Addiction is a serious disease that can impact anyone, including working professionals. As it becomes a normal part of your day, substance use can become routine. Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to buy the same coffee and drive the same route to work every day. This includes routines that we follow at work and in our personal lives.
In treatment, the structure is created for you as you follow it as a part of your treatment plan. However, in recovery, you will not only abstain from substance use but have to make many changes to the habits of your daily life. As a working professional, you likely already have some healthy routines. Work routines are a great place to start as you begin to build routines in your life that aid in your recovery.
Routines can be thought of as a structure or pattern that we regularly follow. One example is what you do every morning when you get up. Some may make coffee the same way, in the same order. Others might stop at the same coffee stand or get breakfast on the way to the office. Regardless of what it is, you are likely to find these patterns all over your life.
What Routine Do You Already Have?
Some individuals will tend towards having more regular practices than others. However, most people have a certain amount of structure in many aspects of their life.
At work, there are many places where you will find routines. While it will vary for each individual, norms will slowly emerge as you settle into your office and job. Some examples include the following:
- Arrival and departure time
- The location you eat lunch
- When you eat lunch
- Co-workers who you talk to
- Your normal work process
- Snack breaks
As you can see, there are many ways in which routine can be seen in your workday. While these norms can change, many of them can be a great place to build or adjust habits to improve your recovery.
While your home environment may be shared with others, you likely have home regimens. This can vary from where you like to sit to when you do the dishes. Many habits that are found at home play into your recovery. This is due to them being centered around our well-being. For example, how we sleep and eat is impacted by our habits at home.
A social routine may be considered your average week or month of socializing. While this is likely to vary for each person, most people have a normal schedule for spending time with others. This is likely to include seeing family and friends, even if only on holidays and special occasions. Co-worker outings or other events are also commonly found on professionals’ social plans.
Value of Routine in Recovery
There are many ways in which having a routine can improve your recovery. Researchers have found that even after one to two years of remission from addiction, individuals are still at a high risk of relapse. It can take up to four or five years until the risk of relapse drops below 15%. This is the level the general population is at for developing a substance abuse issue. Due to the high risk of relapse, it is vital for you to build sobriety into your life. This includes daily routines that help to manage the multiple factors that impact the success of your recovery.
Routines that help consider your needs and are connected with habits that are already deeply ingrained. For working professionals, work schedules are often very routine and normal. Below we will outline where routines can help, discussing the value of building routines in multiple areas of your life around your work schedule.
Chronic stress has become more and more normalized in our culture. In your professional life, it is normal to have a certain amount of stress around a big promotion or a certain project. However, ongoing stress has many negative impacts. This includes increasing the risk of addiction and addiction relapse. Research has found that emotional stress is associated with the loss of control over impulses and inhibition. In a work environment, emotional stress can be caused by different things for each individual. However, common examples include certain social situations at work that cause emotional stress, including conversations with your boss or confrontation with co-workers.
Fortunately, we can manage stress in several ways. Building routines can help to manage stress by first creating different stress management habits. This means that you are not changing the stressor but processing it to help yourself destress regularly. Examples of stress management techniques include meditation, exercise, or socializing. Methods of destressing will look different for each individual. However, finding what works for you and scheduling it into your days and weeks can help you in your recovery process.
Routines can also help to destress as they decrease chaos. When you have a plan and a schedule, you can make changes to that plan. This may include planning out your weekly tasks that need to get done or reallocating tasks to other team members at work to make your schedule more manageable. Depending on the situation, there will likely be certain parts of your routine that you will not be able to change. However, you do have the ability to adjust a lot of it. Learning what helps you to feel less stressed takes time, but building new routines that decrease your stress is possible.
There is a connection between mental health and addiction. More than one in four adults with a serious mental health issue also have a problem with substance abuse. Maintaining your mental health is, therefore, very important in your recovery. Many of your regular routines impact your mental health directly or indirectly, including:
- Sleep routine
- Gratitude practices
- Relaxing activities
- Community/social norms
- Taking prescribed medications
- Peer groups
Self-care for mental health will look different for each individual. Working with a mental health professional can help you to distinguish your mental health needs.
In recovery, you will have to make many changes in your life. Self-esteem is the understanding of your value. Our perception of our value is impacted by our actions, thus what we do will change our self-esteem over time. How we view and feel about ourselves is important in recovery. Researchers have found that those with addiction have lower self-esteem when compared to the rest of the population. Thus, working on improving self-esteem can directly and positively impact your risk of relapse.
Having a routine and sticking with it is one method of building your confidence and self-esteem in recovery. This can include many aspects such as exercise habits, healthy eating, or integrating stress reduction activities into your life. Regardless of what you find helpful, the action of making a plan and sticking to it can help to build your self-esteem over time.
Exercise is well known to impact mental and physical health. When recovering from addiction, exercise is important for many reasons. First, exercise can directly improve health issues that were caused by drug or alcohol use. As you build consistency with exercise, you can improve many of the health concerns.
Regular physical activity can also catalyze change. It can help you to break out of behaviors that are not healthy. Creating and improving your exercise routine helps you to find joy in a healthy lifestyle. Remember that exercise does not necessarily mean going to the gym. If that is not enjoyable for you, other options could include joining some co-workers in a friendly game of frisbee or trying out rock climbing.
Along with exercise, sleep dramatically impacts your mental and physical health and directly impacts recovery. Sleep disruptions are common in recovery. As your body adjusts to the lack of substances in your body, it takes time to get back to the natural rhythm that helps you to both get to sleep and stay asleep. The length of time for this to change will vary for each individual. Researchers believe that sleep disruptions in recovery increase the risk of addiction.
Your routine around sleep, commonly called sleep hygiene, is one way to help your body get back to its natural rhythm more quickly. The body is on a 24-hour clock called the circadian rhythm. Many factors influence your inner clock, including the following:
- When you get natural light
- Exposure to blue light (from a computer or phone)
- Stress levels
- Eating habits
Working on your sleep hygiene can help to improve your sleep. This looks like building a routine around and for the benefit of your sleep. One example is to stop working at 6 p.m. and put away all screens one to two hours before you want to go to bed. While these routines may be uncomfortable initially, they can help improve your recovery and decrease relapse by increasing your sleep quantity and quality.
Self-care is well-known to improve addiction recovery. This includes a healthy diet. Food choices and cooking are very routine. When in recovery, it is important to build a routine that helps you to improve your health. However, a healthy diet can be challenging to build. There are many components to a healthy diet, including:
- Minimally processed foods
- Fruits and vegetables
- Good protein intake
- Avoiding sugary foods like candy or cakes
Building a routine around work can help when improving your diet. You can create eating habits that work well with your established work schedule. This can help you to maintain a healthy diet, as you have created it with work in mind. For example, if you work Monday through Friday, plan out your meals and prep for them on Sunday. This takes the guesswork out of the equation and gives you time to consider what will work for you in the week to come. If you are working late one night, consider planning to go out or having leftovers.
In recovery, support is incredibly important. Each person’s support network will look different. However, it often includes peer support, friends and family, or your mental health care professional. Depending on your specific situation, this may also include support from co-workers or connections at work. It is well known that addiction can increase the distance from a support network, like distancing yourself from family or friends. In recovery, you will be building social support into your routine where it may not have been before.
While support may not always be routine, building a habit of social connection is a good place to start. As you start to have normal community engagement, it can become easier to ask for help when you need it. Going to peer group meetings, spending time with friends from work, or having consistent family time are all options. You can build these social routines around your existing work routine. For example, if you know Wednesday is already a lighter day for you in the office, try attending a peer support meeting in the afternoon.
Building Habits Around Your Work Routine
In recovery, building new routines is incredibly important. These include habits that improve your self-care practices and help you to build a support network. As a working professional, you likely have a set routine to be successful at work. When you create new routines, try connecting them to your current work routine. For example, adding in exercise during part of your lunch break or heading to a support meeting directly after work. Regardless of what you choose, remember it takes time to build new habits.
Success in recovery takes more than simply abstaining from drugs and alcohol. It is the process of making changes throughout your life to learn how to live a sober life. For working professionals, your work life is commonly very routine and normalized. Building new healthier routines around your work life can help you to maintain consistency and be successful when creating new habits. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we offer individualized treatment for working professionals. We understand that the specific needs of each individual will differ and work to help each person find solutions that help them to be successful. To learn more about our programs, call (949) 426-7962 today.