Stress is a common factor in the development of an addiction, because the more stress you’re experiencing, the more likely you are to look for an escape from it. It’s important to remove stress during addiction recovery, so an escape doesn’t turn into a relapse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stress is the leading cause of relapse.1 People who struggle with alcohol or drug use are more sensitive to the negative effects of stress, which can lead to substance use in search of stress relief.

Don’t get caught up in the stress-relapse cycle. Use the following techniques to relieve stress or prevent pressure from building up.

Top Techniques to Remove Stress During Addiction Recovery

1. Manage Your Time Well

Especially for the first few months of recovery when the risk of relapse is at its highest, it’s important to streamline your day. In order to remove stress during addiction recovery, manage your time well. If you overload on chores, assignments and obligations, failing to accomplish them all will lead to feeling stressed out.

Pare down your “must-do” list to just recovery activities, such as 12-step meetings, counseling sessions and other recovery-related appointments. Then fit in other activities across the remaining available time slots. Leave some wiggle room for days when things take more time than planned.

2. Take Advantage of Peer Support

Directly related to regular attendance at 12-step meetings is the peer support you’ll find there. When you talk with like-minded people who are familiar with the challenges of sobriety, the conversations help to remove stress during addiction recovery.2 During meetings, you can open up your stress valves, blow off some steam and learn how to handle the pressing issues you’re finding stressful.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep disturbances are common among people in recovery from chronic substance use.3 Lack of sleep can increase your stress levels, because your body doesn’t have enough downtime to restore itself. Since your body is working with a sleep deficit, it can’t cope with all the things that daily life entails. Then stress levels begin to rise, which is what you’re looking to avoid.

Prioritize sleep in your daily schedule. Get at least seven hours of restful sleep each night. Meditate and practice muscle relaxation before you’re ready to settle down for the night, so you’ll fall asleep easier.

4. Exercise Regularly

Physical activity is a great stress-buster. Strenuous physical activity releases endorphins and increases overall health. Also, regular exercise will tire you out, making it easier to fall asleep.3

5. Stay Away from Stressful Situations

Staying away from stressful situations may seem like advice that you could take for granted, but you may feel pressured to attend a family or work event, even if you anticipate that it’s going to be stressful. If you think it will be a stress-filled experience, politely decline the invitation.

Your recovery comes first, so make stress reduction a top priority. When you remove stress during addiction recovery, it’s a form of self-care that strengthens your commitment to preventing relapse and living a sober life. You are a valuable human being who’s well worth the care and effort of sustaining a sober and rewarding life.