People in recovery from drugs, alcohol or other addictions, are fighting a daily battle. Recovery is a long and treacherous road that is tough on even the easiest of days. So when a traumatic or stressful event happens, addictive behaviors are tempting and are much more likely to resurface. It takes a lot of intention and hard work to find other means of coping. Having a list of coping skills on hand can be a good resource, especially during times of high stress. If you need help creating a coping skills list, try beginning with these three strategies:
1. Find a creative outlet
Journaling and writing, painting and drawing, music and dance are all indirect forms of expression. When you’re stressed or dealing with trauma, you have a lot that’s pent-up inside. Sometimes it can be hard to verbally express exactly how you’re feeling. A creative outlet can be a great alternative to talk therapy when you’re unable or unwilling to directly express your feelings. Sometimes you don’t even know exactly how you’re feeling, and a creative outlet can help you figure it out.
Creative outlets are important because even if you’re not necessarily speaking your emotions, you’re still allowing yourself to feel them. Drugs, alcohol and other addictive substances all shut down your feelings, which will only cause them to resurface even bigger the next time. By dealing with your stressors when they arise, you can tackle your problems one at a time before they blow up and come at you in full force.
2. Search for control
Many people turn to drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviors because they’re searching for a source of control. When you feel like you can’t control what’s going on around you, externally, you find ways to control yourself, internally. Ironically, however, in your search for control, you end up becoming controlled by the substance instead.
It can be helpful to find positive things that you actually do have control over. Make a to-do list for your day, clean your house, do your chores etc., or complete that one project that you’ve been putting off. You can’t control what happens to you but you can control your response. Get in tune with yourself after a stressful or traumatic experience. Figure out where your emotions are coming from and how to best handle them. Don’t judge yourself for what you’re feeling, but allow yourself to feel your raw emotions without using negative ways to cope with them.
3. Do things that you enjoy
Make a list of your favorite activities and turn to those rather than drugs next time you’re in a stressful situation. It’s easier said than done, but in the long run, you’ll be grateful that you found healthier ways of coping. It’s important to remember that your addiction served a purpose, and to an extent, it worked. It helped you numb your feelings and ignore your problems. Because of this, you’ll need an excessive amount of distractive opportunities. Keeping a long list on hand at all times is vital to the success of positive coping.
Exercise is also a great way to boost your endorphins and put yourself in a mentally healthier space. Often times, however, working out can feel like a chore. Find physical activities that you enjoy participating in. Go on a hike and soak up some vitamin D, practice yoga and regain some inner peace, take an exercise class and surround yourself with other people.
Overcoming an addiction may be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do, but it’s so worth it in the long run.