Our brains are strong and resilient. It constantly builds brains cells throughout our lifetime. It may take time, but it can repair itself. It may not heal fully…but making active changes will cause the brain to adapt, change, and revamp itself.
You may be trying to find better ways to handle your emotions that don’t involve drugs or alcohol but aren’t sure where to start. That’s understandable as creating healthy habits may be just as difficult as ending bad ones. Motivation and sticking to a routine can become hard to establish and hard to stick with if results don’t occur as fast as you’d like, or even if you miss one day. But changing your habits is possible.
You can recover and have a better baseline than where you are. You had an inner strength before you used, and it is still there. You just need to find ways to love yourself and get to know yourself again. Once you heal your brain, you will be better able to heal yourself.
Ways to manage your emotions
Once you start, things will get better…. It was hard to start at first. Now it’s hard to turn around.
There are many ways you can manage your emotions. Some techniques may take just a few minutes, some you can do in the moment, and others you learn over time.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps people acknowledge the strong emotions they are feeling and helps them target. And change their behavior patterns.  It is a way to feel safe in the moment and choose healthy behaviors. Even if you do not see a therapist—or don’t see a therapist who specializes in DBT—you can still use different DBT strategies like mindfulness and emotional regulation to help you manage your emotions. There are many DBT workbooks available that you can do on your own. Here are few worksheets that can help get you started:
- Managing Frustration and Anger
- Helpful vs Harmful Ways to Manage Emotions
- The PATH to Calm: 4 steps to calm your mind
Self-care is more than bubble baths and treating yourself with gifts. It is what you like to do, that regulates yourself and puts you at ease. It’s a process that promotes your well-being and may include:
- Getting outside and being active or taking a walk
- Cooking, reading a book, playing video games, or rewatching your favorite shows
- Creating something by drawing, writing, or painting
- Listening to music
- Resting by taking a nap or getting sleep.
The possibilities are endless when you are looking for one or more purposeful activities to create a healthy relationship with yourself.
Meditation and Movement
Meditation is a technique to train yourself on attention and awareness to become mentally clear and emotionally calm. While it may be difficult at first, anyone can do it and you can do it anywhere. Every tough emotion or thought that appears ends up sitting on a leaf and flowing down the river out of sight and out of their mind. There are plenty of YouTube videos about free-guided meditation.
Movement is also a great way to let your emotions out. Anger is an emotion that may be difficult to work through at first, but movement can help you process it. Being angry builds up adrenaline and physical activity gives you a non-destructive outlet. Going to the gym, dancing, going on a walk or run, etc. can give you a non-destructive way to deal with anger and even other emotions.
Grounding skills help you be more aware in the moment. They usually have you use one or more of your five senses to distract you from a variety of emotions, feelings, or thoughts. Here are two that you may want to try:
The RAIN method:
- Recognize what is going on
- Allow yourself the experience to just sit and be
- Investigate why you’re feeling what you’re feeling while being patient and kind to yourself
- Natural awareness, focus on who you are as a person—you are more than the emotion (ex: sadness, anger, frustration, etc.) that you are currently feeling. 
Five Senses Technique
With the 5 senses technique you notice and list (either silently or out loud)
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste.
This skill brings you into the moment of where you are, and takes you away from your racing thoughts or emotions.
Emotional Freedom Technique—or EFT Tapping has been found to be an effective way to help people cope with anxiety and troubling thoughts.  Here is how you do EFT tapping :
- Think about what is troubling and write down a statement about it.
- Assign it on a scale of 1-10 measuring how bad this makes you feel.
- Then, using your fingertips to tap different points of your body on your palm, head, chest, and torso repeating your statement while doing it.
- After you finish, evaluate how you feel. The goal is to lower your score from before. You can repeat the process if needed.
- Some people in recovery have found tapping to be helpful when dealing with difficult emotions or handling cravings for their drug of choice. You can find a full explanation on how to do EFT tapping here.
Creating a support system
Creating a support system can be a very difficult thing to do because it’s hard to admit you may have a problem. But a support system is one of the most important tools for managing emotions. You may be surprised to find that others have been in the same situation as you are once before.
A support system can be as big or as small as you’d like for it to be, and they include whom you feel the safest with. Setting boundaries during these meetings, such as asking for no one else to talk just listen, will help in creating a safe environment for you to let all your feelings out and to really be heard.
You are making a huge step on your healing journey by changing how you cope with strong, negative emotions. There are many different paths you can take to get more of a control of your emotions. What works for some may not work for others. Keep focusing on the positive changes you want to make and look towards others who may provide support when you feel like you are lacking. Just remember, you are working towards re-building your inner strength and loving yourself again.
- Brain recovery after alcohol and other drug use. Brain recovery after alcohol and other drug use – Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (n.d.). https://adf.org.au/insights/brain-recovery-after-aod/
- Shannon. (2019, October 3). 4 differences between CBT and DBT and how to tell which is right for you. Skyland Trail. https://www.skylandtrail.org/4-differences-between-cbt-and-dbt-and-how-to-tell-which-is-right-for-you/
- Brach, T. (2022, October 4). Feeling overwhelmed? remember rain. Mindful. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from https://www.mindful.org/tara-brach-rain-mindfulness-practice/
- König, N., Steber, S., Seebacher, J., von Prittwitz, Q., Bliem, H. R., & Rossi, S. (2019). How Therapeutic Tapping Can Alter Neural Correlates of Emotional Prosody Processing in Anxiety. Brain sciences, 9(8), 206 https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9080206
- Healthwise Staff. (2023, June 25). Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Kaiser Permanente. https://healthy.kaiserpermanente.org/health-wellness/health-encyclopedia/he.emotional-freedom-technique-eft.acl9225