Many individuals who misuse substances have difficulty recognizing emotional cues and responding to stress, pain, and emotional distress in a healthy way. Emotion processing and regulation are a central part of all rehabilitation programs, like the ones offered at Vanity Wellness Center. According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “The key to relapse prevention is to understand that relapse happens gradually.” During ongoing recovery, you will encounter emotionally overwhelming situations, and you might find yourself slipping back into maladaptive behaviors or thought patterns that could eventually lead to physical relapse.

What Is Emotional Relapse?

Emotional relapse occurs when you begin to go off track in your recovery and experience feelings like frustration, anger, hopelessness, or ambivalence that interfere with your ability to cope with everyday stressors. You might feel like everything has gone wrong, or that you cannot do anything right. For many people, these feelings are triggers that can cause intense cravings and intrusive thoughts related to substance misuse. During difficult moments, many people in recovery find themselves experiencing flashbacks of substance misuse. Even if you do not follow through with these thoughts and physically relapse, these memories can still affect your recovery.

Warning Signs of Emotional Relapse

The warning signs of emotional relapse can be hard to recognize, especially for individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders. Often, the signs overlap with the symptoms of mood and trauma-related disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Be mindful of changes to your behavior or thinking patterns, and keep an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • Feeling tired, defeated, or emotionally exhausted
  • Mood swings like unusual anger, frustration, and irritation
  • Difficulty processing emotionally painful situations
  • Feeling unusually isolated or lonely
  • Unusual ambivalence about treatment, recovery, and abstinence
  • Feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or under pressure
  • Symptoms of anxiety or depression that interfere with daily life

Emotional relapse looks different for everyone, and what triggers you may not affect someone else. You will need to stay vigilant and use the coping skills you have learned for emotion processing and regulation.

Possible Emotional Triggers

Triggering events can lead to a relapse or other recovery setbacks. Avoiding triggers or using healthy coping skills is the best way to deal with moments that leave you feeling out of control. Common triggers include:

  • Chronic or acute stress
  • Severe anxiety or depression, or other mood disorders
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Intrusive thoughts about substance misuse
  • Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, or thinking about something that reminds you of substance misuse or past traumas
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Severe illness or injury

Examples of Everyday Stressors

Relapse prevention strategies help you overcome the possible mental and emotional triggers caused by difficult situations. Typical stressors you may encounter at home, work, or school include:

  • Project deadlines
  • Unrealistic expectations from teachers, family members, or supervisors
  • Work or school responsibilities interfering with your home life
  • Financial strain
  • Chronic health problems
  • Relationship issues

3 Tips for Maintaining Emotional Stability

Personal growth and daily self-care can help you maintain emotional stability in the face of stressors and painful emotions. Below are three tips to help you successfully cope with moments of crisis. No matter where you are when you begin to feel overwhelmed, or what circumstances you face, these tips can keep you from backsliding into maladaptive thoughts or experiencing a relapse.

#1. Use Your Support System

A strong support system can significantly affect how well you respond to unexpected or chronic stressors. Several ways you can use your support system during moments of a crisis include:

  • Call, text, or video chat with someone you trust
  • Visit friends, family, or your sponsor
  • Schedule an emergency therapy session
  • Call, text, or message a crisis line
  • Use grounding techniques

#2. Practice Daily Self-Care

Self-care takes many forms and can be used to keep yourself feeling refreshed each day. Some common types of self-care include:

  • Taking time each day to meditate or relax in a quiet place
  • Spending time with friends and loved ones
  • Building new healthy relationships
  • Taking care of your physical health through proper diet, quality sleep, and exercise
  • Doing activities that bring you joy

#3. Mindfulness and Meditation

Many recovery tools use mindfulness to focus the mind and body on the present. You can practice mindfulness and meditation while going through the motions of everyday activities, like taking short walks and completing repetitive tasks. Some mindfulness and meditation techniques you can use to improve emotional stability include:

  • Spending time outside and being mindful of the sensations you feel and details you see in the world around you
  • Doing an enjoyable activity and taking the time to savor every step of the process
  • Eating food while deliberately cataloging all the sensations, feelings, tastes, and smells
  • Practicing breathwork and body relaxation techniques

Self-care is essential for continued sobriety. Your mental and physical health directly impact emotional well-being. If you feel overwhelmed and experience intense cravings related to substance misuse, you can overcome them and remain sober by using the grounding, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques you learned in therapy. Your support system is also an excellent source of strength, motivation, and inspiration. You can manage emotional relapse by choosing to address it before you reach the point of mental or physical relapse. At Vanity Wellness Center, we provide our clients with the resources and tools they need to achieve and maintain a balanced and healthy recovery during continuing care. We ensure all clients have a relapse strategy that will keep them healing and moving forward. To learn more about our services or speak with an intake specialist, call us today at (866) 587-1737

Categories: Vanity NewsTags: , By Published On: June 29th, 2022

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