Finding or creating new, healthy habits can be a challenge. While treatment may have helped you alter your thought patterns that were tied to your addictive behavior, you may continue to struggle with beneficial ways of coping. As we grow and develop throughout our recovery journey, we might find that some habits we have resorted to no longer work as well as they once did. When you find yourself worried about losing control, it might be a sign to create some new coping skills or healthy habits to help you prevent relapse and set you straight on your path to recovery.
Addiction often occurs through the repetition of a bad habit. Habits are any behaviors that you learn to do so often that they become conditioned in your body and mind. Many of us have experienced the formation of our own habits without even realizing it. It is important to reflect on the habits that cause your mental or physical being damage or harm. With a constant reflection of habits, you can get a better idea of what behaviors need to be replaced and how to go about doing so.
There is a general rule of thumb when it comes to the formation of habits. There is a three-stage process, including cue, routine, and reward:
- Cue – the trigger that initiates a habitual behavior
- Routine – the act of a habitual behavior
- Reward – the benefit you receive from doing a behavior
It is important to note that the reward stage of habitual formation can also be understood as the general effect of a behavior. This means that reward also entails consequence. When the consequences of a behavior outweigh the pleasure or gain, it is likely to be considered an unhealthy habit. Ideally, we want to create healthy coping skills that develop into routine habits.
How to Develop Healthy Coping Habits
Step 1: Recognize Unhealthy Habits
As mentioned before, it is crucial that you acknowledge what forms of coping and other habits you are engaging in that are causing harm to your recovery. When we are trying to break unhealthy habits in addiction, we may often find replacement habits for our substance use. Examples of this might include overindulging in eating, shopping, gambling, or nail-biting to ease anxiety. Addiction and codependency also often go hand in hand. Another unhealthy habit may be entering into a romantic relationship as a way to replace being dependent on a substance with being dependent on a person. Even if you are not struggling with habits that relate to your addictive behaviors, you may find yourself resorting back to toxic friends or visiting toxic environments. Your unhealthy habits will be subjective to you, so it is important that you consider all of your normal habits and reactions and weigh out consequences vs. rewards.
Step 2: Recognize What Situations Bring About Coping Behaviors
The next step is to address what environments or situations trigger you to engage in acts of coping. In other words, you need to identify what circumstances bring you feelings of stress and anxiety or trigger you to need to cope. It is important to acknowledge any co-occurring illnesses or diagnoses when you consider this. For example, if you struggle with social anxiety, you may need to develop coping behaviors specific to your diagnosis and the severity of your anxiety. You may feel triggered during family gatherings or anywhere there is alcohol present. It is crucial that you sit yourself down and recognize these situations, so you will have a better idea of how to respond or heal from them.
Step 3: Consider Your Coping Options
The great thing about developing new coping skills or habits is that there are endless opportunities to find habits that will work for your specific situation. Once you identify your triggers, you can assess what situations you can avoid altogether. This does not have to be understood as running away from your problems. Instead, this is prioritizing your health and wellbeing and being able to say no. For the environments that are not easily avoided in your life, try to reflect on what healthy habits bring you peace or joy – even temporarily. For example, you may not know how to respond when you get frustrated at work. You might consider taking a walk around your building, taking a few deep breaths at your desk, or playing your favorite music to calm you down. If you find yourself in an environment where drugs and alcohol are being used, you may want to set limits for yourself of how long you should be in that environment or find an alternative, non-alcoholic drink that brings you joy. When it comes to developing healthy coping habits, you are your biggest limit. Here are some suggestions on healthy coping skills:
- Picking up an educational self-help book
- Creating a to-do list
- Asking for help from a professional or friend
- Establishing healthier boundaries
- Finding a healthy release of emotions
- Mindful breathing
- Engaging in relaxation techniques
- Altering your environment
- Reflecting on your past experiences
- Challenging negative self-talk
- Finding a new and exciting hobby
Step 4: Resort to Your New Habit When Triggering Circumstances Arise
When you were engaging in your addictive behaviors with a substance, you may have resorted to using whenever you felt stressed or anxious. When you feel stressed or anxious now, do not give yourself an option to turn to your old substance. Instead, find a coping skill that is enjoyable and turn to it as your only option. Over time, this coping response will become your new healthy habit. As you grow and evolve, your coping skills must, too!
It is necessary to revisit your chosen forms of coping consistently throughout your recovery journey. As you develop, you must engage in healthier habits that motivate your wellbeing and recovery likewise. Even well into recovery, you may find yourself struggling with losing control or replacing addictive behaviors with harmful habits. Through constant reflection of habits, triggers, and coping, you can begin to identify what coping responses work for you. Over time, you should find that your coping behaviors turn into automatic habitual responses, which will further you on your journey to long-term sobriety. Renaissance Ranch understands the importance of building functional and enjoyable healthy habits. Stress and anxiety are inevitable, so we must find beneficial ways of coping to keep a sound recovery. We offer inpatient and outpatient resources and treatment to any men looking for guidance in their recovery journey. Give us a call today at (801) 308-8898 to learn more about how we can help.