Nobody can avoid stress forever. As human beings, anxiety comes with the territory. That’s a fact of life. We can react to stress in various ways. Our bodies invoke a “fight or flight” response that harkens back to our earliest years on the planet. Animals also exhibit “fight or flight” responses when provoked.
Some clinicians call this our “stress response.” However, as times have changed since prehistoric times, modern man can over-ride the “fight or flight” response that once had us running or fighting for survival. Now we have more choices for dealing with stress.
Addiction recovery is often a matter of finding healthy ways to react to the stresses of life. When provoked, someone struggling with addictions will first think about acting out – using their behavior or substance of choice. Anxiety is uncomfortable and addicts often react to discomfort by reaching for their quickest method of finding relief: Getting high, having a drink or acting out. As recovery progresses, addicts return to a normal lifestyle, which means they will need to find healthier ways to react to stress.
Here’s a list of some stress reduction techniques, but bear in mind two things.
First, not everyone responds to all these techniques quite the same, so everyone has favorites and ones that aren’t so effective for them. That’s OK.
Secondly, the good news: Stress reduction responds well to practice. So, as you practice these techniques – any of them – after a while your body and your brain will find shortcuts, so they tend to work even quicker and more effectively the more you do them.
There’s also a bio-feedback response involved. When anxiety arises and a recovering addict responds well, their confidence should go up, too. The next time that same stressor comes around, that extra confidence will come in handy.
Here are some techniques to try.
- Go for a walk: If you have something bothering you, go for a walk. Think about the concern you have. When you find yourself observing your surroundings, it’s a clue that your mind has moved on. Now you can turn around and walk back home.
- Deep breathing: Breathe in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times
- Exercise: Working your muscles improves your cardiovascular system, which helps you relax
- Guided imagery: Find a quiet place. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a very relaxing place.
- Body scan: This works in a similar fashion to guided imagery. Find a quiet place. Close your eyes. Think of a body part, starting with the head or toes. Work your way through your body, part by part, by imagining each part growing warm and relaxed
- Relaxation media: Find a soothing relaxation CD or tape. Some of these talks you through a guided imagery session, while others just play calming sounds, like music or ocean waves
- Hypnosis: Hypnosis is not a magic finger snap that puts you in a trance. Hypnosis is simply the power of suggestion provided while you are very relaxed
There are also activities that promote relaxation because they are meditative in nature. Drawing is like that, as is painting, knitting or any other activity that is productive and calming.