The importance of relapse prevention

Once you have made a lifestyle change, how do you maintain it? If you’ve recently stopped gambling, you might be worried about relapsing. But it can be helpful to remember that a lapse can be part of the journey as you learn new skills and transition out of old habits.

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Some people relapse several times before a new behaviour is part of their routine so it’s important to learn about relapse prevention. Here are some important tips to help prevent relapsing back into old behaviours:

  1. A ‘lapse’ is not a relapse!

Whenever we try to put a new plan into action it is common (even normal) to have setbacks! A lapse is a brief return to old unhelpful thoughts or behaviours. A relapse, however, is a more prolonged return to old ways of thinking and behaving. Just because you have a ‘lapse’ doesn’t mean you have relapsed. If you have feel that you have been going really well and then think you have ‘blown it’ because you gambled again…don’t throw in the towel! Lapses are normal. Think of a lapse as a way of providing you with a learning opportunity. It may help you to avoid another lapse in the future and focus more clearly on your goal of reducing your gambling.

  1. Look out for red flags

Think about times when a lapse is more likely. When are your high-risk gambling times? Some people identify high-risk situations as the day they get paid, times when they are in financial stress or when they will have family related stress. Think about your life and what could trigger your urge to gamble and identify when a lapse is most likely for you.

  1. Have a plan

Make a plan for these high-risk situations! What could you do when you feel the urge to gamble and think you will have a lapse? Maybe you can plan to distract yourself with another activity such as going for a walk, phone a friend, or try to cope with the situation in a constructive way. Make a list of other things you can do and carry it around with you for a quick reference guide if you feel the urge to gamble.

Remember, lapses are normal and to be expected but keeping these strategies in mind can help prevent a lapse from turning into a relapse.

If you think you may have a problem gambling, help is available. Call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak with a gambling counsellor. Free individual sessions are available to anybody who might be concerned their gambling has gotten out of hand.

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