Four Healthy Ways to Unwind

Four Healthy Ways to Unwind

Harvard Medical School says that aerobic exercise is the key for your head, not just your heart, and it is one of the most productive ways to unwind

For many people, drugs and alcohol are unhealthy tools to help them relax and unwind. Stress, anxiety, tension and other pressures in life can build up, and taking a depressant drug like Xanax might be an attempt to self-medicate. Genetic vulnerability plays a major role in addiction, and environmental factors like stress and tension can exploit hereditary issues and motivate substance abuse. Professional rehabilitation is the most effective way to treat addiction, and during the recovery, various internal and external cues pose a risk of triggering substance cravings. For people who took drugs or alcohol to relax, feeling tense and unwound are often primary cues. To strengthen the recovery, it is important to eliminate negative influences that produce stress and anxiety and take proactive steps to find healthy ways to unwind. The following are four examples of healthy stress reducers that many recovering addicts find effective.

  1. Physical Fitness and Exercise

In 2011, Harvard Medical School said that aerobic exercise is the key for your head, not just your heart, and it is one of the most productive ways to unwind. Exercise provides numerous benefits, including the following:

  • Reduces the levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol
  • Helps shift focus away from stressful events and increase concentration
  • Creates physical changes that can improve self-image and confidence
  • Increases the production of the body’s natural mood lifters, i.e., endorphins

Exercise exhilarates and relaxes people at the same time, and it has the potential to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Moreover, WebMD explained in 2014 that endorphins act on the same neural pathways as painkillers and other addictive drugs, and increasing the natural production of the neurotransmitter can help accelerate neurobiological healing and recoveries.

  1. Positive Social Interactions

Social support networks are essential cornerstones to lasting recoveries, and positive social interactions can help elevate moods and release tension. If feeling wound up, reach out to your recovery sponsor or a recovery partner, or seek out a support group activity with other sober-minded individuals. Some people might even wish to develop social activities, which might include the following:

  • Host sober gatherings with friends, family members and recovery partners
  • Spend more time sharing with loved ones and supporting their positive activities
  • Create healthy, sober events like hikes, runs, yoga and sports

If creating a group event, remember that the goal is to relieve stress and not create more of it. Make the activity simple and fun without heavy responsibilities. Likewise, make sure the social interaction stays positive. If conversations turn pessimistic, negative or angry, change the tone or seek a new setting or interaction.

Though it is a different type of social interaction, recovering addicts can also unwind with ongoing therapies. This is especially helpful when the person also has mood issues like anxiety, panic attacks or mania. Staying connected with a therapist can provide regular sessions to vent frustrations and fine-tune recovery tools.

  1. Expressive Arts

In 1986, The Arts in Psychotherapy journal touted the benefits of expressive art therapies, a modality in which therapists use music, writing, painting and other art forms in strategic ways to affect healing and recovery. Expressive art has the potential to be a healing tool even outside therapeutic modalities, and it can be an excellent way to unwind. For example, a 2003 American Journal of Public Health study found that drum circles help release emotional trauma, while a 2012 Journal of Affective Disorders study said expressive writing can significantly reduce the symptoms of mood disorders.

Individuals can pursue expressive arts in various ways, including the following:

  • Paint or draw images that reflect the recovery or positive experiences in life
  • Write a narrative about overcoming struggles based on your life
  • Write songs and music about the recovery experience and life in general
  • Experience the connectedness of group dance, drum circles or bands

In a group format, expressive arts can also build positive social bonds, but early in recoveries, it helps to do group activities with other sober individuals. In a mixed crowd, it can be difficult for sober individuals to resist a continuation of the bonding experience at a bar or club.

  1. Pursue Positive Hobbies

Finding new hobbies is important for all recoveries, and it provides a healthy outlet for stress relief. Exercise, social gatherings and expressive arts all qualify as positive hobbies, but the term can include several other activities, including the following:

  • Horse riding and other equine interactions
  • Adventure sports like rafting, biking or surfing
  • A recovery blog with personal tips and experiences
  • Cooking lessons that focus on healthier dishes
  • Holistic pursuits like Tai Chi, acupressure and acupuncture

Hobbies can both reduce stress and improve mood, but the activity should not be one that creates unhealthy competitive tension or disappointment early in recoveries.

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