How to deal with stress when you’re in recovery

How to deal with stress when you’re in recovery

Stress and addiction are definitely linked. Research and studies have shown that there’s a clear association between stress and the motivation to abuse drugs or alcohol, and we certainly see this link manifesting in the clients at our luxury rehab in Spain.

We believe that those who suffer from addiction are much more vulnerable to the effects of stress. This means they are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with stress, which actually causes more stress to their bodies and minds! This negative cycle is very common in people struggling with addictions and so stress management is key in ensuring a long-term recovery.

In recovery, we must learn to live life on life’s terms, which means there will be stressful events. Our experienced and skilled addiction specialists help our clients to learn how to face stress and deal with the stressful events that we know will happen, without turning to drugs or alcohol, or damaging behaviour. Once our clients have learnt how to deal with stress, they can be their greatest ideal and be there in the stream of life for others.

In this article, we’ll be exploring the links between stress and addiction, and offering practical tips for dealing with stress without relapsing. If you need help, or a safe place to recover, please contact us and find out more about our luxury addiction treatment.

The link between stress and addiction

Stress can be a trigger or be seen as a rational reason to drink or use, or behave in a certain way (behavioural or process addiction). A study into the interaction between stress and addiction revealed that environmental factors such as acute or chronic stress affect the brain’s reward system, and increase the risk for drug consumption and relapse.

Another study assessed 150 opium addicts and compared them to 150 normal subjects on the Paykel Scale of Stressful Life Events and the Cope Inventory to assess their coping methods. This study revealed that the opium addicts had had a significantly higher level of life stressors compared to the normal subjects over a two-year period, and they were less able to cope with that stress than the other subjects.

These studies certainly support what we see first-hand in our addiction recovery clinic, where we see that our clients are more easily affected by stress and less able to cope with it without turning to damaging behaviours. That’s why it’s vital to learn about and use tools in recovery to avoid feeling stressed.

Alcohol and stress

It’s a common idea that alcohol is a good way to unwind or relax after a stressful or busy day, but excessive drinking can actually make feelings of stress harder to deal with.

The website DrinkAware explains that “the brain relies on a delicate balance of chemicals and processes. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it disrupts that balance negatively.

The more alcohol you drink, the greater the effect it has on your brain function and – potentially – your mental health. Regardless of the mood you’re in before drinking, alcohol’s effect on the brain can lead to feelings of being less inhibited, depression, aggression, anger, anxiety – or stress.”

Drinking alcohol can also become a crutch and something which people use to mask the fact that they are suffering from chronic stress – something which is very bad for your health over the long term. It’s much better to face up to the stress you’re feeling clean and sober and implement some healthy and positive stress management techniques to deal with it.

If you don’t feel that your stress levels come down after trying these things, you might need to make a change to your lifestyle, or to your job, to improve the balance and bring down your stress to healthy levels.

The Effects of Stress

In our busy lives, being stressed can be the norm, but it’s becoming clear that high levels of stress are not good for us. Chronic stress can have massively damaging long-term effects on your body and mental health. According to Healthline, these include –

  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Heartburn
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Weakened immune system
  • Risk of heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Fertility problems
  • Stomach-ache
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Missed periods
  • Tense muscles 

Now we know that we can’t hide away from stress and that it’s an inevitable factor in our lives. But there are lots of ways that we can manage stress and bring these levels of stress hormones in our bodies down. Let’s look at some useful stress management techniques now.

How to manage stress without turning to drugs or alcohol

A key part of treatment in our luxury rehab in Spain is to help our clients relax and take control of their emotions. We work hard to give them the tools to manage stress throughout their stay with us so that when they leave, they are really comfortable with how to do it and know what works for them.

Here are some of the most effective tools that our clients really find beneficial for managing their stress.


At our luxury rehab in Spain, we like to start the day with meditation. It is a positive routine which sets you up for the day, brings awareness to your body and allows you to check in with yourself and find out how you’re feeling before the day begins.

In the context of addiction recovery, it offers structure and stability to our clients’ day, and is something they can easily take away with them to help them to deal with stress, improve emotional wellbeing and inner peace, all of which helps resist the temptation to relapse.

There are lots of different types of meditation, and you may need to try a few different methods to find the one which suits you best. You can go to a meditation session for guided meditation, or find meditations online which you can follow. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, or worry that you’re doing it wrong, give each type of meditation a try and see if any work for you. If not, no problem, here are a few other things to try.

Breathing Exercises

We all need to breathe, of course, but many of us don’t breathe deeply, and because stress can cause rapid breathing, it can escalate feelings of stress. Simply slowing our breath down and trying a calming breathing technique can be the easiest and quickest way to bring down stress levels.

The NHS website has a great technique to try –

  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
  • Then let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
  • Keep doing this for at least 5 minutes.

Pampering and self-care

Taking the time to give yourself a little pampering when you’re feeling stressed is a great way to slow down and start to unwind. This can take many different forms, from having a relaxing bath with essential oils to going for a massage, or trying self-massage techniques, or just taking the time to sit quietly or listen to relaxing music. You should do things that make you feel good and take the time to focus on yourself once in a while.


One of the most effective ways to manage stress is to exercise and get your body moving. Here are a few methods we particularly like:

  1. Yoga – this is a great way to stretch and improve strength and flexibility and calm the mind. We integrate yoga into our addiction treatment programmes because, as well as reducing stress, promoting the feeling of well-being and strengthening the body, yoga is a wonderful way to use movement as self-care.
  • Tai Chi – this is like a moving meditation and a great option if you struggle with meditation.
  • Walking – getting outside and just walking can do wonders for stress relief, especially if you can get out into a park, or walk by the sea, or in nature.
  • Swimming – going for a swim is a really relaxing form of exercise and swimming in the sea or cold-water swimming has been shown to be particularly beneficial, but even just a few laps of your local pool will do you good.
  • Jogging – many people who struggle with stress and addiction find jogging an excellent tool to get through a craving, or lower their feelings of stress and anxiety. Put on your favourite music or listen to a podcast or audiobook and get moving. If you’re just starting out, there are some great apps to guide you such as Couch to 5K.

Talking it out

If you’re feeling stressed or worried, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and share it with a friend. Talking things through can relieve a lot of pressure and also help you to find solutions to what’s worrying you. If you don’t feel comfortable with talking to a friend, then therapy, counselling or coaching can be an excellent option too. There’s no shame in getting professional help! 

Take a break

Book yourself a holiday, or simply take the day off, turn off your phone and disconnect from what’s stressing you out. Taking a break and resetting those stress levels will make you much more able to cope when you get back to it. So, whether you just need a duvet day and want to hang out with your pet and watch funny TV or you need to get away from it all on holiday, taking a break from stress is something your body and mind will really thank you for.

Our luxury rehab in Spain, offers a safe place for you to escape the day-to-day stress of life and focus 100% on your recovery. We offer intensive addiction treatment programmes alongside stress management techniques and equip you with the tools you need for long-term recovery. 

We’re specialists in treating successful, high-functioning addicts. We understand the challenges faced by high-achievers when entering rehab – time constraints, privacy issues, need for a safe space. We also know first-hand that when high-functioning addicts leave to return to their ‘normal’ lives, they will be surrounded by pressures and challenges such as travel, stress, client entertainment, etc. The Bridge has been designed to cater to these needs and offers a safe, private place to recover and a long-term approach, with secondary treatment and aftercare to avoid relapse.

Contact us to find out how we can help and be assured of complete discretion and confidentiality at all times in our secluded and pioneering residence.