7 Tips for Managing Stress Without Alcohol and Drugs

Managing stress without alcohol and drugs can be difficult, especially when you used alcohol and drugs in the past. But there are actually many ways to overcome stress without putting your sobriety at risk.

So we’re offering six ways to manage stress without alcohol and drugs.

Stress & Substance Abuse

Stress is a vague concept that’s difficult to quantify. For one thing, people experience stress differently. We also have different thresholds when it comes to how much stress we can handle.

Generally, stress can be defined as an internal response to external demands for change. It’s often a tug-of-war that occurs with imposed requirements on one side and the ability (or lack of ability) to meet those requirements on the other. The resulting frustration, anger, fear, and other such feelings come together and become stress.

According to the American Psychological Association, most people feel a moderate amount of stress pretty much at all times. On a 1-to-10 scale, the average amount of stress people feel over a one-year period is 5.2. With so many people dealing with so much stress, substance abuse and addiction shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Stress is a common catalyst for substance abuse problems because of a type of behavior called self-medicating. Basically, this is when someone’s stress level reaches a level of severity that he or she can no longer cope with. Desperate to alleviate that stress, the individual begins drinking alcohol or using drugs to get some relief. Over time, this occasional substance use becomes more frequent and more severe, eventually leading to addiction.

The scenario described above is quite common among those who suffer from addiction. So it should come as no surprise that many people suffering from addiction also suffer from comorbid disorders related to stress and anxiety. In other words, people who find it particularly difficult to handle stress tend to be more prone to the development of substance abuse problems.

Woman meditates at sunrise
Photo: Dingzeyu Li

How to Manage Stress Without Risking Your Sobriety

Fortunately, there are ways to manage stress without resorting to alcohol or drugs. Rather than covering up the stress — which ends up coming back after the effects of alcohol or drugs wears off — these are strategies to either alleviate stress naturally or to provide a distraction until the stress subsides on its own.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some tips for managing stress without alcohol or drugs.

1. Meditation and Breathing Exercises

It’s a known fact that breathing exercises can help alleviate stress and anxiety. In fact, the American Institute of Stress recommends deep breathing exercises for between 20 and 30 minutes per day to help mitigate stress.

Meditation is useful for this purpose too. After all, a big part of meditation is bodily awareness and controlled breathing.

2. Find a Creative Outlet

Creativity is another way to help with stress. But whereas certain strategies help to quell feelings of stress, creative outlets are all about purging your stress. The idea is that you’re expelling your stress through the act of creating some type of art.

There are many art forms that can be used for this purpose. It can be as simple as making a collage with magazine clippings or as elaborate as creating a sculpture from clay.

3. Clean Your House (or Bedroom)

Have you ever heard someone admit how he or she always ends up cleaning when under stress? Well, there’s a reason for this, which is that cleaning can actually help with your stress.

Cleaning works for managing stress without alcohol and drugs because it’s a good distraction. Plus, cleaning your home — or your bedroom — can give you a sense of achievement and pride, which are good counterbalance for stress.

Slicing a lemon cake
Photo: Honey Fangs

4. Bake a Cake

Baking can be a great way to expend your stress. There’s even some symbolic significance to it, almost like you’re mixing your stress into your batter and baking it into something delicious. It’s an example of taking something unpleasant and turning it into something that’s actually enjoyable.

Why baking instead of cooking? Baking is more exact than regular cooking, so it’ll require more of your focus to get it just right.

5. Find Something Else to Focus On

Distracting yourself is an obvious tactic for managing stress without alcohol and drugs. After all, if you’re not focused on the thing that’s causing you stress, then it stands to reason that those feelings of stress will subside.

As for specific ways to distract yourself, the sky’s the limit. You could put on your favorite movie, try to solve a Rubix cube, work on a crossword puzzle, read a book, listen to your favorite band or musician, and the list goes on and on.

6. Visit a Close Friend or Loved One

If you’re having trouble distracting yourself or channeling your stress into something productive, then it might be a good idea to spend some time with a friend or family member. There’s a good chance that they’ll be able to empathize with your situation and may even have some good advice on how to manage or outright eliminate your stress.

Best of all, visiting a friend or loved one is a great way to remind yourself that your not as alone as your stress might have led you to believe.

7. Hit the Gym

When all else fails, go to the gym and sweat the stress out. Of course, you won’t actually be excreting stress through your pores. Instead, think of your stress as a type of fuel, and a good workout is just a way to use up that fuel.

Another reason why working out helps is that physical activity raises your endorphins, which are neurochemicals associated with feelings of happiness and a direct counter to stress. In addition to helping with stress, a good workout is great for your overall health.

Take the First Step to Lasting Sobriety With Sea Change Recovery

Stress is one of many things that can contribute to the development of a substance abuse problem. But if you — or someone you love — has been suffering from addiction, you’ve come to the right place.

Offering both residential inpatient and intensive outpatient programs, Sea Change Recovery is your premier destination for all things recovery. To learn more about how Sea Change Recovery can help, contact us today.

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