Ten Techniques for Combatting Stress and Addiction
Whether you have struggled with substance abuse or not, it should come as no surprise that stress and addiction are inextricably linked. For those who have achieved recovery, finding healthy ways to reduce and contend with stress is the most important thing you can do to prevent a relapse. While it is impossible to eliminate stress entirely from our lives, good self-care and stronger coping skills can really make the difference between remaining sober and suffering a relapse.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Not everyone needs eight hours to function optimally, but most people require anywhere from seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. When we are well rested, we are at our best, physically and emotionally. This means we are less likely to find ourselves in high stress situations, and when we do encounter them, we are much more capable of rolling with the punches.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Skipping meals or eating junk food will affect your mood, your ability to think, and your capacity for stress. Making nutritionally smart choices will foster better physical health and an overall stronger sense of well-being.
- Be physically active. Exercise is actually one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety. If you are not athletic or physically fit, you can still benefit from even modest amounts of physical activity. Taking a walk, dancing to a favorite song, even stretching are ways we can engage our bodies to benefit our minds.
- Have at least one hobby. Having an interest free of professional and personal obligations is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress, boredom, and depression. By investing in something that is enjoyable and just for you, you create an escape for when life becomes difficult that does not involve drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy behaviors.
- Just breathe. The simple act of inhaling and exhaling can make a tremendous difference when we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. There are a number of different breathing exercises to combat stress, but you do not need to get fancy. Taking deep breaths for a few minutes feeds much needed oxygen to your brain, can help you clear your head, and disrupts the influx of stressful stimuli. Placing a little bit of space between you and the demands of daily life for just a few minutes can really make everything much more manageable.
- Laugh. Laughter is a powerful release, especially when we are under duress. It actually engages then releases our stress response, which causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which results in feeling relaxed. The physical act of laughing also introduces oxygen into our system, stimulates major organs such as the heart and lungs, relaxes muscles, increases circulation, and generates those all-important endorphins.
- Turn to your support system. The people in your support system are the ones who will provide encouragement, understanding, and assistance when it is most needed. A helping hand can diffuse a situation, remind us of what is important, and ground us when we feel things are spinning out of control. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or lost, turn to your counselor, support group, or loved ones to help you combat those negative feelings.
- Take a break. Removing ourselves from a situation is not always an option, but if you can, switch your focus to something less demanding to release some of the pressure and provide a different perspective.
- Do a good deed. One of the most insidious things about stress is that it makes us feel out of control. It also can prevent us from seeing the positive. A simple act of kindness reminds us that we can take charge of a situation and inject good into the world, even when it feels like things are falling apart.
- Be still. The frenetic pace of our lives takes its toll, but if we can step outside of that for a moment we can remember what is important. Some people will use this time to pray or meditate, but if that is not your thing, simply being quiet and still can be just as powerful. The key to combatting stress and addiction is being able to hold onto yourself even when the world is pulling you in different directions.