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Teens Ask: How Can I De-stress Without Alcohol or Drugs?

Young teen girl relaxing on the floor.

Some adults yearn for their younger days when they were teenagers and had more energy, fewer responsibilities, and an ever-present carefree attitude. Perhaps these people have forgotten the stress that they dealt with as adolescents on a daily basis.

As a modern teen, you face even more pressure and anxiety than any generation that came before you. With ever-present social media, vicious cyberbullying, and overscheduled lives, it is imperative that you find ways of handling stress without drugs or alcohol.

Some common approaches that many teens take toward alleviating stress include surfing the web, browsing social media, watching TV, or playing video games. While those activities might offer a bit of release, they do very little to unclutter your mind or relax your body.

Instead, you should experiment with more tried-and-true relaxation techniques, such as:

  1. Deep breathing. When you breathe deeply, you increase the intake of oxygen and the flow of blood through your body as you guide it into a more relaxed state. Simply taking ten to twenty deep, “belly-rising” breaths can literally improve your immediate mental health.
  2. Visualization. This simply involves closing your eyes and visualizing a peaceful or happy scene (like a sunlit meadow or the beach you visited as a child). Calling to mind all of the senses related to this scene helps to heighten the experience and relax you even more.
  3. Progressive muscle relaxation. Relaxing one area of the body at a time is perhaps the most direct approach. While sitting or lying down, tense one muscle group for ten seconds and then focus on the release of the tension. Start from the feet and move up toward the head and face.
  4. Meditation. It may sound “new agey” to some, but meditation has been a mind/body relaxation staple of many cultures for thousands of years. Just sit in a quiet place, concentrate on your breathing or a single external point (like a candle’s flame), and maintain your focus for as long as you can without letting stressful thoughts invade your mind.
  5. Yoga. This activity is frequently used in rehab facilities to help people with substance use disorders reduce their stress levels and become more attuned to their body and mind. There are plenty of types of yoga classes available or you can search online for virtual yoga instructors.
  6. Exercising. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive. However, low to moderate impact exercise activities like running, walking, swimming, rowing, or tai chi helps push stress out of your body – especially if you can relax your mind while doing the exercise.

Young teenage boy playing tennis.

Other less structured activities which can also help teens de-stress include:

  • Spending time outdoors (especially if you have been cooped up inside all day)
  • Laughter (watching a funny TV show or online video)
  • Art (like painting, drawing, or sculpting)
  • Listening to music (something soft or slow)
  • Aromatherapy (like lighting a scented candle)
  • Interacting with friends (either face-to-face or on the phone rather than texting)
  • Having “me time” (to do something you enjoy like reading, dancing, singing, or watching a movie)

Figuring out ways to de-stress and lower your anxiety levels will help you avoid teen substance misuse. More importantly, it will build good habits for when you become an adult – when you will need these relaxation techniques even more!

If you have been trying to handle your stress by misusing drugs or alcohol and you are concerned that you might have a substance use disorder, contact us today.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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