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Anyone who has been in recovery long term will tell you it is not a stress free process. In fact, recovery can be highly stressful with all the changes that are and need to occur. This is why finding ways to de-stress is so important. Allowing yourself to become too stressed out can quickly lead to a relapse and having to start over again. Everyone gets stressed out from time to time, this is normal, but allowing the stress to grow unchecked can be dangerous to recovery. When we are stressed cortisol floods the system and creates the fight or flight response. When in active addiction this is probably when you would use or drink or head straight for the addiction as comfort.
There are ways to reduce this negative stress, a few of these will be explored in the remainder of the article. The good news is most are free or very cheap and can be done in short amounts of time to reduce stress. Try taking a walk. A brisk ten minute walk will allow you time to be removed from your stressor and get your body moving. This movement will reduce the stress in a measurable amount. Along the same lines, yoga is a great way to relax and unwind because you have to be conscious of your body, not whatever is causing stress. Deep breathing can also calm you quickly. If you feel yourself getting anxious then stop and take a few slow deep breathes. Take them in through the nose and slowly out through the mouth. A few deep breathes will allow you to refocus in a calmer manner and continue on with the task at hand.
Chewing gum can also have this same effect. The act of chewing gum forces your mind to focus on that movement and can take some of the stress out of a situation.
If you have had a stressful day, then listen to some music to unwind. Classical music is typically used to calm and soothe, but choose something low key that works for you. Take time for a hobby such as knitting. The repetitive movement can calm the mind as you are using small movements that force the brain to focus. If you are resting at home or work and need to unwind, mindfully eat a snack. This is not mindless eating that can lead to weight gain over time, but eating a snack that you take time to savor and enjoy. Visualization and guided imagery are also great ways to relax. Visualization is much like creating a picture in your head that you find serene. If you love the beach then close your eyes and focus on creating a beach scene in your head. This is similar to guided imagery in which you listen to a story or description and imagine it, following the steps in your mind. Many guided imagery scenarios can be found for free online.
Progressive muscle relaxation is also an option as it forces the user to focus on one muscle at a time moving up or down the body and forcing it to relax. This intense focus on each muscle calms the body a little at a time. This is something that takes practice but is highly effective.
No matter what healthy way you choose to de-stress, you need to have some go to options for when stress arises. These techniques can grow and change over time as needed, but should be available in any given situation. Practice before you get stressed out so you will know what to do when necessary. Don’t let something that creates stress detour your progress.
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