Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction isn’t easy. On top of everything else, cravings, social stigma, and shame are always lurking in the background. However, when you’re serious about recovery, you have to learn how to handle stress without leaning on old crutches. Here are a few tips on ways to help yourself stay on the right track even when things go wrong.

Carve out time for yourself each day. When you’re trying to rewrite your life, it’s easy to jump head-first into work. Not only are you looking for a distraction, but also working to better yourself and the life of your family. It’s easy to replace a substance addiction with an addiction to work. Finding balance is the single most important thing you can do for yourself to prevent stress and anxiety from overtaking every waking (and sleeping) moment. And it’s how you spend your “off” hours that truly impact your recovery efforts, which leads us to…

Consider volunteering in your community. They say it takes a village to raise a child but this proverbial community is also important to adults. As a recovering addict, the people and places around you can make a big difference in how you view yourself and the rest of the world. The Treehouse explains that using your free time to volunteer is an excellent way to combat both stress and boredom. These are each factors that contribute to relapse. No matter where you live, there are opportunities to make a difference in your community and to allow the community to make a difference to you. Volunteering has been scientifically proven to make you feel good about yourself and will help you feel as though you’ve paid your debt to society for any negative actions you may have taken under the influence.

Watch what you eat. You already know that you are what you eat. But do you know why? The foods we eat fuel our minds and bodies. Vitamins and nutrients found in certain foods can exacerbate stress or help you bring out the best in yourself. Asparagus, for instance, is high in folate, which can help you keep your cool when things start to heat up. If green isn’t your color, blueberries are high in anthocyanin, and antioxidant that will keep your mind sharp so you can think under stress and duress. Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN tells Prevention that cashews are an excellent source of the zinc. Interestingly, zinc deficiency has been linked to depression and anxiety so throwing a handful of chopped cashews on your salad is a smart choice when you feel down.

Get up, get out the door, and get moving. When Harvard says that exercise has the ability to, “counter depression and dissipate stress,” you should listen. According to the medical school, aerobic exercise has numerous neurochemical benefits and can actually stimulate endorphin production and leave you feeling relaxed and optimistic. Exercise does double duty by helping you take control of your body while triggering those feel-good chemicals in your mind. Years of addiction may have altered your metabolism and exercising can help you get your body back to normal so that you look as good as you feel. Fortunately, the best place to exercise isn’t at an expensive membership-based gym, either. Studies have shown that the outdoors offers your body, mind, and soul a better backdrop to complete your recovery. Not only does being outside give you fresh air, but exposure to sunshine boosts your body’s levels of vitamin D, another nutrient that, when deficient, may be linked to depression.

Your journey to health and healing isn’t going to be easy. But, if you focus on yourself and take preemptive measures to reduce stress and anxiety, you can avoid many of the bumps along the way that may otherwise knock you off your path.



Mr. Anderson co-created RecoveryHope to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families.