Finding ways to reduce stress without medication is always an issue for people in recovery. Stress is a well-known risk factor in the development of substance use disorders and relapse vulnerability. Even though we all deal with stress at some points in our lives, research suggests that persistent stress or stress that comes from traumatic experiences can drive a person to abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope.
If you are concerned about addiction or have a history of substance abuse, it’s important that you develop healthy ways to cope with stress. The more tools you have to manage your stress levels, the less likely you are to rely on drugs and alcohol.
Below are some creative ways to reduce stress without medication.
1. Take your vitamins.
Many people don’t get the nutrients they need from their foods alone. If you struggle to eat a well-balanced diet, you might be deficient in some vitamins, and this can affect your stress levels. Some of the best vitamins for fighting stress are B vitamins, magnesium, Vitamin C and omega-3s. Before taking any new supplements, talk to your doctor.
2. Clean and organize your space.
It might not sound like the most enjoyable way to spend your time, but tidying up your living and work space is a great way to expel nervous energy. You’ll be moving around and making improvements in your space that will make you feel good. So, open up the windows, get a load of laundry in the washer and make your home clean.
3. Silence your phone.
While it might feel good to connect to the rest of the world, this can actually have the opposite effect on your stress levels. Social media apps are addictive, and you can end up wasting hours looking at others’ lives through rose-colored glasses. Plus, social media, news apps, etc. contain a lot of sensitive material that can increase stress. Bottom line: It’s never a bad idea to silence or turn off your phone for a while.
4. Practice positive self-talk.
When you consider some of the things you say about yourself in your head, would you ever say them aloud to another person? Probably not. So, it’s not okay to tell yourself these things either. Say them enough, and you may start to believe them.
Here are some ideas of positive self-talk that you should try:
- It's okay to change my mind.
- By following my dreams, I can overcome fear.
- I am proud of myself for trying.
- I am a strong individual and I want to get better for myself.
5. Use aromatherapy.
Essential oils like rose, lavender, ylang ylang and bergamot are helpful for boosting stress levels. But, smelling anything sweet is bound to lift your spirits. In fact, sweet scents can reduce tension and ease headaches. Experiment with some different essential oils to see which ones have the greatest impact on your mood.
6. Write down your to-do list.
When you have all of your day’s chores floating around in your head, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Instead of wondering where you should be and what you should be doing, write down your day’s to-do list. As you accomplish things, cross them off your list. This will make you feel productive and in control.
7. Edit your social media feeds.
Because there are benefits to being on social media, you don’t have to cut it out of your life completely. But, we do recommend editing your feed so that it’s healthier for you. For example, you can prioritize accounts that share motivational and inspirational messages. You can hide or mute a humble bragger - they'll never know! Even with these changes, you should still limit your time scrolling through your news feed.
8. Enjoy arts and crafts.
It doesn't matter if you have a natural talent for art or not - art gives the mind a way to release itself. The best part is, you don’t have to make sense of it. Paint to music and watch your emotions pour onto paper. Many people realize that through drawing and painting, they're able to release negative energy and externalize inner struggles.
9. Spend time in nature.
Spending time in nature is a wonderful way to let down your guard and reconnect with your authentic self. You might even find your life purpose while walking or hiking. Being outdoors refreshes the mind and body, offering a new perspective on life’s problems. Plus, you can’t forget about the mood-boosting properties in Vitamin D!
10. Adopt a pet.
Some people find their stress levels go way down when they adopt a pet. Cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, fish, chinchillas, hamsters, etc. all make great pets. Research shows that petting or playing with an animal increases stress-reducing hormones and decreases cortisol, a stress hormone. If you’re not ready to adopt, consider fostering, volunteering at an animal shelter or helping out with a neighbor’s pet.
11. Play with toys.
Who said that adults are too old to play with toys? Playing with toys is actually a great way to reduce stress because it can trigger feelings of nostalgia. Think back to some of your favorite toys from your childhood. Chances are, they still sell these toys today. Some favorites include Rubix cubes, Silly Putty and brain teaser puzzles.
12. Put together a puzzle.
Speaking of puzzles, why not put one together in your free time? Puzzles help the brain by bringing peace and offering a sense of accomplishment. They may even help prevent cognitive disorders in later life. Plus, since the brain has a hard time focusing on two things at once, doing a puzzle can redirect your attention away from negative thoughts.
13. Color in a coloring book.
Sticking to the topic of feeling like a kid again, purchase a few coloring books and set of colored pencils for yourself. Coloring is known to reduce stress and anxiety by relaxing the fear center of the brain. While you color, you’ll also notice that you enter a more meditative state, which quiets your mind and allows you to take a break from your worries.
14. Go for a swim.
If you don’t have your own swimming pool, check into your local park district, YMCA or health club. Most have swimming pools that are open to the public. Physical activity in itself is an effective way to fight stress. It stimulates the brain to release feel-good chemicals that make you feel happy. Swimming, in particular, promotes relaxation by soothing tired muscles and freeing the mind.
15. Try laughter yoga.
Laughter yoga is similar to regular yoga except that you clap and chant with your stretches. The idea is to force yourself to smile and laugh, triggering the same chemical responses in the brain as a real laugh. Studies show that laughing improves circulation, reduces stress hormones, stimulates the immune system and exercises the muscles.
If you are struggling with stress and anxiety in your life and have a history of substance abuse, know that there are many ways to manage your stress levels. You will have to be more creative at times, but having a list like the one above ensures you make the right choices when it comes to relieving negative energy.
Awakenings Treatment Center offers total recovery for the mind, body and spirit. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support a healthy lifestyle and long-term recovery.