areas, such as parks and public pools, but luckily we are still able to take walks around the block and enjoy the great outdoors. Check out this informative study that shows how regular exposure to nature can lower stress levels. Always make sure you are using proper protective gear when necessary and maintaining your distance from others while you enjoy a short stroll or sitting in the yard.
7. Take up yoga and exercise.
Having a fitness routine improves both emotional and physical health. When we exercise, our bodies release a variety of neurotransmitters that can help regulate our moods, improve our sleep, and lower our stress levels. Yoga is a great choice for low-impact exercise and can help increase flexibility. Although gyms and parks are temporarily closed, many free workout routines can be found online or through social media platforms.
8. Learn to cook.
Cooking a meal for yourself or those you live with is not only rewarding, but can also be a boost to your mental health. Your favorite restaurant may be closed for business, but cookbooks–or internet access–allow us to create our favorite dishes right at home. Stick to a simpler recipe if you are a new chef, or go out on a limb and try a gourmet meal; either way, cooking is a rewarding activity for those moving through the recovery process.
9. Declutter and get organized.
Many swear that the state of our surroundings reflects the state of our minds: if your living space is a mess, chances are you may be feeling a bit discombobulated. By decluttering, organizing, and rearranging your personal space and belongings, you may feel a greater sense of being grounded and less overall stress. Start small by decluttering each room or drawer one at a time, and if possible, donate items you no longer need. Many organizations will even pick up donations from your residence.
10. Make masks for COVID-19.
Thousands of essential workers work on the front lines, battling this pandemic each day. By taking the time to craft or sew masks to donate to those in need, you are not only reducing your own stress levels, but you are providing a great service to your community.
You Can Take Control
Although these times may seem stressful, you and your loved ones do not have to be stressed as well. By finding activities that resonate with you, you can lower overall stress levels and remain positive as you move along with your recovery journey.