It’s common to want to turn to drugs or drinking in order to manage your internal experience. In fact, one of the most common triggers to drinking or using drugs is to escape emotional pain. If you’re prone to feeling anxious, stressed, or nervous, you might want to know new and healthy ways to cope with your feelings.
One of the more common psychological disorders, along with depression, is anxiety. When someone experiences excessive and irrational worry for at least six months, there might be a psychological illness. Excessive and irrational worry is not the kind of stress you might feel before a deadline at work or the tension you might feel when going on a date with someone new. Instead, excessive anxiety is often persistent and seems to come on without an associated trigger. Its symptoms, such as a racing heart, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking, sweating palms, and feeling hot, might suddenly come out of nowhere. As you can imagine, an anxiety disorder can interfere with the ability to function at work and have healthy friendships. Anxiety consists of extreme worry even for everyday matters, and if you’ve had this kind of experience in the past, it might have been the reason you turned to drinking or drug use.
However, if you’re sober now, then you may want to know about healthy ways to cope with anxiety. Essentially, learning how to relax, reduce the tendency to jump to nervous thoughts, and feel safe are crucial tools to coping with anxiety. The following is a list of options for reducing anxiety as permanent replacements for drug and alcohol use:
- Exercise. This releases endorphins and promotes emotional well-being.
- Step outside. Enjoy the sun and fresh air. You might try to find a beautiful view or landscape.
- Practice yoga. 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 that might otherwise lead to relapse.
- Play with your dog or cat. 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 scented 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 steaming 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.
- Give yourself a neck or shoulder massage.
- Soak in a hot bath or shower.
Making one or more of these options a regular practice in your life can create a significant change in the way you feel. You might notice feeling less anxious and more at ease in your life. And this change can help with staying sober, longer.