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April 23, 2021

How to Manage Stress Without Drinking or Using Drugs

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, and sometimes, it can be beneficial. However, chronic stress can take its toll on your health in various ways, including problems like high blood pressure and insomnia. Many people reach for drugs or alcohol as an outlet for their stress or anxiety, but these substances can cause an entirely new set of difficulties.

As we continue observing Stress Awareness Month this April, learn why we experience stress and explore healthy ways to manage it without relying on alcohol or drugs.

What Is Stress?

Humans’ natural fight-or-flight response evolved to protect our ancestors from threats, but in the modern world, it can also cause people to overreact to non-life-threatening circumstances like a job interview. Symptoms like tense muscles and a racing heartbeat can arise nearly instantaneously when you encounter any perceived danger, which explains why you might react in an emergency even before you’ve mentally processed the circumstances at hand.

While the fight-or-flight response happens automatically, that doesn’t mean that it is always a legitimate reaction. Phobias are excellent examples of how people might feel terrified in the presence of a perceived danger. For example, someone with an irrational fear of heights might dread the thought of driving across a bridge or going to an appointment in a multi-story skyscraper. The idea of climbing stairs or a ladder could send them into high alert, with their heart rate and breathing increasing rapidly. 

In extreme circumstances, stress can spiral out of control into an anxiety attack. Becoming more attuned to your body’s stress response, recognizing when it is going into panic mode and making a conscious effort to relax and slow down is one way to manage stress without drinking or using drugs. Here are some other natural strategies you can try.

1. Exercise

Regular exercise is an excellent way to combat stress. While it may seem counterintuitive, physically challenging your body can relieve mental pressure. Consistent exercise will reduce your body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol, over time. It also releases endorphins, chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers. For extra mental health benefits, try an exercise that lends itself to outdoor fitness, like jogging, hiking or kayaking.

2. Aromatherapy

There’s a close link between scents and emotions, which might partially explain why specific odors may help manage stress without drinking. You may have seen ads touting aromatherapy as a cure for almost everything and wondered if it was worth trying for yourself. While aromatherapy isn’t the miraculous panacea some people claim, it can be a useful tool for stress relief, especially when combined with other relaxing practices like massage or meditation. 

Aromatherapy also has few, if any, known adverse side effects, and you can easily light a candle or turn on an essential oil diffuser to fill your room with a pleasant scent while you work, read or watch TV. While various smells bring about different effects in people, some stress-relieving scents you can try include:

  • Lavender
  • Jasmine
  • Chamomile
  • Clary sage
  • Bergamot

3. Journaling

Journaling is another drug-free remedy for stress and anxiety. Writing down your worries can help you pinpoint their root causes and identify any people or situations that make you feel tense or unhappy. Conversely, you could also use your journal to write notes about things you feel grateful for. This practice can make you happier by encouraging you to focus on the positive aspects of your life.

We Can Help You Today

If you are increasingly relying on alcohol or drugs as a stress relief mechanism, you may be at risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. Trying to overcome an addiction on your own can be highly dangerous. At Beach House, we have worked hard to create one of the nation’s best drug and alcohol treatment facilities. To learn more about our amenities and industry-leading client-to-therapist ratio, contact us today.