6 Sober Coping Strategies for Handling the Demands of the Professional World
When you’re in recovery, coping with the demands of everyday life can seem overwhelming. Whether you’re returning to the professional world after having taken some time off to work through recovery or you’ve maintained a part-time or full-time job while on your recovery journey, coping with the stress and other demands of the professional world may be one of the biggest challenges you face.
For many people in recovery, however, getting back to their pre-addiction lives is their way to move forward and put the past behind them. Getting back into the workforce or returning to your previous job is a victory over addiction and a way to regain your independence.
Willingness, honesty and open-mindedness allow me to get what I need in recovery.
Nonetheless, you may worry about your ability to cope with the daily stress of your career. You may even fear that your co-workers or supervisors will pass judgment on you. When you return to the professional world equipped with effective coping strategies, however, you’ll be prepared to weather the storm and handle any stress that may come your way.
1. Leverage Your Support System
A solid support system is one of your best lines of defense against the stress that comes with a demanding professional life. Your support system, comprised of family and friends and possibly a co-worker or two who has earned your trust, will be critical to maintaining your sobriety and peace of mind during this transition.
Your support system will offer encouragement, and provide a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear when you need to vent your frustrations. It can help you to stay motivated when you feel like throwing in the towel. Having someone to call at the end of a long, hard work day is incredibly beneficial for coping with stress and other challenges in the professional world.
Additionally, you should communicate with your supervisor at work if you’re comfortable doing so or the company’s human resources department. You might be surprised by the support you receive when you keep your employer in the loop about your recovery.
Tap into Your Company’s Employee Assistance Program
Ask your company’s human resources department if the company offers an Employee Assistance Program. An EAP may offer short-term counseling services or even connect you with local peer support and recovery groups.
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the services available through your company. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Therapeutic work environments that provide employment for drug-abusing individuals who can demonstrate abstinence have been shown not only to promote a continued drug-free lifestyle but also to improve job skills, punctuality, and other behaviors necessary for active employment throughout life.”
Continue to See Your Therapist or Addiction Counselor
You should continue with any addiction counseling or therapy services you’re already receiving as part of your recovery process when returning to work. As you’ve already established trusted relationships with the professionals who have been aiding you through your journey to recovery, they can provide targeted support and help you to develop coping strategies that work for you.
There are many options to continue outpatient addiction recovery, allowing you to get support from qualified professionals and mentors anytime you need it – through phone sessions, video conferencing, and in-person sessions.
Work in Time for Regular Exercise
Returning to the professional world means much of your time will once again be occupied by your professional responsibilities, yet it’s incredibly important for you to plan time in your day for regular physical activity. Keeping your body healthy can benefit the mind, too, and help you to gain resiliency in coping with everyday stressors.
Plus, finding a form of exercise or other activity that you enjoy can be a great stress-reliever at the end of a long workday. In fact, a 2011 study finds that exercise has protective effects through transitional phases throughout addiction and recovery. The following articles offer more information on the benefits of exercise in addiction recovery and share some inspiring stories:
- How Eminem Beat Addiction with Exercise
- Replacing addiction with a healthy obsession
- Exercise May Be a Highly Effective Option for Alcoholics
Eat Healthy and Prep Your Meals
A healthy diet is just as important as regular physical activity in addiction recovery, playing a role in your overall health and well-being and providing the fuel your body needs to get through the work week. Often, people who have gone through addiction may not have a healthy relationship with food, or they may crave foods which are highly rewarding to the brain (but not so much for overall health) such as sweet, salty, or high-fat foods.
But consuming a poor diet can be detrimental to your recovery by making you feel sluggish midway through the day, leading you to become reliant on caffeine. Plus, consuming sugary foods can result in unstable blood sugar levels, which can impact focus and concentration. Neither of these effects is conducive to giving it your all in the professional world, so consuming a healthy, balanced diet is critical. Prepping your meals in advance for the workweek and packing a healthy lunch can help you overcome cravings for unhealthy snack foods and avoid making a lunch run to the nearest fast food restaurant. The following resources can help you choose healthy food options and offer guidance on meal prep to make healthy eating less challenging during the workweek:
- What’s the Best Diet for Newly Sober Alcoholics and Addicts?
- Nutrition in Recovery from Addiction
- Substance Abuse and Nutrition
- Meal Prepping 101 for Beginners
Find a Hobby You Enjoy
While it may seem like your entire life revolves around your professional responsibilities, finding the right balance can make it easier to cope with stressful days and work challenges by giving you another outlet for your energy. That’s why it’s important to find a hobby that you can engage in after work and on your off days.
Yoga, hiking, and other physical activities are great ways to spend your free time that also help you get your daily dose of exercise in, but a good hobby doesn’t have to be something physically exhausting. Knitting, woodworking, and other crafts can be just as beneficial, as can gardening, journaling, caring for a pet, and volunteer work. There are plenty of enjoyable sober activities to occupy your time; the key is to find a healthy activity that you enjoy. Looking for ideas? Visit the following websites:
- 10 L.A. Activities That Are Fun Even When You’re Sober
- Sober Fun. What to do when not drinking.
- 50 Fun Things To Do Without Alcohol
- 32 Things to Do Instead of Drinking Wine
- 100 things to do besides drink
Additional Resources to Help You Cope with the Demands of the Professional World
For more coping strategies and other resources to help you manage the demands of the professional world in recovery, visit the following resources.
This article from PsychCentral speaks to the employer’s perspective but is an insightful read for those returning to work after recovery.
The American Psychological Association provides a helpful guide on coping with stress at work.
Fast Company shares six strategies for dealing with uncertainty in business.
LiveCareer.com shares 10 strategies for coping and thriving at work.
If your professional life requires you to deal with difficult personalities, this article from The Guardian is a worthwhile read.
Cornerstone provides a helpful guide packed with resources for identifying, coping with, and managing stress in the workplace.