“I could use a drink.”
That’s a sentence that many people use to rationalize drinking alcohol after a stressful day. While it’s true that alcohol’s depressant qualities do have a calming effect on the brain and body, it is not a healthy long-term solution for managing stress—in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Regular alcohol use has been linked to many adverse physical conditions, including heart disease, liver disease, and stroke. Reaching for a drink to relieve stress can become a crutch—and sometimes an addiction, which will make stress even worse.
There are far healthier ways to relieve stress without alcohol, including the techniques described below.
Mindful meditation alleviates stress by focusing on what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment. This technique will help clear your mind of negative thoughts or worries that are causing stress in your day.
Start the technique by finding a quiet place, either indoors or outdoors, where you won’t be interrupted. Follow these steps to guide your meditation:
1. Sit comfortably with your back straight. Close your eyes. Acknowledge what you are thinking and feeling, but then let those thoughts and feelings go. Concentrate on where you are and your current state of being.
2. Focus on your breathing. Feel your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Make note of how your chest rises and falls.
3. Focus on different parts of your body. If you feel tightness or tension, relax and let those feelings dissipate.
4. Expand your awareness by using your senses. Think of what you’re hearing, feeling, and smelling. Open your eyes and observe the sights around you.
As you continue with your day, remain mindful by fully experiencing the sights, sounds, and sensations around you. Practice mindfulness every day, especially when you feel stress.
Like mindfulness, yoga for stress relief encourages you to stay in the moment with a focus on meditation and relaxation. Various yoga poses combine breathing with movement. An example is the Cat-Cow Pose:
1. Get down on your hands and knees, placing your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
2. As you inhale, look upward and allow your belly to move toward your mat, arching your back, to achieve the Cow Pose.
3. As you exhale, draw your chin in toward your chest and bend your spine toward the ceiling, to achieve the Cat Pose.
4. Repeat steps #2 and #3 for one minute.
Regular exercise is good not only for relieving stress but also making you healthier and giving you more energy. Doctors recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. Experts report that exercise reduces stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, while stimulating production of endorphins, which are associated with better mood.
Exercise is something you can incorporate easily into your day. For instance, take a 20-minute walk during your lunch hour. Or hit the gym before work to improve your daily outlook.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a proven stress-reliever. The technique involves the following steps:
1. Sit straight up.
2. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of our mouth, just behind your front teeth. Leave it there throughout the rest of the technique.
3. Completely exhale through your mouth.
4. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for four counts.
5. Hold your breath for seven counts.
6. Exhale through your mouth for eight counts, making a whooshing sound.
7. Repeat three times for a total of four cycles.
Try this technique when listening to calming music, sitting outdoors in nature, or watching a video of a peaceful setting on YouTube.
Many people use journaling as a way to process their thoughts and feelings. By writing down your worries or concerns, you can map out a strategy for dealing with them rather than let them fester inside. You also can use your journal to list everything positive that happened during your day, helping you counteract the negativity that otherwise might dominate your thoughts.
Get Enough Sleep
Stress often is associated with being tired. Getting a good night’s sleep will allow you to wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Establish a regular routine by going to bed and waking up the same time each day. Avoid screen time an hour before bed to prepare yourself for sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, use the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Incorporating several of these techniques into your day will allow to manage stress without using alcohol. You’ll be more relaxed while also feeling healthier and achieving a better outlook on life.
Turn to Beachside Rehab to help you transition to a life without alcohol. Contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770 to learn more.
Photo by Thomas Rey on Unsplash