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12 Strategies for Dealing with Restlessness in Early Recovery


restlessnessRestlessness in early recovery can occur for a number of reasons, including withdrawal symptoms, boredom, and anxiety about the future. This feeling of agitation can be dangerous if it causes you to become so frustrated that you want to drink or use drugs. There are things that can be done to treat restlessness, or at least to minimise it, so in this article we will examine 12 possible strategies.

1. Treat Restless Leg Syndrome

A common cause for agitation in those recovering from opiate addiction is restless leg syndrome. This neurological symptom occurs because the brain has to learn how to function without the presence of an outside source of endorphin production. The jerky leg movements can keep people awake at night, and it can be very hard to sit down for more than a couple of minutes. There are things that can be done to improve this such as massage or engaging in light exercise – walking or yoga are good options. A long hot bath can also work to ease the restlessness.

2. Use Distraction to Ease Restlessness

It is important to keep your mind occupied during early recovery as this will stop you from focusing too much on your withdrawal symptoms – it can also prevent you from feeling restless. Watching TV or listening to music is effective and, if your focus is okay, you could try reading a book. Spending time with others is an excellent option. If you are staying in rehab, you should also have many activities to choose from. Anything that keeps your mind occupied can be effective.

3. Plan Your Days

If you have long gaps during the day where you have nothing to do, there is a real risk of you becoming restless. It is much better to plan so your days have enough going on to keep you occupied. Having a mix of activities is recommended because this reduces the risk of boredom or becoming too obsessive about one thing (for example, developing an exercise addiction).

4. Go to Recovery Fellowship Meetings

Even if you do not plan to use support groups long-term, they can still be a good option in early recovery. It gives you somewhere to go, and it can temporarily replace your social life. If you are feeling restless, you can just go to a meeting and spend some time around those who are on the same path as you. You are also likely to get practical advice on dealing with your restlessness.

5. Get Up and Move Around

One of the worst things you can do with this feeling of restlessness is just sit there feeling resentful about it. Your body has excess energy it needs to get rid of, so it is important to get up and move around. You can put on some music and dance around the room or just go for a walk. If you try to sit it out, there is the risk that you could become so frustrated that you decide to drink or use drugs.

6. Tell Somebody Else How You Are Feeling

Just telling somebody else about your restlessness can make you feel better. If this is becoming a real issue for you, it may be a good idea to speak to a therapist – this is definitely something you want to do if you are staying in rehab. Most people know what it is like to feel restless, so it is something they can empathise with.

7. Enjoy a Change of Scenery

There may be something in your immediate environment that is triggering these feelings of agitation. If this is the case, the best option might be to leave that environment and go somewhere else. Sometimes it can be as simple as moving to a different room in the house. If you are getting restless because of a bad atmosphere at home, it might be a good idea to get away for a few hours. If people in the rehab are getting on your nerves, you might be able to sit out in the garden or in a room where there are no other people; ask one of the therapists if there doesn’t appear to be an option for this.

8. Avoid Caffeinated Drinks in the Second Part of the Day

If you are feeling restless, you can actually exacerbate the symptoms by drinking caffeinated beverages. It is best to avoid coffee or coke completely from the afternoon onwards as it could lead to insomnia. If you are used to drinking a lot of caffeinated drinks then it can be hard to cut down, but it is important to try to limit your intake to avoid restlessness.

9. Keep a Record of Your Periods of Restlessness

It is a good idea to write down the times when you are feeling restless and what you are doing when it happens. You may find that there is a pattern to it, so once you figure this out it will be easier to come up with a solution for dealing with it. For example, if you always get restless at a certain time then it may be because you associate this time with taking your first drink or drug of the day. Once you know this, you can set up new habits for this time so the association with substance abuse is broken. It is also worth showing this record of your periods of restlessness to your therapist.

10. Try Some Deep Breathing Exercises

Meditation is a great way to deal with restlessness but it can be hard to do in early recovery because of problems with concentration. Deep breathing exercises are a good alternative, and they can be good for slowing down the body. If you find that doing this is increasing your sense of agitation, you should stop immediately.

11. Focus on Helping Others

Helping others is one of the best forms of distraction ever, and it can strengthen your sobriety as well. You do not have to go out and save the planet, just doing something simple like help somebody carry groceries can be enough. If you belong to a recovery fellowship, there will be plenty of options for service; even sharing at the meetings is a way of helping others.

12. Spend Some Time in Nature

Going to the beach or walking in a forest can be very calming; alternatively, doing a bit of gardening is another great way of spending time in nature. It is thought that one of the reasons individuals feel restless is that they are disconnected from nature, but the remedy for this is easy to find.

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