Stress is one of those words we hear thrown around on a daily basis. At the end of the stress spectrum, there are small annoyances like traffic jams or stressful days at work that raise your blood pressure slightly but don’t last for long periods of time.
On the other side sits life’s unexpected events such as losing someone close to you, getting fired from a decades-long position, or receiving a scary medical diagnosis. Stress and drinking alcohol often go hand in hand. Individuals often turn to alcohol use as a method to cope with stressful situations, regardless of the risk it puts on overall health.
No matter the kind of “stress” you’re under, it’s safe to say no one likes being stressed too much. There are healthy alternatives to the “stress and drinking” chain that can help you cope. Drinking only eliminates stress in the short term whereas healthy coping mechanisms keep both the brain and body stress-free.
1. Spend Time with Friends and Family
Just because you pull alcohol out of your plans for eliminating stress, doesn’t mean you have to avoid everyone. While peer pressure and drug abuse often co-occur, you more than likely have friends and family members who will support your decision to minimize alcohol intake.
There are plenty of healthy activities that your group can engage in, such as going for a walk, taking a hike, shopping, cooking together, and more. By spending time with people who support your decision, you’ll realize that there are more impactful ways to manage stress levels.
2. Move Your Body and Get Some Exercise
Exercise is great for your heart and head as it reduces stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol and adrenaline. It also causes the production of endorphins which act as a natural painkiller and mood booster. Even small amounts of exercise can have a positive effect on stress levels.
Switch up the normal “stress and drinking” to “stress and sweating” to see a dramatic change in your mood. Exercise eliminates stress whereas drinking is just masking it. The key is to focus on the amount of exercise you can actually achieve. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself stressing out over not exercising, which ultimately defeats the purpose.
3. Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation can help you find a sense of calm and gain a new perspective in your life. Whether it’s through the use of mantras or just focusing on one point, meditation is an effective way to relieve stress.
Mindfulness is similar to meditation in that you should be focusing on your breathing but also helps ground you in your senses. You should focus on the things you can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. Pay attention to your surroundings and remove all expectations.
4. Find a Reason to Laugh
Watch a funny movie or TV show to help relieve stress. It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re laughing. It’s good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress. It can relieve your stress response and relieve tension by relaxing muscle groups in the body. Laughter can also improve one’s mood while improving immunity in the process.
5. Spend Time Reflecting in a Journal
A grateful person is a happy person. By taking some time each day to think about what you are thankful for, you can change your perspective on life. This leads you towards an overall more positive outlook and ultimately happiness in life. The “stress and drinking” combination can be eliminated from your life simply because you’re in a better mood.
Spending 5 minutes a day writing in a journal helps bias thinking from negative thoughts of resentments or stresses into something as simple as gratitude. Ultimately this leads down a path to greater success with less stress in your daily routine (which inevitably improves any person’s quality of living).
6. Practice Positive Affirmations
A mantra is a word, sound, or group of words repeated often to assist in meditation. It can also be used as an affirmation for negative thoughts and low self-esteem. Like with any positive statement, it needs to be said consistently and in the present tense so that you believe what you say when saying them out loud. An example of a good mantra is “I am safe” versus “I will never get hurt.”
When reciting affirmations outside your practice time, try using phrases like, “my mind is at ease” or “with every breath, I take my stress levels lower.” Mantras such as this help reinforce strengths during stressful moments while feeling more relaxed throughout all other times of the day.
7. Spend Time with Your Pet
Pets provide companionship, social support, and a sense of purpose to many people. Having your furry (or scaly!) friend around may help reduce stress by releasing oxytocin in the brain which promotes positive moods. Pets also relieve stress because they are enjoyable activities that keep you active and give you something to care for, giving life meaning again. Simply replacing episodes of stress and drinking with spending time with your pet can help make a healthy shift.
8. Donate Your Time
Helping someone in need makes you feel better. Research shows that altruism improves mood and takes the focus off our own struggles. Participants in charity or social programs report that, when they increase their contribution towards others, their mood also improves. If you give your time to others, you may find that your stress levels and desire to drink will drastically decrease.
Finding the Right Way to Channel Stress Away From Drinking
Drinking definitely isn’t the answer to stress. There are so many other ways to work through your stress and anxiety. It’s best to address stress rather than suppress it. Start with small goals to get out of your drinking habit. Build on those as you go, and remember to give yourself time.
If you’re having difficulty managing your stress and drinking, it could be a symptom of a bigger issue. You may need to seek the help of a professional treatment center. Kingsway Recovery can help you overcome alcohol abuse and manage your stress levels.
Nicholas DeSimone PHD, LPC, LCADC, ICGCII, ACS founded Kingsway Recovery, LLC in Mullica Hill, New Jersey in June of 2017 after 5 1/2 years of recovery and a wide history of working in a variety of treatment modalities. Throughout his time in recovery he married his loving wife, completed his Masters, PHd and became a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He also is a Certified Trauma and Gambeling Specialist. Today, Kingway has grown to have 8 clinicians and over 30 staff members with a variety of treatment tracks all dedicated to helping people in recovery and giving them the opportunity to heal.