"Take time to breathe."

Stress and Drinking

Many people who have had a bad experience when drinking say that a crisis pushed them into getting drunk. Stress during crisis may cause such discomfort that getting drunk seems like the perfect answer.

Substances such as nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs do not really ease stress, but one of the strongest links for many people has been to reach for their drug of choice during times of stress. It can be a hard association to break. It’s not too surprising, then, that when some kind of difficult event comes up, you think of getting drunk.

This exercise, called “taking a breather,” is a good way to slow you down long enough to relax a little and pull yourself together. In many ways, it does just what any substance would do; it cuts off the stressful event, gives a pause, and most importantly, lets you calm down. It’s an exercise that makes use of deep breathing, much like the relaxing, euphoric effect you get from the deep inhaling of smoking a cigarette, having a drink, or getting high.

Get comfortable. If you have to, take a moment to get ready. Let yourself relax by going limp. Inhale slowly and deeply. When you’ve taken as much air into your lungs as you can, stop, pause for a moment, and then breathe all of the air out slowly. At the end of the breathing-out cycle, give an extra push to remove the last bit of air. Repeat the exercise five times. This should not be hard, fast breathing; instead, it should be slow, deep, relaxed breathing. Try to practice this exercise a few times a day.