Recovery from a substance use disorder is an ongoing journey—and the trip is not always smooth. That is why it is so important to develop a range of skills that can help you maintain your sobriety when the going gets tough.
One of the many things that can make recovery difficult is stress related to our jobs. In fact, many people first develop a substance use disorder because they started using drugs or alcohol as a strategy for dealing with ongoing work-related stress. And the sad truth is that going through detox and rehab can help you regain your sobriety, but it won’t make workplace stress magically disappear.
Left unchecked, that stress can lead to burnout, and that, in turn, can upend your recovery. So it is essential to find ways to reduce workplace stress—for the sake of your mental health and your sobriety.
The Symptoms of Burnout
What does it mean to be burned out? The symptoms of burnout can sneak up on you—especially if you are dedicated to your job. It might seem natural—even admirable—to you that you eat many meals at your desk or that you spend the better part of your weekends in the office. If you believe in the mission of your organization, these might just seem like sacrifices that have to be made to do good in the world. Additionally, you might think these behaviors are the only way to move up in your company or field and satisfy your personal ambitions and goals.
But it is an extremely short step from a diligent willingness to work long hours to the dangers of burnout. How can you recognize burnout? Here are some good indicators that you have an issue:
- Unrelenting feelings of stress—both at work and during your off hours
- A frustrating combination of ongoing fatigue and insomnia
- Persistent sadness, irritability, and/or anger
- Frequent illness—up to and including the development of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and/or high blood pressure
- Turning (or returning) to drugs or alcohol in an effort to reduce feelings of stress
Steps to Take to Battle Burnout
It may seem like you don’t have any options for fending off burnout—especially if your job and/or boss are particularly demanding. But given the stakes—including the risk of relapse—it is important to find a way to rebalance your life so that you are not constantly experiencing high levels of stress and dissatisfaction.
Some steps you might consider include:
- Having an honest conversation with your boss about how you are feeling and what might be done to help reduce the stress you are experiencing. It’s not always easy to talk with the boss, but odds are you had a conversation before you went into treatment, so this conversation shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.
- Set some boundaries for yourself. Sometimes it isn’t the boss who has been forcing us to put in long hours or to stress about every project and deadline. Sometimes we do all of that to ourselves. So it’s a good idea to set some boundaries. Even something small like making sure you don’t eat lunch at your desk or that you don’t stay late simply out of habit can make a big difference.
- Make sure you develop a rich life outside of work. You are probably at greater risk of burnout if you don’t have interests and activities that you enjoy outside of work. Finding an engrossing hobby, setting aside time to read, write, or meditate, and establishing a regular exercise routine are just a few of things you can do that are good for you and can give your mind a much needed break.
- Consider finding a new gig. Leaving a job can be scary, but sometimes it is the best move for your mental health and sobriety. You need a job where you feel appreciated, where the expectations are reasonable, and where you see opportunities for personal and professional growth. If that doesn’t describe your current job, it may well be time to move on. No job is worth putting your hard-won sobriety at risk.
We Can Help You Get—and Stay—Sober
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we know that work-related stress can lead to a substance use disorder—or to a relapse. We are committed to helping you get sober via evidence-based, personalized treatment. And we are committed to giving you resources and strategies that can help you maintain that sobriety in the face of inevitable challenges. If you have been misusing drugs or alcohol for any reason—including as a way to cope with the stresses of work—we can help you regain your sobriety, reclaim your life, and enter recovery with confidence.