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Could Packing Your Lunch Decrease Work Lunch Triggers?

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After treatment, you may return to work. Although you have changed and learned many new things in treatment, the environment at work will be the same. Certain parts of that environment could be triggering for you, causing you to feel cravings for drugs or alcohol. One of these triggering times can be lunchtime, as lunch tends to be a social occasion where many stressors can arise.

When you learn to manage triggers at work, you will be better equipped to maintain your sobriety. In the early days, right out of treatment, packing a lunch can actually be a great option for decreasing exposure to triggers. Packing a lunch has the added benefit of providing improved nutrition as well. A good diet helps you to stay sober and can enhance your productivity and overall outlook at work.

Triggers at Lunch

Lunchtime for working professionals will vary depending on the job, the project you are working on, and how your office or work site handles breaks. However, a common expectation is for employees to go out to eat with co-workers. Lunch is commonly a time to socialize and bond with those with whom you work. While this can be enjoyable, the environment can bring up stress, especially if you recently completed treatment and are still adjusting to social situations.

Triggers can include a variety of situations. Typically they are either internal or external things that create a desire to use drugs or alcohol. At lunch, this might include one or many of the following:

  • The presence of alcohol
  • Eating lunch at a restaurant with a bar
  • A loud or celebratory environment
  • Social stress or anxiety
  • Feelings of obligation to join a work lunch
  • Pressure to socialize or bond with co-workers

Value of Packing a Lunch

Depending on the environment, bringing a packed lunch to work may seem odd if it is uncommon. However, there are many reasons why packing your lunch can help you.

Managing Triggers

A trigger is basically a stimulus that creates a reaction. In this case, the reaction is to feel drawn to use drugs or alcohol. According to research, managing triggers helps you to decrease your risk of relapse.

Triggers are unique to each individual. One person might be triggered by stress, while another might feel compelled to use drugs and alcohol in certain environments. When you are newly out of treatment, it takes time to learn what triggers impact you and how to build your life so that you have the best chance to stay sober.

Going out for lunch with co-workers may or may not be triggering for you. It may also vary depending on the situation. For example, a celebratory lunch at a bar or restaurant nearby may be problematic. However, getting lunch with a couple of people at a bakery nearby may be less likely to be a trigger. Learning what is triggering for you is the most important thing. Working with a therapist and mental health team can help you to discover what triggers are problematic for you and how you can manage them.

Improved Nutrition

When struggling with substance abuse, many individuals do not take care of their health and well-being. Nutrition is a big part of this. After treatment, it takes time to learn to improve your nutritional habits. However, it is an important part of recovery as an integral piece of self-care.

According to research, improved nutrition also plays a role in preventing relapse. A review of research published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence revealed that those with improved nutrition are less likely to relapse. The research showed that nutritional deficiencies can contribute to substance-seeking, so it follows that good nutrition can reduce cravings and reinforce sobriety.

Bringing your lunch to work does not always mean it is healthier. However, bringing a lunch does give you full control over what you will consume. Learning how to pack a healthier meal is always an option. If you are reliant on restaurants in your area, you might not be able to get a fully healthy meal.

De-Stressing Lunch

Every working professional’s day looks different. No matter what type of workplace you’re in, stress at work is extremely common. Whether there is a conflict with your boss or a looming project deadline, stress is likely to occur. When you are just out of treatment, it is important to take stress into account as it is a common trigger for relapse.

Bringing your lunch to work is a way to create a structured part of your day to de-stress. When you do not have to go to a restaurant and aren’t reliant on your co-worker’s schedules, you can truly choose what is helpful for you. This could look like taking your food outside to enjoy it in the sunshine. It may be finding a quiet place in the office to settle down with a co-worker you enjoy chatting with. The specifics of how it looks will be unique for you. However, it is an opportunity to create a break that can help you to de-stress, stay sober, and enjoy some peaceful moments.

Many working professionals who recently left treatment struggle with triggers at work, including stress. Planning and packing a lunch is a great way to take care of yourself. It allows you to plan your day to manage stress, decrease triggers, and optimize your nutrition while in recovery. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we work with working professionals to help them build skills to stay sober. We understand that there are many aspects of a professional environment that can be problematic in recovery. That’s why we send our clients home with the tools to manage triggers and provide support when needed. To learn more about our programs, call us today at (949) 426-7962.


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