By Andy Macia
“I will breathe
I will think of solutions
I will not let my worry control me
I will not let my stress level break me
I will simply breathe and it will be okay because I don’t quit”
– Shayne McClendon
Managing stress has been a bit harder for me. I was an alcohol addict for many, many years, so for quite some time, stress meant reaching out for a bottle to drown my sorrows; my addicted self just did not care for absolutely anything else in my life. If I had any other issues, they would be taken care of by the next drink.
And just to be clear, a bottle or a drink is most surely not a healthy stress management tip. And you don’t even need to be a professional to figure it out.
Nevertheless, after almost a year in recovery, therapy, group sessions, psychiatrists and psychologists, I learned what I was supposed to expect when I reintegrated to society as a sober person and they also gave me the tools to cope in order to stay in the sobriety path. As you may imagine, for a recovering addict, stress is one of the most dangerous situations for a potential relapse. And it can be something as simple as an argument in the street. We have to be extremely careful in the way we handle stress.
Therefore, those lessons I learned on how to handle stress are the ones I’d like to share with you in this article. They are great lessons everyone can apply. Believe me, I’ve now been sober for over 9 years, dealing and coping with one drop of alcohol and overcoming every addiction relapse trigger I’ve faced.
Don’t worry though, it’s not necessary to be recovering from an addiction to get these tips to work. You can take them as 5 very healthy things to do so that everyday life stress doesn’t take you past the breaking point. Here they are:
1. Eat Healthily
It’s been proven extensively that what you eat will have a direct impact on your health both mental and physical. One of my nutritionists used to tell me that if I ate something bad (nutritionally-wise) then I would feel bad; and well, he was right. His advice was simple: eat a simple well-balanced diet.
Eating correctly will allow you to feel great on the inside and on the outside. A great diet will influence in a very positive way your mood as well, and a balanced mood means less stress. Skipping meals regularly will make it easier for you to become stressed as well, so try not to do it often.
So, what should you eat? A good, healthy diet should have whole grains, vegetables and fruits and some lean protein for your energy.
2. Talk It Through
The simple action of mentioning what is making you feel stressed will be a great help for you to rationalize the thing you are stressing about. Also, reach out to your support group, such as your therapist, friends, family, whatever works for you. In my case, I constantly go to AA meetings and have regular encounters with my sponsor.
The action of talking to yourself is a great habit to follow; think of it as a self-directed pep-talk. It will allow you to take a step back and analyze any situation that could be stressful to you. The secret here? Examine the situation calmly and act guided by positivity.
3. Calm Down
Nowadays everything feels like it needs to be done right away. In reality, we need to calm down, breath and just relax. The most effective way to solve this problem is just to learn how to manage and organize your time effectively. Remember that all your time shouldn’t be going to your work exclusively. You should make time as well for a night of reading a book, a night out with loved ones, meditating and doing yoga, or just enjoying one of your hobbies.
Slow down, go at your own pace, don’t let anybody or anything rush you towards things. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s perfectly okay to stop, take a deep breath, and start over. You don’t need alcohol or substances to relieve the pressure. Take a break for your inner peace–it’s perfectly okay. Remember that being able to handle and organize stressful situations will improve your productivity at work and your efficiency in life, so don’t be afraid to take a small step back.
As I mentioned above, it’s extremely important to take good care of yourself both mentally and physically, not only to live a healthier lifestyle but to be in a strong position where you can not only face your responsibilities but stand firmly against the inevitable stress and anxiety that modern life brings.
Helping your body relax and burn excess energy is probably one of the most important tools for stress management. Exercise is one of the best ways to do it. Adding a great workout regimen not only will help your body feel better, it will inspire positivity and good mood with every rush of healthy endorphins. Take at least 30 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week, to take a brisk walk, run, swin, or practice yoga.
5. Eliminate The Causes Of Your Stress
This is one of the most important tips. It’s great that we do things to avoid or face stress, but it’s important that we find exactly what is causing the stress in order to attack the root of the problem. Let me give you an example. If you always feel stressed at work, you should consider another career perhaps; if it’s the deadlines you are receiving, think of reorganizing your time or maybe procrastinate less.
A great tool that I still use is keeping a “stress journal.” It’s basically a journal where you write down every time you feel stressed and why you think you having those feelings. After a few days, this will give you a clearer insight into what is happening and why you are stressing out. The key here is putting yourself in control of the stress and not letting the stress control you.
These are some of the most important tips I learned when I was going through addiction recovery. They have helped me through some of the toughest times in my sober life. Do you have any other stress management tips that I failed to mention? Please share in the comments!
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Andy Macia, a recovering drug addict/alcoholic with over 9 years sober. He was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles California. He is an avid rehab blogger and digital marketing entrepreneur.
Photo credit: Shivarea108 on Instagram