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Ten Ways to Cope That Don’t Involve Substances

Negative emotions and substance use are often tightly intertwined. Alcohol in particular occupies a unique role in American culture as an acceptable form of recklessness. It’s not uncommon for many people to start a lifelong relationship with stress by turning to drink or drug use to cope with bad news or quell negative feelings. As a person in recovery, it’s important to grow away from the “screw it, I’ll just get drunk” mentality and discover alternative forms of emotional outlets. Here are ten approaches you can use to begin finding effective tools to cope with destructive thoughts:

1. Try to See Yourself From a Bird’s-Eye View 

In moments of stress, try to look at the situation from an objective perspective and visualize how the version of you that you want to be would act in this situation. This approach is along the lines of methods used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It can be useful for helping you to step outside of destructive emotions that you’re experiencing at the moment and make decisions from a place of stability and cognizance of your future.

2. Work It Off

Running, swimming, working out–however you choose to get your blood pumping, exercise can be a rapid method of dissolving negative feelings. Aggressive physical activity can help you positively work through destructive emotions, making you feel as though you’re acknowledging them and releasing them without harming your long-term wellbeing. Plus, you’ll get into better shape!

3. Plan Your Future

If you’re in a truly trying circumstance, plan ahead to see what you can do to avoid ever being in the same position again. You can’t control everything, but you can control your own actions. Setting goals or rules for your future can help you feel in control and set a course for different outcomes later on.

4. Reach Out to Your Support System

Sometimes all it takes is sharing your problems with somebody you trust to gain a fresh perspective and smooth the sharp edges of a difficult situation. Whether it’s your friends, family, or peers in sobriety, don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s something you need to get off your chest.

5. Indulge Safely

Just because you aren’t going to drink or use substances doesn’t mean you can’t alleviate stress or other negative emotions by indulging (safely) in other things that you enjoy but might not usually allow yourself to have. If you ever have cravings for unhealthy foods, sleeping in later than you should, or spending all day engaged in a pleasurable but unproductive hobby, it’s still a better choice to allow yourself to partake in any of those than it is to allow yourself to drink or use.

6. Get a Change of Scenery

If you’re in the throes of a destructive mood and can’t seem to make headway, try taking a long walk or a drive. Placing yourself in a new environment can help your mind reset and give you the chance to feel some distance from your problems, which may allow you to consider new perspectives for solving them. It can also let you vent your frustrations without affecting the people around you back home or doing damage to your living space.

7. Express Yourself

Similar to exercise for the mind, you can harness the power of a negative emotional state to create art. Playing an instrument, composing a song, writing a poem or story, creating a painting or drawing, or any other form of self-expression can serve as a healthy outlet that allows you to channel your feelings constructively. Your creation can embody all the darkness or anger inside you without harming your wellbeing or your future. You may even find you enjoy creating something.

8. Meditate

In the heat of a destructive mood, meditating gives you the chance to clear your mind and approach your situation anew. There are different forms of meditation and mindfulness you can practice, so do some research when you’re already in a stable place and try a few methods to find one that works for you.

9. Do Something Completely Different

Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do for yourself is to surprise your brain out of an emotional rut. This is similar to the bird’s-eye approach, only reversed: think of what you’d normally do in this situation, then do the opposite. Most of our reactions are knee-jerk emotional responses built up out of habits; try building some new ones.

10. Reach Out to Professional Help

If these methods aren’t working to help you overcome negative emotions, reach out to professional support. Whether you receive guidance from your sponsor, healthcare professionals, or therapist, there are options available to you for moments of extreme challenge that you don’t want to handle alone.

It’s crucial to understand that recovery is a process with ups and downs, just like the rest of your life. No matter how well-prepared or confident you are in your support system, in the healthy habits you’ve gained, and in the outlets you’ve established, there may come the day that none of those things seem to be enough to keep the destructive urges at bay. When that day comes, don’t let your recovery wither on the vine. You haven’t tried everything. No matter where you are in your progress, there is effective help available to you. Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, provides personalized support for your unique circumstances to help you get back on your feet and live the life that you deserve. From coping methods to continued care, you don’t have to struggle with substance use or mental illness on your own any longer. Call (800) 643-2108 to learn more.

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