Early sobriety can feel overwhelming at times. We’ve embarked upon a new life-path, uncertain of what the future holds. Our emotions are heightened, our brains are beginning to heal, and finally, we begin to feel the weight of the external stressors that we ignored in our addiction. Stress, however, can be manageable with a few simple techniques and coping strategies.
Developing a daily meditation practice can be a lifesaver in recovery. Meditative practices remove us from the “fight-or-flight” responses to stressors that seem to be particularly heightened in early sobriety. The act of controlled or diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system’s “relaxation response”, leading to decreased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and a slowing of brain activity. Meditation allows one to achieve a relaxed state through the quieting of the body and mind. Decreased mental arousal leads to decreased anxiety and stress.
Physical exertion may be one of the most effective tools at our disposal for managing stress. Exercise causes our bodies to take in higher levels of oxygen, increasing our feeling of mental alertness and clarity while decreasing our anxiety. Many people report a feeling of deep relaxation after 90 minutes of strenuous physical exertion, but even simple, non-strenuous activities, such as walking or biking, provide tremendous stress-relieving benefits.
What we eat has major effects on our ability to cope with stress. B-vitamins have a direct relationship with our fight-or-flight stress response, for example, while magnesium helps manage our blood pressure and cortisol levels. There are many food options that contain specific vitamin and minerals that calm the nervous system and promote relaxation. Developing a nutrition plan that incorporates stress-relieving foods is one of the best ways to support healing and keep us healthy, both physically and mentally.
Many of us felt closed-off and disconnected from the world before sobriety. We felt an overwhelming sense of frustration with our inability to effectively communicate with our friends and loved ones about what we were going through. The Journal of Psychosomatic Research found a correlation between suppressed emotions and mortality. They found that theorized that, when people bottle up their emotions, they turn to substances like alcohol and cigarettes as a way to cope with their hidden feelings. Keeping our true feelings to ourselves creates a level of emotional stress that can disrupt our body’s hormonal balance. Creating an emotional support system with whom we feel we can speak openly about our inner feelings and receive non-judgmental feedback keeps us from experiencing the negative effects of stress.
Stress doesn’t have to control the story of your recovery. Oceanfront Recovery, a residential treatment facility for substance use and dual diagnosis mental health disorders, offers the tools needed to manage achieve a healthy, sober life. For information, call us today: (877) 279-1777