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Learning to Relax in Recovery

A common reason for why people will turn to alcohol or drugs is that they feel that it helps them relax. They may begin by having just a few drinks or some recreational drugs at the end of the day to help them unwind. Over time, they develop and increasing dependency on this tool for relaxation until they eventually become hooked.

When people become sober, they can still struggle to find ways to relax.  They will have lost the one thing that they have been depending on, and this may mean that they suddenly feel overwhelmed by stress. Unless the individual is able to find some new coping tools, they could be in real trouble.

The Importance of Learning to Relax in Recovery

Learning to relax in recovery is very important because:

  • The first few months of recovery can often be described as an emotional rollercoaster. For years, this individual may have been numbing himself or herself with alcohol or drugs and now their emotions can feel very intense – the problem is that the individual is just not used to feeling things anymore. If the person is unable to find a way to manage these emotions, they can easily become overwhelmed. Learning to relax is one way that they will be able to learn to handle these emotions.
  • In order to build a successful recovery, the individual is going to have to make many changes to their life. This means that they will be dealing with a high level of stress during the first year or so of recovery. If the individual does not have a tool for handling this stress, they may be in trouble.
  • The individual may use their inability to handle stress as a justification to relapse back to addiction. They may believe that this proves that recovery is not going to work for them and they feel that this gives them a good reason to go back to their old behaviours.
  • In order to build a successful recovery, the individual is going to need to know how to relax. This is one of the crucial skills that they will be expected to learn in early recovery.
  • If the individual does not have the tools to help them to relax, it will mean that they will be very hard to be around in recovery. Loved ones will have already suffered enough, and it is unfair for them to have to put up with continued chaos caused by the individual who is acting out because they are stressed.

Benefits of Being Able to Relax

The ability to relax is not just something that is required to help the individual survive in recovery. There will be many other improvements in the person’s life when they are able to unwind without turning to chemicals. Some of the most important benefits will include:

  • The individual will find it easier to sleep at night by being able to relax during the day. This can be particularly important for people in early recovery who will often have to deal with insomnia.
  • The ability to relax means that the individual will benefit from improved concentration levels. This means that they will be able to think more clearly and therefore make better decisions. It is common for people to complain of fuzzy thinking during the first few months of recovery, but relaxation techniques will help them clear this mental fog.
  • It can help reduce the person’s blood pressure, and this will reduce their risk of heart disease and other similar problems.
  • Many diseases are stress related so by learning to relax the individual will be reducing their chances of developing these conditions.
  • It will mean that the person will have less of an urge to turn to maladaptive behaviours such s comfort eating or workaholism. Many people who break away from addiction will end up falling into a new maladaptive behaviour in an attempt to deal with stress. Once the individual has healthy ways for dealing with stress they will have far less of an urge to turn to these negative coping mechanisms.
  • It will mean that the person will be far more confident when it comes to dealing with the challenges of life. The individual knows that they are able to cope with things, so they can face the future without fear.
  • It will mean that that the person has far less anxiety in their life. This is good because anxiety is another reason for why people turn to alcohol and drugs.
  • There are many physical conditions where the symptoms will improve once the person is able to reduce their stress levels. This would include conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, panic attacks, diabetes, and headaches.
  • The individual is likely to feel far less anger and frustration in life. These negative emotions are more likely to arise when people feel unable to cope.
  • The person will be much easier to live with if they can manage their stress levels. This is important because loved ones will already have suffered enough.
  • The individual will just feel so much better about life. They can enjoy this inner sense of calm not matter what is going on in their life.
  • Learning to manage stress is one of the keys to developing emotional sobriety.

Relaxation Techniques in Recovery

A number of proven relaxation techniques have been shown to help people deal with stress more effectively, including:

  • Simple breathing exercises can be great for helping people relax. These are easy to learn, and they are something that people can do anywhere – even while standing on crowded public transport. Most rehabs will teach some simple breathing exercises, but there are also instructions to be found online – there are even smart phone and tablet apps that people can use.
  • Meditation is a very effective tool for helping people cope with stress. There are many different versions of this relaxation, but the one that can be most effective for people in recovery is mindfulness.
  • Tai Chi is a type of moving meditation that can also help with physical fitness – it can even be used as a martial art. Many people in early recovery complain that they do not have enough concentration to be able to do regular meditation so Tai Chi can be a good alternative.
  • Going for a long walk is another important great way to relax. This is a great option because this is something that people can already do. Going for walks will also help the keep the person physically fit.
  • Strenuous exercise can also be very good for helping people to relax. One of the reasons for why people choose this activity is that they feel so good afterwards. It is not recommended that people engage in strenuous activity close to bedtime though as this can cause insomnia. The individual also needs to be careful that they do not become so obsessed with exercise that it becomes a new addiction.

Yoga is very popular these days, and this is another great technique for helping people to relax. This activity will also increase flexibility and general health.

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