coping with stress

Managing Stress: A Key Element of Addiction Recovery

Your heart beats faster. Your breathing becomes more rapid. Your muscles tense and you start to sweat. This is the body’s response to a perceived threat or stress. If you are faced with a physical threat--like fleeing a burning building, scaring away a mountain lion, or lifting a car off a child--the body’s flight-or-fight response can be life-saving. In day-to-day life, however, the stresses we face--deadlines, bills, jam-packed schedules--don’t require the same burst of adrenaline, and yet our bodies respond in the same way. In the long term, chronic stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, and a host of other health issues. In addition, we may use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress and this use can become an addiction. Part of recovery from any substance abuse problem includes learning healthy ways to cope with stress.

Deep Breathing and Body Scanning

Any number of deep breathing techniques can be used to de-stress quickly and a few are detailed below. For any of these techniques, it helps to get into a comfortable position.

  • Falling out breath: In this technique, inhale deeply and fill your lungs with as much air as possible. Exhale with an audible sigh.
  • Box breath: To use this technique, inhale for a count of four. Hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and then hold your breath out for four counts.
  • Emptying breath: For this breath technique, inhale for a count of three and exhale for a count of six. Release as much air as possible. 

Body scan techniques can also reduce stress. To try any of these techniques, get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. In the first technique, start at the top of your head and mentally work your way down your body. Notice and release any tension you may be holding in your muscles. You may be surprised at where your body holds tension. In another method, you would begin by tensing up your right foot as tight as you can, hold the tension for a few seconds, and then release. Next tense and release your right calf, then your right thigh, and so on until you have tensed and relaxed every part of your body. In a similar technique, you mentally travel through your body and imagine that each part is being filled with warmth. (Note: These techniques can also be used to help you drift off to sleep.)

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress. You can opt for guided or unguided meditation. If you are interested in guided meditation, you can find a teacher or use an app like Headspace, Calm, or MyLife Meditation. If you prefer to meditate on your own, there are many techniques for you to try. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath. Don’t control your breath, just notice it. As thoughts arise (and they will), notice that you are thinking and let the thought drift away. Another method that some people find calming is breath counting. Count your breaths, going up to 10. Repeat, as many times as needed, until you feel tranquil. You could also try a moving meditation. In a walking meditation, for example, focus on each foot contacting the ground. Notice how the ground feels beneath your feet. Notice the sensations as your heel hits the ground,  rolls to the ball of your foot, and then to your toes. As your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to walking. These techniques allow your body to relax and your mind will follow.

Exercise

Exercise, in any form, is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety and elevate your mood. The key is to find a type of exercise that you enjoy. You could go for a walk or a run, or you might prefer swimming or bicycling. You may enjoy the dynamic of an exercise class. You could take up tennis or golf. Yoga, in particular, is a great stress reliever. No matter what you choose, make it a point to exercise several times per week. This will have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Nature

Spending time out of doors helps to relieve stress as well. Researchers in the field of ecotherapy suggest that being outdoors can elevate your mood, lower your anxiety, improve your ability to focus, improve your memory, boost creativity, relieve depression and anxiety, and help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Being outside for 120 minutes a week causes positive changes, and the time doesn’t need to be continuous. So go for a stroll on the beach, take a walk in the park, or a hike in the mountains. Plan a camping trip. Plant a garden. Take your work outside. Bring the outside in by keeping cut flowers or potted plants in the house. Use natural materials to decorate. Plant herbs in your kitchen. Arrange a comfortable seating space near a window with a view. Even something as simple as displaying photos of your favorite outdoor places can help reduce stress.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but the good news is that many healthy ways of coping with stress are available to us. While we cannot eliminate stress from our lives,  the techniques described above can help us manage stress, rather than stress managing us. At Enlightened Solutions, we focus on treating the whole person, not just his or her substance abuse. Using our multidisciplinary approach, we customize each patient’s treatment plan to meet his or her needs. We offer treatment for a wide variety of substance dependencies as well as mental health disorders that can co-occur with substance abuse. In addition to talk therapy and a 12-Step philosophy, we offer holistic treatment including yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, and equine therapy. We provide our patients with the life skills they need, including stress management, to achieve their goals in recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, call us at (833) 801-5483 today.

 


What to Do About Mood Swings

What to Do About Mood Swings

Mood swings are when one minute you feel fine but then the next, you are in a terrible mood. It is normal to have good days and bad days. If your fluctuating moods are taking over your life, it is important that you find how to better calm down to stabilize your moods.

Mood swings can be very scary when they are in the extreme and you do not know what to do about them. You could in one instance be in such a great mood that you decide to have a shopping spree. In another instance, you could be threatening to harm someone or yourself. There are a number of mental health conditions that can explain your uncontrollable mood swings such as bipolar disorder where you can switch from being extremely happy to extremely sad or cyclothymic disorder which is less severe.

You could also be having a personality disorder where you rapidly change your mood in a short period of time. It is also possible that you could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or schizophrenia. Mood swings can also happen as a result of hormonal changes like if you are going through puberty. If you are a woman, you can have mood swings based on being pregnant or if you are on menopause. Drugs and alcohol can also negatively affect your mood. Any mental health condition is treatable with the right medication, professional help, and natural remedies.

Mood swings can occur based on assuming the worst of a situation. For example, you may be having a good day today and your mom may have sent you a text message to call her when you have a chance. You could be thinking the worst that there is a death in the family or she is mad at you about something. All this negative thinking will do is paint you an inaccurate picture that will make you very angry for no reason. Think about what positive scenarios can come from your mother wanting you to call her as she might have good news to tell you. Or you can think of the worst possible scenario so that you are prepared for it. Then when your mother does call you, you will realize that there was nothing to worry about and nothing like you imagined.

You may also be the type where you get easily worked up over every minor problem. For example, a coworker may have told you about something that you need to improve on for a project. You do not like people telling you what to do or telling you that you did something wrong. You were having a great shift until that coworker gave you that one piece of criticism, making you be in an awful mood for the rest of the day. Instead of overgeneralizing this negative comment towards you and letting it ruin your day, think of the relationship that you had with your coworker before this happened. That your coworker was always nice to you and helpful. If this comment was given to you, it might have been to help you. It is important to take a deep breath and let the comment go to avoid it affecting your work performance.

It is also best to know when to walk away. You may be getting into a disagreement with someone and feel yourself getting very angry. This would normally be the point where you would do or say things that you do not mean out of anger. Tell the person you are arguing with that you need to step out and recollect your thoughts. Go to a quiet place, take a deep breath, and think about what just happened. When your thinking goes back to normal, you will be able to view the situation more rationally. You should also make yourself a calming routine every time you feel like you are about to get worked up. This can mean listen to a particular genre of music that helps you relax like jazz or classical music. Pet your cat or dog as they can be a calming influence for you. It can also mean stepping outside to take a walk as you let the feel-good endorphins kick in. While you may not have your pet with you anywhere or always be allowed to listen to your music, bring a picture of your pet with you and have a particular song playing in your head.

Other than calming techniques, you also need to take care of yourself. This involves making sure that you exercise for half an hour to an hour three times a week. It also means sleeping for seven to eight hours. Eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbs, and essential nutrients to give you enough energy to last you throughout the day. Continue to practice calming techniques like meditation or yoga. Try to schedule times when to relax every day and keep up with this routine. You should also find a creative outlet to express yourself. Instead of blowing up at people when you have been having a good day, have a journal handy to write down all of those negative thoughts taking over your mind so that you can speak rationally when it is time to talk. By taking control of your mood swings, you will be able to maintain positive relationships and be overall happy with your life.

At Enlightened Solutions, we are here to help you remember that life can be full of happiness and enjoyable moments, once we learn how to manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Call us today: (833) 801-LIVE.