“Addiction isn’t about substance – you aren’t addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.” – Susan Cheever
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Cher Zavala.
Everyone struggles to control their own emotions from time to time. But for many recovering addicts, struggling with emotional self-control is more than just an occasional hardship — it’s a daily occurrence. That’s because emotional self-regulation, the ability to control one’s own emotions, is a skill many addicts just don’t have.
Many adults who struggle with substance abuse disorders didn’t receive guidance from their parents on how to control their emotions when they were children. As a result, they grow up struggling with emotionally immaturity. Often, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction grow out of a misguided attempt among individuals to control their own feelings.
The best rehab programs seek to teach recovering addicts how to control their emotions, tolerate frustration, delay gratification, resist impulses, and other emotional recovery skills. But emotional self-regulation is something recovering addicts need to keep working on after they leave rehab, by building and strengthening emotional intelligence and self-control.
There’s a reason why Buddhist monks always seem so calm and composed. It’s because meditation actually strengthens your ability to control behavior and regulate emotions.
Research shows that just 20 minutes a day of meditation can mitigate negative emotions like anger, stress, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness techniques, which involve paying attention to the breath, physical sensations, or emotions, are among the easiest meditation techniques to learn and practice.
To learn more about meditation, refer to this article titled 50 Best Meditation Books of All Time.
All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realizing you already are what you are looking for.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
2. Take Care of Yourself
You would be surprised how much easier it is to control your emotions when your physical and emotional needs are being met. On the other hand, it’s much harder to control yourself when you’re sleep-deprived, hungry, lonely, bored, or otherwise in need.
Get plenty of sleep every night, and eat regular nutritious meals. Nurture your relationships with friends and romantic partners. Get active in your community. Do stimulating, fulfilling work that gives you a sense of achievement. Make time for fun. By spending time at a women’s rehab in California, or elsewhere, you can discover ways to enjoy life without using substances.
3. Remember the Bigger Picture
When you’re in the grip of a strong emotion, it can feel like the most important thing in the world. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that emotions are fleeting. When you feel overwhelmed by a strong emotion, try to think about whether you’ll still feel that way in a day, week, month, or even a few minutes.
When you remember that your emotions are brief, no matter how powerful, you’ll be less likely to do something rash that could have permanent consequences.
Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.” – Joel Osteen
4. Practice Relaxation Exercises
Eliciting the relaxation response can help you cope with ongoing stress and bring balance to your emotional life. Relaxation can lower your blood pressure, reduce fatigue and anger, boost your confidence, and improve your overall mood.
When combined with eating right, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, spending time with loved ones, and other positive coping mechanisms, relaxation can go a long way toward helping you regulate your own moods. There are a number of helpful relaxation exercises you can use to elicit the relaxation response, including yoga, tai chi, and massage. Try some different relaxation techniques to find the one that works best for you.
5. Find out How Others Control Their Emotions
You can learn a lot about how to control your emotions by talking to other people you know who seem to have better emotional skills than you. Many people struggle as adults to learn emotional self-control, so don’t be embarrassed to ask friends, teachers, trusted coworkers, your sponsor, or your peers in recovery how they deal with disappointment, anger, frustration, or anxiety.
You can get tips about how to control nervousness when giving a presentation at work or how to keep your cool when arguing with your spouse. As long as you get advice from the right people — people who you trust and are good at controlling their own emotions — you can learn emotional self-control strategies that could put you on the track to permanently changing your personality.
As you learn to live life free from the emotionally numbing effects of alcohol and drugs, you’ll need to start developing the skills necessary to tolerate frustration, cultivate patience, rein in your impulses, and control your emotional responses. Learning about psychotherapy is a great way to gain additional support, and help you create the long-term stability and sobriety you desire.