The moments after a relapse are often filled with regret, shame, and guilt. This is expected, but dwelling on these emotions for too long can set you back and elongate the road to recovery.
But how do you get over these feelings and quickly take the part to recovery after a relapse? The first step to solving a problem is identifying the factors that have led to that problem.
Identifying the unhelpful habits that cause us to relapse will be easier to take the necessary steps to ensure a successful recovery and prevent a future relapse.
I show you some of the common causes of relapse as well as the steps you can take to bounce back from one and prevent a future relapse.
Causes of Relapse
Relapse never happens out of the blue. It is often the result of unhelpful habits or patterns. While there are many factors that contribute to a relapse, here are three of the most common ones.
When you’re improving and it seems like your life is back on track, it can seem too good to be true. This often leads to an irrational fear of losing all the progress you’ve made.
I remember all the times I relapsed or slipped back to old habits. It always occurred whenever I had reached a new milestone in my self-improvement journey. Prior to any relapse, I would begin to worry about everything ‘slipping away’.
I would overthink and be unable to concentrate on my goals until I’d lose focus, cease to improve, and finally relapse.
The fear of losing success is not uncommon. It is a fear that arises due to our brain’s negative bias. We tend to give more attention to negative thoughts than positive ones. As a result, dwelling on the negative hinders our progress and can lead to failure.
When it comes to relapse, this fear manifests itself in several ways. People recovering from an addiction or anxiety may be afraid of change. They may become intimidated by the work it takes to recover. They may fear that they won’t be able to resist cravings when they arise.
No matter how irrational this fear seems, addressing it is important because it has the power to hinder your recovery and can even put you in a continuous cycle of relapse and recovery.
Relapse sometimes occurs when you no longer have the ability to focus on building your productive habits. One factor that can make you lose focus is stress.
Having too many things to deal with simultaneously — a chronic illness, or dealing with the loss of a loved one — can make it difficult to build healthy habits that prevent you from relapsing. Not only does stress wreak havoc on your physical wellbeing, but it also affects your mental state, making it hard to focus on the things that really matter.
Sometimes all it takes is a trigger in our environment to cause a relapse. From family members to something as little as a peculiar scent, triggers come in all shapes and sizes.
Being in an environment that intensifies your anxiety, causes you stress, or exposes you to your triggers, increases the chances of relapse.
How to Recover After a Relapse
A relapse is by no means an indication that you’re a lost cause. Accept the fact that you relapsed, forgive yourself, and take the necessary steps to recovery.
Before you take action, think back to all the factors that led to your your relapse. Was it a change in routine? Stress? Fear of losing progress? Emotional triggers?
Identifying these factors will help you know the right approach to take to bounce back to recovery.
2. Find Inspiration in the Little Things
Many people find it difficult doing the things that once came easy to them after they relapse. They become demoralised either due to depression or self-doubt.
If you struggle to find your feet after a relapse, you have to start small.
Start by seeking out activities that inspire you to “live”. This could be as simple as gazing at the morning sky, to something more intense such as volunteering or a hangout.
Take up a hobby. Go on a TRIGGER-FREE hangout with friends. Volunteer.
Doing this exposes you to different situations that help you see the bigger picture and inspire you to take the path to recovery. Don’t take the little things for granted.
3. Face Your Fear
Whether you’re dealing with anxiety, addiction, or depression, the fear of relapse can feel very real.
Let’s say you’ve made some progress in your recovery journey and you’ve even started doing things you couldn’t do before, yet there’s that looming fear that you would relapse at any time.
The solution is to ensure you do not give in to this fear whenever it arises but instead face it head on. You can keep a list of mantras you repeat to yourself any time you experience this fear.
Here are some examples:
- Whatever happens, I’ll be okay. Even if I give in to my urges, I’ll be okay. Moreover, life is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Everyone has the ability to improve. It may be difficult at first, but as long as I keep trying, I’ll get there.
- Though I’ve failed in the past, this time is different because the more I fail, the more I learn from my mistakes; and the more tools I have to succeed.
Above all, it’s important to remember that these mantras will not work if you’re not actually taking steps to improve. Have a list of tools that have helped you recover in the past, and commit to implementing them.
4. Manage Stress
Learn to priortise and adopt effective time management strategies to avoid burnout. Don’t take up too much than you can handle and have a clear understanding of expectations on tasks delegated to you at work. Maintain a work-life balance by setting aside time for your personal life. Focus on strengthening you mind and body through exercise, mindfulness meditation, and a healthy diet.
5. Keep Track of What Has Helped In the Past
Journaling is a great way to keep track of the methods that have led to your recovery in the past. These techniques are easy to forget and even if you remember them, you might have forgotten how to apply them in your current situation.
Cultivate the habit of journaling any factors that helped with your recovery and how they applied to your life. These factors may include a positive shift in mindset, healthy habits, or a support group.
6. Learn to Say No
Knowing how to say no is crucial for navigating situations that can trigger relapse.
For instance, someone who has recovered from an alcohol addiction but still hangs around drinking buddies may have a hard time saying “No” when asked to hang out. If you find yourself is such a situation, it might be helpful to have a response ready.
You’d also benefit from preparing alternative activities you can do such as watching a movie, reading a book, or going for a run.
Everybody needs a hand to lean on. After a relapse, support from friends and loved ones can help hasten the recovery process.
Understandably, it can be tough opening up to friends and loved ones about a relapse. But if you wants to increase your chances of recovery, you should open up to someone.
Talk to friends and loved ones who can hold you accountable and offer you support any time you feel like giving in to your cravings.