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How to Relax without Drugs or Alcohol

Early in recovery, people often feel tense and agitated. For years they may have relied on drugs or alcohol to help them unwind or fall asleep. It’s hard to feel good about life in recovery if you always feel tense, especially if you have trouble sleeping. That tension will gradually subside on its own as your brain chemistry rebalances. In the meantime, there are some ways to relax that don’t involve drugs and alcohol.

Spend time with friends and family. Make it a point to regularly spend time with the people who support your recovery. Spending time with people we like naturally lowers stress and gives us opportunities to laugh and commiserate. Even if you don’t feel like seeing anyone–or particularly if you don’t feel like seeing anyone–you will feel better after spending an hour or two with a good friend.

Exercise. Fine, exercise isn’t relaxing, but you feel more relaxed after you finish. It can be a barrier between the stress of the day and the leisure of the evening. When you relax after a bit of strenuous exercise, you feel like you earned it, which makes it even more relaxing.

Drink some chamomile tea. This one is a bit of a cheat because technically it is a chemical compound that makes you feel relaxed, but it is mild and non-addictive. If you are a purist about these things–which would be perfectly understandable–you could go with something like hot water with lemon and honey. You still get a relaxing warm drink and the ritual of preparing it can help you shift into relaxation mode.

Watch something funny. Laughing is a great way to relax and feel better about life. It’s especially important for people early in recovery because it’s common to feel depressed for a while. Having a particular show or movie ready in case of a particularly bleak mood can be a literal life saver. In general, making a little time to regularly watch something funny can improve your outlook.

Take a hot bath or shower. It loosens up the muscles, clears your head, and gets the blood moving. Some smells, such as lavender are particularly relaxing. A hot bath or shower in the evening has also been shown to improve sleep.

Meditate. There are a lot of different ways to meditate. Most of them involve consciously relaxing while paying attention to what’s happening in your body and mind. With a little practice, not only will you be more relaxed during meditation, but you will be more aware of when you feel tense in daily life, which helps you manage stress better.

Have a routine. Whatever you do to relax, make a routine out of it. Doing something regularly lets your body know, “Ok, now it’s time to relax,” or “now it’s time for bed.” Don’t keep going at 100 miles per hour then drop into bed and expect to get any sort of rest. Give yourself some reliable signals that it’s time to chill out.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.