For some men and women, drugs and/or alcohol become the primary coping tool to use when life gets stressful. When you’re feeling anxious about meeting deadlines at work. Or if you’re feeling pressured in a relationship. Or if you’re in an worrisome financial situation, you might turn to drinking or drugs for support. Of course, the danger here is that the gradual dependence on substances for support can eventually lead to addiction. Add to this the fact that someone might be genetically predisposed to addiction and that person might find it difficult to escape the cycle of regular substance use and addiction.
One of the primary reasons why people end up using drugs and/or drinking on a regular basis is because of poor coping skills, particularly when feeling anxious. In fact, one of the greatest lessons people learn in recovery is how to take good care of themselves, how to manage their life better, and how to manage their emotions. You might not think so but a person’s ability to manage stress is the same skill required to manage emotions. The two go hand in hand.
Once you’ve acquired the skills to manage stress and emotions better, you may not feel so vulnerable and need to turn to alcohol or drugs for help. Below are some options for relieving stress, instead of turning to drugs and alcohol use to feel better.
- Exercise. This releases endorphins and promotes emotional well-being. You can even try running in place, jumping rope, or walking around the block if you are at work or have any time limitations.
- Spend time in Nature. Enjoy the sun and fresh air. You might try to find a beautiful view or landscape.
- Take a yoga class. Yoga is a practice, a form of exercise, which invites an integrated experience of body and mind. Its effects can be experienced immediately as well as over time.
- Practice meditation. Meditation is also a very calming practice that can also produce healing experiences. Although meditation might be difficult at first, the challenge at the beginning is worth the rewards.
- Breathe deeply. Deep breathing can be an essential tool, particularly right in those intense moments when you’re craving for a drink.
- Spend time with your pet. Pets can creating a feeling of being loved and needed. When we spend time with them we can easily feel their love for us and this alone can help us relax.
- Listen to music. Soft and relaxing music can influence mood. If you’re feeling stressed, listen to music that is slow and calming.
- Light a candle. You can do more than just light a candle. You can create an ambiance in a room to feel more at ease by also lighting incense, playing music, lowering the shades, and making your favorite tea.
- Use guided imagery. If you have a CD of a meditation, use that to take yourself into a dreamy place to relax your body and mind. Or you can simply close your eyes and picture a peaceful place, such as a sandy beach or waterfall. Or think of a fond memory, such as your child’s first steps or time spent with friends.
- Make yourself a cup of tea. Teas like chamomile or peppermint can help relax the body.
- Use humor. You can laugh with your friends. Using humor can lighten up any situation, and laughter boosts the immune system.
- Rely on your spirituality: A belief in a higher power can be a great comfort when stressed. In whatever way that feels comfortable for you, reaching out to a higher power can provide a sense of relief and consolation.
- Look at favorite family photos. These can bring back old memories as well as put a smile on your face.
- Give yourself a neck or shoulder massage. Or have someone else do this for you. Getting a massage can relax the body for hours afterwards.
- Soak in a hot bath or shower. Enjoy the warmth and relaxation of a bath. Or take pleasure in the enjoyment of hot water falling over your body.
These are a few tools to use to replace drugs and alcohol when you’re feeling anxious or stressed.