Summertime Stress Relief

Summertime is supposed to be fun. School is out, the pool is open and there is plenty of time to work in a road trip or a family vacation. While summer can certainly be fun, however, it can also be stressful. The everyday pressures of your professional life may not end, to say nothing of relationships, finances and health. In fact, summer can be about as stressful as any other point in the year.

The good news is summer is ideal for burning off that stress and for mitigating anxiety. There are plenty of ways to relieve stress during the summer. Here are just a few quick suggestions:

  • Meditate. Even ten minutes each day of stillness and quiet concentration can help lower your blood pressure, clear your mind, and remove your stress. Take some time in the morning to enjoy the outdoors, and sit and meditate somewhere in your back yard or another favorite outdoor spot.
  • Do some yoga, which is ideal for relieving tension and stress—both physical and emotional. Take a yoga class at your local YMCA, or—once again—head outside for some sunny, summertime stress relief!
  • Find a new outdoor hobby. If there are two things that always lower stress, they’re exercise and sunshine. So, take up walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or whatever else sounds appealing, and then stick with it!
  • Relax! There is something to be said for a day spent lounging poolside. Go by yourself, perhaps with a good book or some favorite music, and just pamper yourself for the day.

Stress relief is imperative for maintaining your emotional health—and your recovery. Find a stress management technique that works well for you, ideally one that gets you out in the sunshine, and invest yourself in it during these summer months.

[cta]How do you kill stress during the summer? Share your secrets![/cta]

Do You Have a Plan for Stress Management?

All of us experience stress from time to time—from work, from our relationships, or from something else entirely. While stress cannot always be avoided, it can be properly managed—ensuring that it does not have an adverse mental health impact.

In order to manage your stress effectively, it is smart to have a stress management plan in place—to be ready for it, and to know how you will respond before the stress even arises.

Do you have a stress management plan in place? If not, we recommend talking it over with your therapist or counselor. In the meantime, here are some basic suggestions that we would recommend.

  • Identify where some of your key stressors lie. As you go through your day-to-day and week-to-week activities, isolate the things that trigger the most stress, and make note of them.
  • Start each day on a positive note. Spend a few moments doing yoga or practicing mindfulness in some form. Actively practice gratitude, as well, saying aloud three things you are thankful for at the start of each day.
  • Stay organized. Keep a list of long-term goals and short-term to-dos, and use it as a guide during moments when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Avoid reacting to a stressful situation in the moment; instead, pause and be thoughtful in reaching a true solution.
  • Have a stress release activity you can turn to—physical exercise, journaling, singing, or some form of creative expression. Anything that helps you release physical muscle tension is especially useful!
  • Have a list of people you can talk to when things get overwhelming—people who will just listen.

Stress is going to happen—but you can be ready for it. It all starts with a plan.

Addiction is Not a Failure of Moral Will

So much stigma still exists surrounding addiction—and because so many of us are reluctant to speak openly about this topic, we also tend to harbor misconceptions and misunderstandings. Perhaps none are quite so serious—quite so dangerous—as the misconception that addiction is somehow a failure of moral will; that people who struggle with addictions have made bad, immoral decisions, and that is where their addiction stems from.

This is dangerous thinking: Those who struggle with addiction often deal with high levels of shame, as well. Telling them that they are moral failures can intensify that guilt, which becomes a sort of deadly cycle—making the struggle with addiction that much more severe.

Not only is it dangerous, but it simply is not true. Addiction is a disease; scientists who map the brain can identify visible, physical variations between the brain of someone who struggles with addiction and someone who does not. It is not a moral choice, but rather a physiological distinction.

To be more specific, addiction affects the dopamine receptors, located at the front of the brain, which allow all of us to exert self-control, to be measured in how we seek pleasure—but for those who have addiction, these receptors do not work the way they are supposed to. This explains why someone with addiction might be more vulnerable to compulsive or impulsive substance use.

You do not necessarily have to understand all of the science in order to have empathy for those struggling with drug addiction; all you really have to understand is that addiction is a struggle, not morally but physically, mentally. It is a disease. No one ever chooses addiction, though anyone can choose recovery. Even those with the physiological markings of addiction can seek treatment, and ultimately find freedom from this disease and its effects.

What to Look Forward to in Recovery

Let’s begin with a little bit of brutal honesty: Recovery can sometimes be difficult. Before you enter recovery, the prospect is daunting; once you’re in recovery, you’ll encounter new challenges each day. That can make some people dread the prospect of addiction recovery, yet in many ways that’s the wrong attitude to have: There are many good things you experience in recovery, and a number of things to look forward to.

What can you look forward to in recovery? Here are just a few items to consider.

Improved expenses. Addiction can take its toll on your financial health. You’ll find a lot more money in your wallet once you’re no longer spending it on drugs and alcohol, on cab rides or legal fees. With the money you save, you can actually start saving, or perhaps paying off debt. Recovery can work wonders for your financial well-being.

A clearer mind. Substance use can impair your cognitive functioning; in recovery, you may regain much of that functioning. You may notice clearer thinking, improved memory, and more. This can obviously improve your odds of success in your work as well as in your relationships.

New friendships. In recovery you will get to rebuild old relationships, but you will also make new friends through your recovery program and support group. The friendships forged in recovery can be powerful, and long-lasting.

Inspiring others. Once you get the the point where you can tell your story of recovery, you’ll be a great role model for others who are struggling with addiction.

Control. Last but not least, seeking recovery can help you reclaim control over your own life—control that you may have relinquished to addiction long ago.

In recovery, you will ultimately gain something you likely haven’t had for a good long time—and that’s optimism for your own future.