When it comes to handling chronic stress and sleeplessness, you have choices! Learn 7 alternatives to self-medication.
The past several years have challenged so many of us—we’re busy, chronically stressed, weary, and possibly grieving. We need ways to cope, and to reconnect with contentment.
As I speak with friends, scroll through social media, and talk with potential clients, I’m noticing a concerning trend. THE coping mechanism of choice appears to be self-medicating (or, flat out medicating).
Whether it’s marijuana, alcohol, sleeping pills, or prescription drugs, more people are turning to substances. I’m not a doctor or therapist, and I’m not discounting that in some cases, medication is appropriate.
I do take issue with how substances appear to be the preferred, and in some cases seemingly the “only” solution. And in many cases: they do not work!
Where’s our toolbox of other options? Potentially healthier choices?
My intention with this post is not to judge, but rather observe and provide some alternatives for you to consider.
An Example: 7 Alternatives to Self-Medication
I’ve been in some pretty dark places in my life, and I’ve learned a LOT of stress resilience tools. Still, what I’ve come to understand for myself is that it’s the simple, little things that get me through challenging times.
Here are 7 things I credit with helping me feel more content. I’m not prescribing these for you. However, it’s my hope that my list will inspire you to create your own.
- Be grateful. Yada yada, yada, I’d heard this one so many times (and dismissed it!) before. But when you lose electricity in the middle of a heat wave, you are definitely going to feel gratitude when that A/C kicks on again. Similarly, my 4+ mile “slogs” (slow-jogs) always remind me of 2015, where un-diagnosed chronic Lyme disease left me being unable to walk 1/4 mile without horrid pain. Feel that warm shower water? That cozy comforter on your bed? That brand of toilet paper you weren’t able to get at the start of the pandemic? Yeah, that’s the gratitude I’m talking about.
- Listen to music you can reminisce by. I find myself listening to Lithium on SiriusXM radio quite a bit. It reminds me of the 90s, when (in hindsight) I’d had some really fun times. It also feels like life was so much simpler then. Some days, you might see me walking the neighborhood belting out a Soundgarden tune. Yes, even those angsty, grungy songs make me smile!
- De-clutter, clean, organize. I’ll admit I’ve always been a bit of a “clean freak.” When we bought a house late in 2019, part of the “deal” was that we suspended our cleaning service. Cleaning was officially my responsibility. I won’t lie, it started out as a real chore. But during the height of the pandemic, I found that cleaning, organizing, and de-cluttering the space I was spending so much time in helped me feel focused and mentally uncluttered myself.
- Use your phone to spread goodness. Not a day goes by that I don’t pick up the phone and call—yes actually CALL—and talk to a friend or family member. Checking in on how they’re doing and letting them talk about how they’re managing their life through these times helps me feel useful. When that urge to commiserate on Twitter comes up and you automatically pick up your phone, choose to make more conscious connections instead.
- Savor a treat (but don’t over-indulge). Back when the plague first started, many items I used to enjoy became temporarily unavailable. (See also #1, above.) After some time, I was again able to obtain a particular brand and flavor of gelato I enjoy, as well as real coffee beans that make my machine go whirrrrrr at 6 am. Now when I eat that bowl of gelato or sip that coffee, boy, do I savor them like I might never have them again.
- Let your mind travel. I’ve been to 20 countries so far, and I hope to visit more in the future. While that may still be a few years off, I found a way to curb my wanderlust. It’s a site called Window-Swap. You can see out windows of people’s spaces all over the world, and even submit your own. Check it out here.
- Download supportive apps. If you know me, you know I’m not into quick fixes, nor am I into more technology. But recently I’ve come across 2 apps I think are potentially supportive. (I don’t receive any kick-backs for these mentions, BTW.)
The first is called Balance. I like this app because it has 5-15 minute meditations designed for specific goals: e.g. anxiety, energize, gratitude, sleep* etc. While I still prefer that people work 1-1 with a trained meditation teacher, the fact that this app is somewhat customized makes me feel OK about recommending it as a starting point.
The second is called Journify. This is a journaling app that can be useful to those who know that getting thoughts out of their head could clear the mental clutter, but are unlikely or unwilling to take pen to paper.
- Prioritize your sleep. I can’t be a Sleep & Well-Being Coach and NOT mention this. Here’s an example for me: I’m a huge hockey fan, and sometimes games don’t even begin until 8 pm. Guess when I’m in bed? By 10 pm. Every single night. Even though I have to catch up on the end of the game via DVR the next day. Even if it’s an incredibly interesting, intense, fun game. Even if everyone is Twittering about it. I’m in bed by 10 pm, period.
* While Balance has meditations specifically for Sleep, I still do not recommend having a phone by the bed. For most people, it’s distracting (& too tempting!) Rather, I’d suggest using the meditations for sleep and relaxation during the DAYTIME to help reset your natural rest rhythm.