Rehab 4 Addiction

If you have got used to drinking alcohol to help you relax, it can be hard to adjust to a sober life. Coming home from work, you may feel yourself pining for an ice-cold beer or a glass of red wine.

But relaxing without alcohol is perfectly possible – in fact, you may even be able to relax more using these techniques.

Before we go through our top tips for relaxing without alcohol, let’s briefly take a look at why alcohol is good at making people feel relaxed, and why it might also have the opposite effect.

Alcohol is mainly a depressant, which means that it slows the body down. However, it also has some stimulant effects. Thus, when you first have a drink, your heart rate may go up, and you may feel happy as your body begins to produce dopamine.

The more you drink, the more alcohol starts to act as a depressant, slowing down your nervous system, heart rate and thinking speed. This is the desired effect if you are drinking alcohol in order to relax.

There are some problems with using alcohol to help you relax. Here are some of the main ones.

  • Alcohol makes some people aggressive. In fact, according to the WHO (World Health Organisation), alcohol consumption is ‘associated with aggressive behaviour more closely than the use of any other psychotropic substance.’ [1] If alcohol has this effect on you, then it is unlikely to be a good aid to relaxation.
  • You may find it difficult to stop after one or two drinks. If you have issues with alcohol dependency, then having one or two drinks to relax may be a bad idea. A few drinks can turn into a binge before you know it.
  • ‘Hangxiety’. Drinking leads to dehydration and hangovers. While it may help you unwind in the short-term, the next day will be more difficult – and soon you find yourself stuck in a cycle of drinking.
  • Drinking and mental health. If you suffer from mental health issues, drinking can exacerbate them. Depression, in particular, is made worse by drinking. [2]

So, if you are in recovery, or you are simply looking for a better way to help you relax than alcohol, read on for some of our advice. We can’t claim that all of these techniques will work for you, but you may find something that helps.

1. Drink something non-alcoholic

Instead of drinking a beer, why not try something refreshing that isn’t alcoholic?

If you struggle with alcohol addiction, drinking a non-alcoholic beer can be risky, as it may act as a trigger. However, there are plenty of other refreshing drinks you could try.

Next time you go to the shop, pick something up which you haven’t tried before, like a decaf tea, or a fruit smoothie. It’s important that whatever you drink feels like a reward, so consider spending a little bit more to get something that looks delicious.

2. Do some yoga

Yoga is a great way to relax, since it stretches out your muscles and gets the blood flowing. Being in recovery can be stressful, and stress can make your muscles tight and sore. Yoga counteracts this perfectly.

If you want to get into yoga, but haven’t tried it before, and don’t fancy going to a yoga class, then there are loads of great yoga tutorials on YouTube.

However, a yoga class is also a great option since it forces you to attend a bit more regularly.

3. Read a book

Reading is one of life’s more intellectual pleasures. It provides all the escapism of watching TV, but you have to work a little bit harder for it. That is what makes it so rewarding.

It can also put people off – but once you get past that initial hurdle, you’ll find that reading really helps you unwind.

Don’t feel like you have to read the classics: there are plenty of thrillers and rom-coms out there in the literary world for those who like a quicker pace of book.

4. Meditate

If you have been to alcohol rehab, you may have practised meditation in an alternative therapy session. If not, don’t worry: it’s easy to pick up (although difficult to master). Simply find a quiet place, close your eyes, focus on your breathing and relax.

Try to notice your thoughts as they go past. Become a detached observer of your own consciousness. You’ll find that even after a short meditation session, you feel much more chilled.

Mindfulness (which is a kind of meditation) can also help with cravings. Read more about that here.

5. Go for a run or a swim.

If yoga isn’t your cup of tea, and you need something that really gets the heart pumping and the endorphins flowing, try going for a run or a swim.

The actual experience of exercise is seldom relaxing (unless you’re an athlete!) but the feeling you get afterward is a deeper form of relaxation than many other techniques can achieve. There is nothing like the calm, worn-out sensation that you get when jumping in the shower after exercising.

What’s more, there is a proven link between exercise and addiction recovery. Find out more about it here.

6. Do a puzzle

Whether it’s a jigsaw, a crossword or a Rubik’s cube, puzzles can have a very relaxing effect on the mind. When you focus really hard on something, it distracts you from anxious thoughts, cravings and feelings of depression.

You enter a zone of total concentration, in which all your worries and troubles recede into the distance. Try it: many find that the methodical approach required to do a jigsaw really calms them down after a long day.

7. Do something creative

You don’t have to be talented to do something creative. Paint a picture, write a story, make up a song. No one is going to laugh at you if it isn’t very good.

What’s more, you may find that engaging the creative side of your brain – as opposed to simply watching TV, or doing some other mindless activity – helps you reach a higher plane of relaxation.

Art therapy has been shown to have some positive effects on people in recovery. [3] So it stands to reason that it may be helpful for people outside of a therapeutic context, too.

8. Plan ahead.

This isn’t a tool you can use to help you relax right now, but it is a useful tool to avoid future stress.

When you are in recovery, certain situations – especially social situations – can be stressful. An event where people are drinking alcohol, for instance, has the potential to be much more stressful when you have gone through alcohol detox treatment.

So one thing you can to avoid anxiety in the future is plan ahead for these high-risk situations. Come up with an escape plan, in case you need to make a hasty exit.

Rehearse what to say if someone offers you a drink. These things may seem silly, but they are really useful techniques for dealing with difficult situations when you are in recovery.

Also, if you are going to be alone for an evening (e.g. your partner has a social engagement) then plan how you are going to keep yourself busy. Boredom can be the enemy of sobriety.

Final thoughts

We hope you have found something useful in this article to help you relax. Again, we must stress that everyone had their own relaxation techniques, so ours may not work for you. But we recommend giving them a try.







Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.