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.

 


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Processing Stress In Recovery

Nobody likes stress. In fact, no body likes stress. Stress, it has been proven hundreds of times over, is incredibly bad for your health. Stress is one of the leading causes of disease, heart failure, and poor health throughout the world. To deal with stress, the body produces adrenaline, which stimulates the fight or flight response. Inherently we don’t even really “deal” with stress, we either fight it off or run away from it. Going against our survival instincts and choosing to work through stress is a major part of growing in recovery. Life can be stressful, but the stress does not have to win. Here are some tips for learning to grow through stress rather than run from it, fight it, or be consumed by it to the point of ill health.

Failure Happens

“Progress not perfection” is a popular saying in the rooms of recovery and twelve step meetings.  The Big Book of Alcoholics in Chapter 5 titled “How it Works” reads, “No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” The truth is, nobody is perfect. Trying to bear the responsibility of being that one perfect person is just too much for anyone’s back. As alcoholics and addicts, we tend to convince ourselves we’re “special”. We have to succeed because we are capable of it, even if nobody understands. Consequently, we begin to view failure as stress and stress as failure. Stress is a natural reaction to life. Being the wonderfully imperfect beings that we are, we get stressed and sometimes we “fail”. It’s okay.

Give It Away To Keep It

Stress is actually a gift of recovery. In early recovery, we work hard to keep our stress at a minimum in an effort to support our treatment. We continue to grow and begin living our life again. Jobs, responsibilities, all the little pieces of life come trickling back in, and cause us stress. The truth is, we worked hard to get here. We’ve earned our stress because we’ve developed an entirely new manner of living in which to handle it- even if we don’t always handle it well.

Being of service is a critically important component in recovery. One of the quickest and most sure-fire ways to get out of self when you are super focused on your stress is to be of service to another person. You might be thinking you don’t have time to be of service because you are too busy with all the stressful things you have going on. Usually, that’s the strongest indicator that you need to make the time. It will significantly help you reduce your stress by helping you get grounded and grateful for the life you have created!

Enlightened Solutions compassionately treats each patient with the therapeutic skills necessary to help them build a new spiritually founded life. Our treatment programs for addiction and dual-diagnosis disorders are integrative, combining twelve step philosophy with effective therapy models and holistic healing modalities. Call us today for more information 833-801-5483.