With plenty of warm summer weather still to come, it is a great time to make the most of outdoor activities that are not only enjoyable, but also help reduce stress in recovery. Stress management is a critical coping skill for successfully navigating the recovery journey.
Feelings of worry, dread, stress, or anxiety can undermine sobriety by triggering the stress hormones cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline. An influx of these hormones leads to the “fight or flight” stress response, which results in a variety of uncomfortable sensations and emotions. The effects of anxiety in substance use are well known—anxiety and stress often lead to self-medicating. It is understandable, then, that for someone in recovery, the uncomfortable reactions caused by anxiety have the potential to trigger a relapse.
Recognize the Signs of Stress
We humans are exposed to stress-inducing events on a daily basis. It is not practical to believe that stress can be avoided, regardless of how much we wish it could be. Instead, we should be able to recognize the signs of stress and anxiety creeping up on us. These signs include:
- Irrational feelings of worry, fear, or dread
- Muscle tension
- Increased heart rate
- Shallow breathing
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Withdrawing socially
If you are experiencing a number of the signs and symptoms of anxiety, consider touching base with your therapist who can offer some timely guidance.
Create an Arsenal of Stress Reducing Activities to Battle Anxiety
Because it is impossible to predict or plan for the various life events that might spark the stress response, it is useful to take a proactive stance and be battle ready. Having a handy list of go-to stress reducing activities can provide significant relaxation benefits to access as needed when anxiety strikes.
Try out these 5 stress-reducing activities this summer:
- Go fishing. Fishing may seem an unlikely recovery activity until you consider its rich relaxation benefits. Take along a book and a picnic, and enjoy the relaxing effects that come with the fishing experience. This quiet time in nature will reward you with lower stress levels, and hopefully a few fish to take home for dinner.
- Take a bike ride. Bike riding is an excellent stress-reducer. Grab your helmet and set out to explore the area on your bike. Cycling on a glorious summer day with a soft breeze in your face gives you a feeling of both freedom and control, as well as a sense of confidence.
- Try grounding. Grounding, or earthing, refers to the practice of becoming physically united with the natural elements. These activities might include walking barefoot, or spending time standing, in the sand, on the grass, or even in the dirt to connect therapeutically with the earth. The idea of grounding is to reduce the effects of stress through the earth’s natural electrical energy.
- Plant your fall harvest. Gardening is well known for its relaxation effects. Late August still allows enough time to successfully produce some vegetables this fall. Try planting a little garden, such as beets, spinach, turnips, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. To speed up the process, consider using some small garden-ready starter plants versus seeds.
- Take up photography. Summer offers weather that is conducive for getting out and about with your camera. Enhance the photography experience by seeking out a beautiful nature site, some interesting old buildings, or a great people-watching venue. Photography directs attention outside of yourself towards an object, which can distract you from your worries.
Mount a spirited defense against the stress response by engaging in activities that help protect against the temptation to self-medicate with a substance. With some lovely summer weather still ahead of us, now is the time to get outside and put these 5 tips into action.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.
Related: Am I Stressed or in Distress?