The Importance of Healthy Coping Skills
Knowledge really is power. Putting your brain to work for you instead of against you will help you solidify your recovery from substance abuse. Fortunately, although the journey away from alcohol or drugs is difficult, it isn’t impossible. With the right information and coping skills, you can become your own best ally in the fight against addiction. This article suggests three practical ways to do just that: treating HALTS stressors as points on a scorecard, meeting basic self-care needs, and keeping in touch with your support network. Following all these steps can fuel your optimism and help your recovery be a lasting one.
Recovering from substance abuse isn’t always easy; making the daily decision to ignore that glass or pill can be very difficult. But as you journey away from drug or alcohol addiction, recognize that you have something no one else has—your knowledge of yourself. Below are three ways to solidify your recovery through self-knowledge and healthy coping skills.
1. Monitor your answers to the HALTS questions
Ask yourself throughout the day whether you’re hungry, angry, lonely, tired, sick, or scared. If you answer “yes” to even one of these questions, it’s official—you’re under stress. In other words, each HALTS factor is a stressor. And every “yes” answer must be addressed so that you don’t jeopardize your recovery by falling back on problem behaviors.
Think of the HALTS questions as both a scorecard and a tool for self-reflection. Tallying your responses might seem simple, but the reality behind them is more complex. If you’re hungry, chances are that you’re also thirsty, which means that you’re under twice as much stress as you thought you were (and because you’re thirsty, you’ll probably want a drink). Then, if being hungry makes you angry and thirsty—which is not an uncommon reaction—you’re three times as stressed as you thought. Assuming you eat three meals a day, multiply the pre-meal level of stress by three.
Remember to include work-related frustration for good measure. Throw in tiredness at the end of the day, plus loneliness if you want to be in a long-term relationship but aren’t. The escalating figures on your HALTS scorecard reveal just how much stress you’re under. To sustain your recovery, you must dial back on the stressors that contribute to substance abuse.
“How?” you might ask. “I’m under this much stress every day!”
That’s where self-care and coping skills come in.
2. Practice self-care techniques
Start with the basics when developing coping skills. Choose healthful foods and beverages and be sure to drink plenty of water. Eat and sleep at regular intervals if you can. Do you struggle with insomnia? Consider purchasing blackout curtains to help you sleep, especially if you’re working a swing or night shift. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. You don’t have to go to the gym to do it; even a moderate amount of walking each day will help burn off ambient stress.
Also, take five or ten minutes every day to reduce distractions by centering yourself. Centering doesn’t need to be spiritual or involve lengthy preparation time; it can be as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing for a few moments—or in a pinch, just counting to ten. Part of becoming more self-aware is discovering what rejuvenates you. A healthier body and mind will translate into a less stressed you, affording you more energy and optimism to fuel your recovery.
3. Keep in touch with your support network
Make connecting with people who share your journey a high priority. Building a circle of support is arguably one of the most important coping skills. Start by joining Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar support group that focuses on constructive coping skills and helps you heal your brain from the long-term effects of alcohol or drugs. Expand your supporters beyond your sponsor and your colleagues in the group; also include your significant other, if you have one, as well as sympathetic family members and friends. The more people hold you accountable for staying sober, the greater your sense of self-discipline and confidence. When it comes to maintaining your recovery, inspiration, self-reflection, and positive reinforcement are valuable commodities, as is the willingness to give and receive compassionate mentorship. For more information about how a support network is an important part of the recovery process, see the source article at the About.com website.
Takeaways: The Value of Coping Skills
The takeaways? Look inside yourself to recognize which HALTS factors are affecting you. Practice basic self-care techniques to reduce your stress level before it endangers your sobriety. And reach out to others in your support network. Following these steps will strengthen your self-belief and aid in your recovery journey—because knowledge really is power.
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