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Your Work Hours Could Be Impacting Your Risk of Relapse

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As a working professional, your job is an integral part of your life, likely taking up at least 40 hours of your week. While long work hours are normalized in our culture, spending too much time working can impact how you feel and can increase your risk of relapse.

Your work hours will depend upon your role, the services your company provides, and the industry standard. The most common hours begin between eight and nine a.m. and end between four and six p.m. Depending on the time of year, this can mean getting up before the sun has risen and getting home in the dark. An ideal schedule will look different for each individual. However, if it’s possible, consider trying to improve your work schedule. Changing your hours may help you to better manage stress, be more in sync with your circadian rhythm, and maintain your mental health.

Work Hours and Risk of Relapse

The amount of time you work and the hours you put in at the office play a big role in your health. If you’re just out of treatment, your schedule can be even more impactful. When you are in recovery, your goal is to manage triggers and care for your needs to decrease your risk of relapse. This often involves making adjustments in your routines to optimize physical and mental health. Maintaining your health will help you to maintain sobriety.


Working long and inflexible hours is stressful. It means shuffling everything else in your life around to make sure you are on time for work and fulfilling your duties. Depending on your life, the “normal” hours set in your office might be particularly stressful due to family obligations such as picking up your child from school.

Managing stress is an important part of recovery. While stress is prevalent in our modern world, it is well known to be a common trigger for substance use and relapse. Research published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reveals that alterations in the brain associated with chronic substance use impacts cravings, substance-seeking behaviors, and ultimately, relapse.

Therefore, in recovery, it is very important to notice what aspects of your life are causing stress. Take an inventory of stress-promoting situations in your life and brainstorm ways to change them. This is important, as chronic stress increases your risk of relapsing.

Circadian Rhythms

Humans are designed to be awake and outside during the day and to sleep when it is dark. This is why melatonin, a hormone that helps you to sleep, is released when it is dark. Melatonin is just one type of hormone released in the body to regulate activity. The pineal gland regulates a bodily system called the circadian rhythm, which is a 24-hour clock that helps regulate when you eat, have energy, sleep, and more.

Research published in Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that sunlight plays an important role in your circadian rhythm by regulating the release of several hormones. If you are exposed to sunlight in the morning, you are more likely to fall asleep quickly at night. You will also produce more of other helpful hormones such as serotonin and endorphins. Therefore, your exposure to the sun can have a big impact on how you feel.

When your work hours are set so that you cannot get proper sunlight, your circadian rhythm can get thrown off. This in turn impacts sleep, energy, digestion, and more. To feel better and get the rest you need, you may want to consider adjusting your work hours so that you can get more sunlight and time outside.

Mental Health

Maintaining your mental health is important when considering your risk of relapse. If you have a co-occurring mental health disorder, it is even more important. Your work hours impact your mental health in several ways.

If you have inflexible hours, it is common to feel anxious about taking time off or making adjustments for things like medical appointments. Alternatively, if you have hours that directly clash with other obligations, it can be equally as detrimental. Finally, your mental health may also be impacted by long hours without the necessary breaks.

Decreasing the Risk of Relapse

In recovery, it is important to learn how to care for your needs so that you can make adjustments without resorting to drugs or alcohol. There are two main tools that you learn in treatment that will help you accomplish this. These tools are fostering internal awareness and having direct communication.


Before making adjustments to decrease your risk of relapse, it is important to know what you need to change. By beginning to notice how your work hours are impacting you, you will learn what causes you stress or triggers cravings for substance use. It can be helpful to keep a journal of times you feel stressed, possible causes, and possible solutions. A trained counselor can also help you with this task.


Once you have learned what changes you need to make, it is time to communicate them. In treatment, you probably learned how to make direct statements using “I” language. You also may have learned that you have a right to acknowledge and communicate your needs. Others in treatment understood and wanted to help you thrive. Although it often may not seem like it, the same can be true in the working world.

Before communicating your needs, it can help you to be prepared. For instance, if you want to request more time off or more regular breaks, try writing out what you want to say. You could explain how adjusting your hours will help you and also benefit your employer directly or indirectly. After all, the truth is that by helping you stay sober and healthy, an adjusted work schedule can not only decrease your risk of relapse but also help you become more efficient and focused at work.

After treatment, your life looks different than it did before. To stay sober, it is important to build a life where your risk of relapse is low. This often means addressing parts of your life that may jeopardize your sobriety, including your work hours. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we help clients build the awareness and communication skills they need to care for their needs after treatment. We believe there is no one-size-fits-all solution in treatment. We help each client learn the skills necessary to thrive in recovery. If you are struggling and looking for a treatment center for working professionals, look no further. Call us today at (949) 426-7962 to learn more. 


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