Feeling overwhelmed lately?
You’re not alone. The combination of 24/7 news, devices keeping us plugged in, and a seemingly endless number of challenges facing us can make even the most cheerful person feel like they’re under assault.
For those of us in recovery, this amount of pressure can become overwhelming quickly. Living a sober lifestyle is rewarding, but it’s also hard. Falling back to old habits and other unhealthy ways of managing stress can almost seem like a natural response to the stress of ordinary life.
It doesn’t have to be. Here’s 5 great ways to fight stress, stay in recovery, and even get healthier in the process:
We get that there’s little more annoying than being told to relax when you’re feeling stressed out. As irksome as being told to relax is, it’s not always a bad choice – stress isn’t good for any of us, and there’s definitely a provable way to stay grounded: progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR.
PMR is a proven way to lower stress and anxiety. Basically, PMR works like this:
- Inhale while flexing or contracting a group of your body’s muscles.
- Hold for up to 10 seconds, then exhale and release.
- Wait around 20 seconds to relax, then do the same to another group of muscles
- Continue until you’ve worked your way through all of your body’s muscle groups.
This technique has been used to treat everything from the effects of cancer to high blood pressure.
#2: Mediate On It
Mindfulness meditation might make some people’s eyes roll, but it’s really just a form of mental training which helps slow down your mind, get rid of any negative emotions or thoughts, and calm you down.
There’s a lot of different ways to do mindfulness meditation – and if you think you need a mat or candles to do it, don’t worry. All you need is a place to sit comfortably, a lack of judgement, and about 5 minutes of free time.
- Find a place to sit comfortably and quietly.
- Focus on your breathing. Feel how breathing affects your chest and nose. It’s interesting how your breath’s temperature changes from when it goes in to when it comes out.
- When your stressful thoughts come up, don’t tune them out. Look at them objectively and make note of them. Act like you’re watching clouds drift overhead.
- If this feels overwhelming, don’t panic or worry. Just make a note of it and focus on your breathing again.
- Some people might find it helpful to use a mindfulness app or a timer.
Mindfulness meditation gets easier with practice, so don’t get discouraged if you’re only able to do this for a few minutes.
#3: Write It Out
Journaling is incredibly healthy to do in recovery. Writing out our problems is incredibly releasing and helps combat stress and anger.
Seriously: A Kaiser Permanente study in 2019 found patients, their family members, and caregivers experienced reduced stress levels after participating in a short journaling exercise. A follow-up study found the majority of participants found the exercise helpful, and just over half continued to write to overcome stress.
Better yet, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the endless flow of catastrophic, depressing stories social media often feeds us, writing about your thoughts can make it far easier to cope. Called cognitive defusion, this technique helps illustrate that your thoughts and emotions aren’t you – they’re separate from you.
Finally, writing out your thoughts is a great way to find a solution for whatever’s bothering you. Your next course of action can reveal itself through writing.
#4: Listen To (Or Make) Music
Music makes us feel good. Research has shown music can cause the body to release the neurotransmitter dopamine, a hormone which plays a major role in the body’s reward system.
Interestingly, music may also play a role in healing. A study on a group of first-line nurses found the nurses who listened to music during the study had
- Lower levels of stress
- Lower heart rates
- Lower cortisol levels
Playing music is even more beneficial. Learning music changes brain structure, helps us process multiple things at once, strengthens memory, and helps the brain recover. Doesn’t matter if you’re playing a ukulele by yourself or performing with a concert band – music’s one of the best ways to keep yourself grounded and happy.
#5: Stay Active
Exercise is a fantastic way to reduce stress. Not only does it distract us from whatever’s been bothering us, but exercise also releases endorphins, chemicals in the body that make us feel good.
One Last Recovery Tip: Practice Radical Acceptance
It’s hard to do but developing a philosophy of radical acceptance is the best way to keep calm during trying times. It’s a concept connected to both mindfulness and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), a form of psychotherapy often used during drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
Basically, radical acceptance is about accepting life as it is and understanding some things are just out of your control. You don’t have to like what’s going on around you, understand, but accepting it and not ruminating about it will keep you more emotionally grounded.
Managing your emotions is important in recovery, especially sober living. Negative emotions and feelings are normal and part of life, but when they build up, they can jeopardize recovery. Having healthy, effective safety valves for when times get tough should be part of everyone’s recovery.
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Successful recovery inevitably means returning to the “normal” world. This transition can be jarring and difficult. Sober living offers us a safe, drug-free space to practice life skills and the other tools developed during treatment at a drug rehab or addiction center.
Finding a sober living home can be difficult, however. We developed SoberLivingNearYou.com, the internet’s largest sober living home director, in order to make the hunt for a sober home easier. There are thousands of listings on our site, meaning finding your sober home for your budget and needs has never been easier.
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