The Impact of Emotional Regulation on Addiction Recovery

Emotional regulation enables you to understand and better control your emotions while in recovery. In substance abuse rehab programs, you might use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or similar evidence-based techniques to help you look at the impact of your emotions on the various aspects of your life in recovery.

What is Emotional Regulation?

Many of the behaviors that contribute to addiction originate in unregulated emotions. Emotions are how you respond to internal and external stimuli. Emotions can be very powerful, so much so that they can lead to changes in behavior.

Emotional regulation is the ability to regulate your emotions to better control how you think, feel, and act.

Why Emotional Regulation Matters

Emotional regulation is essential to helping you navigate your emotions while in recovery. If you don’t utilize emotional regulation, you will react to internal and external stimuli without any real awareness, and this can lead to feelings of anger, self-loathing, and guilt, or even relapse.

Depression, anxiety, stress, and other emotions experienced during addiction recovery can cause:

  • Sleeping issues
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Pushing people away
  • Low confidence
  • Self-critical thoughts 

Using CBT

It can be immensely helpful to have a way to break things down and work out how to change your thought patterns for the better. CBT is a kind of talk therapy that can be a great resource for learning how your thoughts, feelings, and actions can work together to keep you from feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed.

Using Mindfulness

Another way to deal with the emotional stages of sobriety that you may go through on your recovery journey is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way to be cognizant or aware of your emotional stage at any given point.

Mindfulness and meditation often go hand in hand because they both help you recognize and accept all of your emotions without trying to control them or, worse, suppress them. By taking time to pause in the present moment and reflect on your emotional state, you can create a deeper awareness of your emotions.

For example, you may notice that you experience feelings of fear or anger when your friend brings up a particular event. By practicing mindfulness, you can realize that these emotions are a response to a negative association you have with this event. Mindfulness helps you simply notice rather than judge or react to feelings of fear and anger.

Stepping aside and looking at the bigger picture in this way gives you room to acknowledge your emotions without reacting to them immediately. By doing so, you can choose to act thoughtfully based on what would be most beneficial for you, such as using coping skills instead of returning to drugs or alcohol when you get triggered. 

Focusing on the Big Picture

Too often, with big life changes like going through the emotional stages of sobriety, people can get stuck on the small details. This causes feelings of anxiety and can inhibit rational thinking. 

One core element of building resilience is to force yourself to focus on the big picture when things feel out of hand. Think about your situation or issue as though it were that of someone you loved. How would you, as an outsider, help them? What advice would you give if the situation were theirs?

When you focus on the big picture, you are in a better place to manage your emotional response to small changes or challenges and come up with a plan.

Working on Emotional Regulation with Sequoia Recovery Centers 

You will experience several emotional stages of sobriety ranging from loneliness to anger to depression or anxiety. What you experience is highly individualized, but with techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and emotional regulation, you can learn to acknowledge how you feel in a non-judgmental way and let those emotions pass without reacting to them impulsively and negatively.If you need help working on impulsive and unregulated emotions, Sequoia Recovery Centers offers several programs that can be of assistance. Sequoia Recovery Centers is a drug and alcohol detox center in Spokane offering treatment for substance abuse in Washington. We offer both inpatient and outpatient rehab in Spokane. Reach out to our team today to learn more about how we incorporate emotional regulation practices in our treatment plans.

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