Stress is, unfortunately, part of daily life—and it always has been. We get into trouble with stress when we do not manage its effects in a healthy manner. In fact, self-medicating stress through the use of a substance may have initiated a substance use disorder in the first place. Now, we understand that weaving relaxation techniques into our daily routine is a much healthier way to deal with stress triggers.
The Importance of Relaxation in Recovery
So, why is stress the nemesis of recovery? What is it about the stress response that can undermine our sobriety? To understand why relaxation is so important in recovery we must first grasp what happens when we are confronted with a stress trigger.
The stress response is elicited when our brain acknowledges a situation, person, event, or thing as threatening. Emotions such as fear, worry, or dread cause the brain to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. The body responds to the influx of stress hormones with a variety of physical symptoms, such as sweating, shaking or trembling, racing heart rate or palpitations, elevated blood pressure, and agitation. Examples of stress-inducing events might include a sense of being in physical danger, worries about financial matters, work-related stressors, relationship stressors, or an irrational fear of future events.
Being in stress-mode is highly uncomfortable. People seek to stifle these sensations rather than allow them to continue, which is why many will reach for a substance. A substance, however, does not really help anyone to work through the presenting stressful issue or dilemma, but rather just allows for a brief numbing of the negative emotions associated with the stressor. Understanding how to mitigate the effects of stress in a productive and healthy manner is key to maintaining sobriety.
5 Relaxation Techniques
To succeed in recovery, learning to regulate the negative effects of stress by managing the stress response itself is paramount. There are several effective relaxation techniques to choose from, so find the ones that work for you, and incorporate them into your self-care strategies in recovery. Sometimes just creating a list will remind you of enjoyable relaxing activities you might have let slip your mind. Consider trying these 5 activities to induce relaxation:
- Listen to relaxing music. Music has a powerful affect on our overall being. Use music to promote a sense of relaxation by reacquainting yourself with an instrument you used to play, or by pulling together a playlist of soothing tunes on your Spotify app to listen to as needed.
- Learn tai chi. Tai chi is a type of martial arts composed of slow, deliberate movements that assist in relieving stress. In addition to the relaxation effects of tai chi, it also helps improve balance, sleep quality, and mental focus.
- Watch a funny movie. For immediate stress relief, treat yourself to a comedy. Nothing releases feelings of tension faster than a good laugh. Make a list of your favorite comedies to have at your fingertips when you feel stress coming on.
- Get out in nature. Nature has an immensely calming effect on our psyches. Just being outdoors in the fresh air surrounded by natural beauty will swiftly replace feelings of stress and worry with sheer joy.
- Take a yoga class. The combination of yoga poses and deep breathing can take stress levels down several notches in no time. Find a yoga class that fits your abilities and enjoy the deeply relaxing effects of this activity.
Above all, give yourself permission to take a break from the usual obligations of daily life and indulge in an activity that truly brings you a sense of peace and serenity.
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.