“Keep calm and…don’t stress out.” How many times have you heard or read something similar? The “Keep calm and carry on” motto started in Britain during World War II to emphasize that problems are better solved when people are calm and collected. This theme can also apply to the recovering alcoholic.
When recovering from alcohol addiction, everyday problems can seem insurmountable when factoring in the additional stress of staying sober. Thus, remaining calm and stress-free is especially important for alcoholics during recovery. Yet, that’s easier said than done. To keep anxiety under control, it is important to incorporate lifestyle changes that can help with stress management.
Lifestyle changes don’t have to be difficult if you can seamlessly incorporate them into your daily life. Here are six tips that can reduce your stress and help you to stay sober.
1. Breath deeply
As you breathe, concentrate on using your diaphragm rather than your chest. You should feel your stomach rise as your lungs fill from the bottom of your lungs. This type of breathing stimulates the vagus nerve activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Relaxation ensues and the levels of cortisol are reduced helping an alcohol-laden brain to heal.
2. Sleep soundly
The value of a sound night’s sleep cannot be overstated. In order to achieve this deep sleep, you must be aware of factors that contribute to healing rest. These sleep factors range from reducing naps and caffeine, establishing routine times for meals, and creating a positive bedroom ambiance. In addition, staying away from blue light screens—such as televisions, cell phones, and computer monitors—for one hour before bedtime can help to relax your eyes and your mind.
3. Eat healthy
Dietary advice is not a cookie-cutter stamp that can be applied the same to every individual. Still, there are basic guidelines that recovering alcoholics can use to eat healthier meals and snacks. If you have known food allergies, you should avoid those foods so you do not stress your body. In addition, you should stay away from junk food except for occasional exceptions.
Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables as well as healthy grains and protein sources. Don’t eat until you are full. Develop the practice of not giving in to every temptation for food. This will help you to deny yourself alcohol when you are tempted to drink. My own experience with limiting food choices helped me to say “No” to alcohol when offered.
4. Meditate quietly
Whether you call it meditation, prayer, or mindfulness, the ability to be still and reflect is vital to reducing stress. It is in moments of silence that we are most in touch with our inner selves, our aspirations, and our challenges. Mindful meditation can provide benefits that are essential to stress management.
The part of the brain that regulates stress and anxiety is the amygdala, and practicing meditation can positively affect this function. Meditation can also stimulate the hippocampus, controlling memory and learning. For some recovering alcoholics, such as myself, meditating in a framework of prayer provides an additional benefit. By incorporating a spiritual aspect, I found that I was able to call on a higher Being rather than just my own thoughts. This provided an extra measure of belief structure and support to deal with daily stress.
5. Socialize positively
Being around other people can be either productive or counterproductive to staying sober. Early on, I learned that I needed to choose my friends carefully, especially when recovering from addiction. Friends who did not take my commitment seriously soon realized that I made excuses not to be with them. I even learned to avoid some family members because they would bring me a beer when I was struggling with alcohol recovery.
Instead, I sought out friends and family who understood what I was going through and who could support my vows to remain alcohol-free. Sure, there were some hurt feelings, but, eventually, they were happy when I attained my one-year sobriety goal. If a recovering alcoholic focuses on more active forms of social involvement, such as dancing, sports, or volunteer activities, then the temptation to sit passively and drink alcohol is diminished.
6. Exercise actively
Many people think that they are too busy to exercise while in recovery, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Remaining sober is easier when exercise regime is included in stress management. One benefit is the increase in endorphins after exercising. These endorphins trigger positive feelings in your body, providing a kind of natural high.
The feeling of well-being that accompanies exercise can be an alternative to the negative effects of drugs and alcohol. Setting and reaching new goals for running or weightlifting can help to improve self-confidence. Even if you can’t get to a gym, try to walk every day outside for the exposure to nature and fresh air.
By employing these six tips to manage stress, recovering alcoholics can reduce the anxieties of daily life. This management program is designed to take the burden away from mundane stress so recovering alcoholics can keep their focus on staying sober.
“Keep calm and…don’t stress out” – a motto to live by.