After completing a rehabilitation program, one may think that someone in recovery would be thankful for time to relax. But, rehabilitation and recovery is a lifelong process without a definite end, and that downtime during recovery can actually be a risk to their sobriety. If you are newly recovered, you have probably found yourself struggling to find new ways to spend your time or deal with intrusive thoughts. Boredom and anxiety are some of the leading causes of relapse. While it can be difficult, there are ways to cope with these feelings in a productive way. As long as you practice healthy coping mechanisms, you can enjoy a successful recovery.
Boredom in Recovery
Those who suffered from addiction often used to regularly engage in reckless or seemingly exciting activities that often involved substance use. Once in recovery, they need to find a different way to spend their time and have fun, which can be a challenge.
Addictive substances can provide a shortcut to the brain's reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbens with dopamine. The level of reward experienced in a substance user's brain becomes more and more difficult to achieve. This is why ordinary activities and daily life may seem mundane to someone in recovery, so they must find productive ways to enjoy their time.
However, some people in recovery can resort to reckless activities to cure their boredom. While they may not be using substances again, there are still behaviors that are not conducive to a successful recovery. For instance, a bored person in recovery may indulge in things like overspending money, risky sexual behavior, seeking out toxic friends or dangerous situations that trigger excitement, or engaging in illegal activities.
Tips to Conquer Boredom
When you are bored, it is important to have an array of productive activities that you can do that won’t pose a risk to your sobriety. Some ways to conquer boredom include:
- Think About Your Boredom - While it may sound surprising, digging into why you are feeling bored can help you to better understand the feeling. Just like any other challenging emotion, thinking about the root cause can help you to cope. Try examining your underlying thoughts and assumptions about how you’re feeling. For instance, if feeling bored makes you upset, ask yourself why it bothers you to be bored. Perhaps the reason you are bored is that the activities you currently engage in aren’t fulfilling, or you don’t have enough to do. Finding the underlying causes of your boredom may help you to address the issue.
- Plan to Keep Busy - Boredom is a common emotion and occasional boredom is inevitable. However, if you are frequently bored, you may not have enough to do. If boredom causes you distress, it can be beneficial to plan to avoid it as much as you can. Try rearranging your schedule to add more activities to fill your day with. You can attend an AA or NA meeting, go to the gym, get something to eat with a friend, and more. You may find that once you’ve had a full day of activities, you will appreciate and enjoy your downtime at the end of the day and be able to relax.
- Join a Support Group - A support group can offer you a sense of community and purpose, and it can be especially helpful in curbing boredom. If you are feeling bored, you can head to a group meeting, or give one of your friends from the group a call. The support groups at Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers(opens in a new tab) offer activities like zentangle and yoga which can help to conquer boredom and practice mindfulness.
- Find a New Hobby - A great way to overcome boredom is by trying out a new hobby. Finding a new activity that you enjoy doing regularly can give you something to do, and you will have the motivation to get better at it. For example, you can try learning a new sport, take up a leisure activity like pottery or knitting, or try learning a new instrument. Finding new, productive hobbies can not only help you to fill your time, but it can improve your mental health if you find a hobby that brings you relief and happiness.
As long as you find productive outlets for your boredom, you can still experience a successful recovery.
Anxiety in Recovery
Everyone can experience anxiety at one time or another, but it can be a more severe issue for some people. According to the ADAA(opens in a new tab), General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common mental illness that is diagnosed in the United States. Anxiety is often a comorbid disorder with addiction, though it can be unclear which came first.
For someone who is in recovery, anxiety can be a difficult emotion to manage. Many of those in recovery may have self-medicated their feelings of anxiety with substance use. Now that they are in recovery, they must find constructive ways to deal with their anxiety.
Tips to Conquer Anxiety
While dealing with anxiety in recovery can be difficult, there are several different things you can do to cope. Some things you can do are:
- Meditate - Meditation is a common calming strategy that has shown results for many people struggling with anxiety. You don’t have to be an expert in it to participate in the activity, there are many guided meditations online, yoga classes, and more. Practicing mindful meditation, or just including mindfulness in your lifestyle can help you to cope with feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed. Neil Kennedy offers yoga, zentangle, and mindfulness in their substance abuse support programs.
- Exercise - Getting regular exercise is an excellent way to relieve stress. Engaging in physical activity can divert your attention from the thing that you are feeling anxious about. Further, studies have shown that getting your heart rate up changes brain chemistry, increasing the availability of important anti-anxiety neurochemicals, including serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and endocannabinoids. Incorporating aerobic activity into your daily life can significantly help you to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Talk to Someone - When you are experiencing anxiety and other challenging emotions, it is important not to keep them to yourself. Holding your feelings and emotions inside will often lead to worsened anxiety, irritability, and more. It can be helpful to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Venting to a friend or seeing a therapist can make you feel less alone and offer you emotional support. Your recovery program may also offer forms of therapy that you can utilize.
- Breathe - Mindful and deep breathing is a great way to get rid of anxiety the moment you feel it coming on. When you are having an anxiety attack or feeling very anxious, your heart rate is often elevated. Practicing slow, deep breaths can help to slow your heartbeat, as well as allow you to return to a calmer state. Many different breathing strategies include counting your breaths or taking a deep breath for several seconds. You can also practice mindful breathing by paying attention to your breath and body as you exhale and inhale. Breathing is a surprisingly powerful tool for relieving stress and anxiety.
Being in recovery can come with a lot of added stress and anxiety. But, there are many exercises and strategies you can use to relieve your anxiety and express your emotions.
When you are in recovery, boredom and anxiety can hit and you may not know how to deal with it. It is important that when these emotions come, you are prepared with healthy ways to cope with them. If you or a loved one need assistance with your recovery, Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers offer a variety of inpatient and outpatient programs, as well as substance abuse support groups open to all.
At Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers, we are dedicated to helping provide our patients with the resources and support they need to achieve a sustainable recovery. If you or a loved one are currently struggling with addiction, our high-quality, trained specialists can help you achieve your recovery goals. Schedule your first appointment with one of our recovery centers today or call (330) 744- 1181 for more information.