5 Ways to Relieve Stress without Alcohol or Drugs

Stress is one of the biggest triggers for relapse. Feeling overwhelmed, like you can’t handle what life is throwing at you, makes you just want to escape and forget your problems. You start to feel like no matter how hard you try, you’ll fail anyway, so you might as well relapse. Getting better at handling stress is one of the best skills for recovery. Here are some ways to keep stress under control.

Exercise. There’s a reason everyone always recommends exercise. It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases serotonin, the wellbeing hormone. It produces endorphins that help you relax and gives you more energy so you feel like you can better deal with problems. It’s also a way to practice feeling stressed in a safe environment. When you exercise, your heart rate and breathing increase because your body is being stressed. The difference between a strenuous run and a hectic day is you know you can stop running whenever you want. You’re in control. But you still get used to the feeling of stress and you learn it’s no reason to freak out.

Reframe stress. Stress itself isn’t bad. In fact, stress itself isn’t even stress. You only feel stressed when you care about the result and especially if you feel like failure will be catastrophic. In reality, failure is rarely catastrophic. As for caring about the result, that’s often a good thing. Billie Jean King famously said, “Pressure is a privilege.” Thinking of stress as a challenge to be overcome rather than a threat turns stress into opportunity. It’s an opportunity to learn something, become stronger, or achieve something worthwhile. Reframing threats as challenges makes you more resilient and less prone to relapse and depression.

Be careful about what you eat. Some foods, especially foods containing refined carbohydrates and sugar, cause a lot of inflammation in the body, which feels like stress. Pizza, soda, fried food, white bread, candy, ice cream, and pastries are all foods that taste great but leave you feeling lethargic and slightly sick. On the other hand, foods high in fiber, protein, vitamins, and omega 3 oils all support a better mood. If you’re prone to anxiety, you may want to cut down on the coffee too. It can ramp up your adrenaline and make you feel tenser.

Spend time with friends. Having people you can rely on and talk to is one of the best ways to reduce stress. You know you don’t have to deal with your problems alone. Just spending time with pleasant company reduces stress, even if you don’t talk about anything particularly important.

Spend time in nature. Studies have shown that just looking at pictures of natural environments makes people feel less stressed. There are also in the soil and produced by plants that make your brain release endorphins and strengthen your immune system. You can also combine spending time in nature with other items on this list like spending time with friends, exercising in nature, or exercising with friends in nature.