Everyone experiences stress. Whether or not you are an addict, stress and the anxiety it brings can be mentally and physically exhausting. However, those who find themselves in addiction have likely formed a habit of reaching for easy ways out, such as using drugs and alcohol.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to deal with the experience without having to escape through substances. Here are 3 alternative methods to help you healthily cope with stress.
1. Reach out to a friend.
If you have ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you’re well aware of the phrase “you are as sick as your secret.” This is probably one of the most important phrases you should remember not only during the beginning of your recovery, but throughout your entire life. When you get stressed out, it often leaves you feeling completely helpless. As addicts and alcoholics, this is a huge problem because we like to feel like we are in control.
Reaching out to someone—anyone in your life who is willing to listen—is the first step in handling stress. While talking about what is going on in your life isn’t necessarily going to solve any of your problems, it is going to offer you some relief and even potential solutions coming from someone who has an outside perspective. Whether you want to believe it or not, someone you know has probably dealt with the same things you have.
2. Focus on yourself.
It used to bother me when people would tell me to treat myself during a stressful time. Many times, I was stressed for the same reasons—financial issues and other repercussions of my drug and alcohol use. I was so focused on what I needed to do to stay clean and how I was going to do it on a daily basis. I had a one-track mind that was solely focused on not using for the day, which literally sent me into a hole of depression that eventually led to using again.
Treating yourself can really work wonders—even if it is something as small as seeing a movie with a friend, going out to eat by yourself or buying yourself a new shirt. In a way, boosting your confidence is going to improve your mood all around, making it easier to deal with stress and get a better grasp on your life.
3. Follow your non-alcoholic cravings.
Cravings can come in all different shapes and sizes and while we want to avoid the ones that will lead to us using drugs and alcohol, we have to remember it’s okay to indulge in the ones that don’t lead to a relapse. Many addicts that are in recovery tend to get involved in positive activities, such as exercising, writing, yoga, music, healthy eating and more. As with any other activity you engage in, stress can come from even the most enjoyable things.
Remember that it’s okay to skip a day of exercising; hit your sweet tooth craving, skip the celery for dessert and binge on a pint of ice cream; or hit the mall instead of your next CrossFit session. It’s easy to push yourself too hard in recovery because you want to the best version of yourself, but life is about doing the things you enjoy. If you’re losing interest, getting stressed out or getting frustrated, changing your routine (as long as no drugs or alcohol are involved) can be more beneficial than you can imagine.
As hard as you may try, it’s impossible to avoid getting stressed out. You may be able to dodge dealing with for a while, but avoiding handling your current problems can only make things worse. Instead of letting stress control your life, like we so often did with drugs and alcohol, remember that most feelings and situations are only temporary and can usually be resolved with extended thinking and help from others.