We’ve been hearing a lot about burnout during the past eleven months. This is mainly due to the pandemic that has placed undue burden and stress upon those facing unrelenting challenges every day. Those who are trying to remain sober are already feeling intense pressure to stay on track. Now, with the added trauma brought on by COVID-19 restrictions, they are likely intensifying a feeling of burnout in recovery.
From the frontline health workers who spend countless hours in near-capacity hospitals to the parents who are trying to manage their careers and their children’s education in a confined space. There is an endless loop of stress and frustration that is causing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. After a while, it begins to feel like nothing we do is enough, and we wonder how much longer we can keep up the pace.
What Causes Burnout in Recovery?
Staying sober requires vigilance and hard work. It demands that you are closely attuned to your emotions and practice the skills learned while in rehab. If you don’t remain focused on your goals, it’s very easy to slip back into old habits and experience relapse. You may not be putting in a 15-hour shift in a hospital, but staying sober can be similarly stressful. It’s exhausting and, at times, it can feel like a hopeless endeavor. Since the substance that formerly helped you manage your stress is no longer on the table, it becomes an endless struggle between following the difficult path and taking the easy way out.
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COVID-19 restrictions have made it more difficult for those in recovery to stay on task due to social isolation during lockdowns and the lack of in-person interventions. A study published in July 2020 emphasized that the very measures used to prevent the transmission of the virus – quarantine and social distancing – are associated with negative emotions like anxiety, fear, sadness, irritability, and boredom. All of these can trigger a relapse.  Without a reliable support network, those in recovery may be even more vulnerable to relapse. And the fear of contracting the virus and worrying about paying the bills can make a bad situation even worse.
Thankfully, addiction specialists have made efforts to provide more resources during this time. Telehealth is becoming a substitute for in-person groups and meetings.
Ways to Combat Recovery Burnout on your Own
Those in recovery should certainly take advantage of the resources linked above, but there are ways to help combat recovery burnout on your own:
- Practice self-care: You may be experiencing low self-esteem and feel like you don’t deserve to take care of yourself. Push that thought aside and tell yourself that everyone is struggling and deserves to feel loved and valued.
- Pace yourself: Don’t take on too much at one time. Set small goals that are not too difficult to accomplish. Once you begin to experience successes, you can build on them.
- Stay with the process: If you feel like what you’re currently doing isn’t working, you may be tempted to make revisions (which could end up being excuses). Remind yourself that what you learned during rehab has been used successfully by thousands of people in similar circumstances.
- Change your routine: If you’re feeling isolated, try to find ways to connect with other people who are not in the recovery community (done safely, of course). Learn a new skill or return to a hobby you once loved. Distracting yourself from your recovery struggles will provide a nice reprieve and help to recharge you. Instead, put your energy into something that fulfills you either intellectually or spiritually.
If You’re Struggling with Burnout in Recovery, Consider IOP Treatment at Ocean Hills Recovery
Not everyone who faces recovery burnout can overcome these challenges on their own. If you’re concerned you may relapse, consider the Intensive Outpatient Program at Ocean Hills Recovery.
At Ocean Hills Recovery, IOP includes weekly one-on-one therapy sessions and physician visits. But it also allows patients to interact with the community during non-program hours. Individuals will be able to live at home while learning and practicing the skills they’ll need to manage their sobriety in the real world, where they must cope with everyday stressors.
To learn more about our services, contact one of our supportive staff members. Recovery is challenging in even the best of circumstances. The Ocean Hills Recovery team can make it easier.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.