Heading Back to Work After Rehab
You’ve made it through one of the most difficult parts of your life. You made the decision to make the changes necessary to begin a life of recovery, free from the detrimental effects of drugs or alcohol. For the past few weeks or months, you’ve had one major goal; your focus has been intent, concentrated on recovering and beginning a new life. Now, your new life is about to begin. One aspect, among many, that may seem a little daunting is going back to work after rehab. Will you be able to handle the stress? Will your coworkers understand how difficult the situation might be for you in the beginning? Heading into a situation that we can’t control can be little frightening. You learned that when you came to rehab. The good news is that you made it through rehab and you can face this next challenge with just as much courage and determination.
Reducing Work-Related Stress
Even in the best of circumstances, work can be stressful. Evidence has shown that excessive stress can lead to relapse for recovering addicts. In the case of someone who has recently left rehab and returned to the workforce, it is imperative to have an understanding of stress, its effects on you, and a plan to diminish the levels of stress in your life.
In an article published by the Huffington Post, there are several types of work-related stress that had nothing to do with addiction recovery and everything to do with living in the real world. One type of work-related stress that may be of concern to someone who has experienced addiction is the concept of “burning out.” According to the experts, this occurs when a person is physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted, or otherwise feels that they are incapable of doing their job because they feel they cannot go on. For an individual in recovery, the successive type of stress can be especially dangerous. It is important that you have an open line of communication with your employer so he or she understands the importance of having the security of one’s job as well as the ability to take time off when needed.
In today’s high-tech society, employers have more ability to contact their employees even when they are not working. Known as “techno-stress,” this type of scenario can make it seem as though even your off-time is connected to the workplace. As difficult as it may be, it is important to set time aside where you can focus on you and your family without interference from your job. Turn off your cell phone and grant yourself a respite by leaving work at work.
Other types of stress in the workplace include:
- Feeling overworked and underappreciated due to entry-level status or an inability to make decisions about how your tasks are performed
- Feeling abandoned due to a lack of employer-employee communication, support systems, or adequate training
- Feeling as though you are consistently required to turn off your true feelings, such as with unreasonable or angry members of the public
- Working with a boss who is degrading or insulting and feeling as though you have no alternative but to accept it
- Feeling victimized by unfair practices in the workplace
Asking for Help and Learning to Manage Your Stress Can Make a Difference
According to the experts, in any of these stressful workplace scenarios, the key to overcoming issues is to form open lines of communication. If you’re having difficulty dealing with angry customers, perhaps speaking with your employer to ask for acceptable coping strategies and additional training may help.
In many cases, we have very little control over certain aspects of our employment. Working in a service industry may bring you into contact with hostile or impolite members of the public. Because there is very little that can be done to change this, it is important to develop coping strategies that can reduce the stress you do come into contact with. One such avenue may include using relaxation techniques to manage your stress levels.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, meditation can physically alter how our bodies respond to stress. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of our human condition that produces stress. Some kinds of stress are good. For instance, stress symptoms in our bodies occur when we face a life-threatening situation. Our heartbeat increases. Our breathing becomes more rapid. We instinctively know that we need to remove ourselves from harm’s way. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system calms us down, lowering our heart rate and breathing rate.
Meditation has long been used by spiritual and religious communities around the world. One type of meditation, mindfulness-based meditation, focuses on concentrating on one’s own breathing in an effort to control their reactions to any given situation. Transcendental meditation utilizes chanting, known as a mantra, to focus the attention to keep negative influences from entering one’s mind.
In addition to meditation, the Mayo Clinic has stated that exercise can significantly reduce stress. According to the experts, participating in an organized sport can be a great way to leave the troubles of the day behind. Regular exercise, regardless of the source, increases endorphins which are neurotransmitters that amplify our potential to feel better. Finally, exercise has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Recognizing Symptoms of Relapse
Each person is unique. The symptoms that one person experiences when relapsing may be entirely different than the symptoms another person may encounter. If returning to the workforce has added stress to your life, it is important to learn your triggers for relapse and be on the lookout in order to prevent it.
If you do suffer a relapse, it may be helpful to understand that you’re not alone. Experiencing a relapse does not mean that all of your efforts have been in vain, or that your treatment program did not work. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse is a very common occurrence, but it should not be taken lightly. If an individual is suffering from high blood pressure – another type of chronic illness – he or she might visit their doctor to have their medication adjusted. Their doctor, consequently, may suggest lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, to help manage the condition. Recovering from addiction is no different.
Support Groups Can Help Prevent Relapse
If you have found that returning to work has added undue stress to your recovery process, you may be happy to learn that taking part in support groups and your community can help prevent relapse. According to the Mayo Clinic, participation in support groups whether in person or online, can help individuals on several levels, including by reducing stress.
It is important to note, however, that a support group is not group therapy as one might experience it in rehab with a trained professional. Support groups are often run by the members themselves, offering help on various matters.
- A support group made up of other recovering addicts can offer tips for coping with work-related stress.
- Support groups can help an individual who has recently left rehab feel less isolated or alone, considering that the recovering individual may not be in a position to rejoin a previous social circle.
- Support groups can offer information on educational resources.
- Support groups, because they are made up of individuals who have experienced the same aspects of recovery that someone recently reentering the workforce is currently experiencing, can offer insight on an emotional level to help the individual adjust to a new sober lifestyle.
Continuing Treatment While Heading Back to Work
When an individual leaves a residential treatment center and heads back to work, it is important to remember to continue treatment if it is needed. It may also be necessary at some point to return to the treatment center for further assessment after the initial treatment phase has ended. If you have recently returned to the workforce after rehab and you are experiencing difficulties adjusting to a sober lifestyle or you feel overwhelmed due to the stress, please do not hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help. We offer treatment designed specifically for women, and we can offer you the help you need to transition back to work after rehab.