It’s easy to let emotions get control of us. Feelings can be overwhelming and enter our life experience without notice. Feelings can suddenly fill us, take over, and before we know it we are craving a drink.
In fact, many of us don’t ever get the opportunity to learn how to manage the inner life. We might learn the importance of balancing our home and work responsibilities, but we might not ever learn how to manage stress, feelings, or intense emotions which can sometimes get in the way of concentrating. Even worse, sometimes stress builds up or emotions become so intense that it can get in the way of functioning at all.
Often it’s emotions that get us into trouble. If we’re repressing them, they may lead to depression or addiction, and if we’re wildly expressing them, they may lead to acting impulsively and risky behavior. Plus, the inability to manage emotions can lead to dysfunctional coping mechanisms which not only includes drug use and drinking but also cutting, aggression, and other forms of risky behavior. It can be challenging to manage feelings when they seem frightening or overwhelming. They might be accompanied by fear, helplessness, and powerlessness. These emotions might also lead to shutting down.
Having tools that allow you to manage emotions and/or stress quickly can support your well-being. Certainly, some of these tools are those you’ll learn in drug treatment or another form of drug rehab. However, some quick and useful tools you can use anytime, anywhere are listed below. Use these when you are triggered, enraged, or have a craving for drug or alcohol use in order to keep sober.
- Run cool or warm water over your hands. This might help calm you down if you’re feeling angry or enraged.
- Grab something as hard as you can. This will bring your awareness into the present moment and give you the opportunity to express your anger or frustration through your hands.
- Dig your heels into the ground. This is like literally digging yourself into the Earth, staying grounded, instead of getting lost in your emotions and allowing them to take hold of you. Feel the strength of your feet on the ground. Feel the power of your emotions moving through your feet and into the Earth.
- Jump up and down.
- Stretch. You can move your body to help get your feelings moving. This is a way to stay in control of your body without letting your emotions get the better of you.
- Clench and release your fists.
- Focus on your breathing. Notice the inhale and exhale. Allow your attention to stay with your breath rather than let it get carried away with your emotions.
- Say kind statements to yourself. You can actually coach yourself while you’re moving through a range of emotions. You might say, “You’ll get through this,” or “You’re completely safe right now,” or “I am in the present moment; I am not in the past. Right now I am in no danger whatsoever.”
Ability to Acknowledge Emotions
The ability to acknowledge emotions provides you with a great tool, a tool that you can take with you long after your recovery. For instance, developing the skill of emotional awareness can provide you with a sense of control. By developing a relationship with emotions, that is, by becoming more aware of them, you can better understand what you’re feeling when you’re feeling them and how to respond.
Instead of reaching for marijuana or a drink when feeling angry, you might instead take a moment to recognize your anger and not let it get the best of you. In the same way, instead of jumping into a car with friends who have been drinking because of being disappointed, you might stop for a moment and rethink your decision. In an extreme example, if you are about to take your life due to feeling intense sadness or depression, you might call for help instead.
Having other options, such as those listed above, when you’re feeling the intensity of emotions can help prevent relapse and keep you sober.