3 Cognitive Behavioral Techniques That Can Help You Survive A Craving
18 August, 2021
When a craving happens, it can be powerful, fierce, and unsettling. While you may be able to predict some cravings accurately, others can catch you by complete surprise. Successful recovery requires that you tolerate cravings and learn healthier ways to cope with the distress. The goal isn’t to reduce cravings altogether- the goal is to learn how to avoid succumbing to them.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapeutic model that highlights the cyclical relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Most of us carry negative, self-defeating thoughts inside of us. In response to these thoughts, we may feel angry, ashamed, sad, or afraid. To cope with the combination of these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, we may resort to ineffective strategies like drug use to suspend the pain. CBT teaches individuals how to identify negative thinking and behavioral patterns to facilitate positive change.
1. Pleasant Activity Scheduling
Boredom and stagnation represent two, common triggers in sobriety. Even if you are working and staying active in your recovery, it’s essential that you also buffer time for relaxation and leisure. Neglecting these needs can result in a negative mood- which can create a downward spiral effect. Pleasant activity scheduling doesn’t need to be complicated. Commit to 10-15 minutes of engaging in an enjoyable activity each day. Write down the task. Before beginning the activity, note how your happiness level on a 0-10. Assess how you feel after the activity. The goal is not to feel a 10/10! The goal is to remember that incorporating joy into your life doesn’t need to be optional. In fact, it’s a necessary ingredient towards balance and wellness.
2. Cognitive Restructuring
As mentioned, we often carry incredibly negative thoughts throughout our day. These thoughts can be catastrophic, disturbing, and completely inaccurate. However, if we don’t attempt to challenge these thoughts, we become victim to the torture they evoke. Cognitive restructuring entails identifying automatic thoughts (i.e. “I’ll never be able to stay sober” and challenging the harmful message into a more realistic viewpoint (i.e. “I have fears that may not be able to stay sober, but I’m going to do my best regardless”). Not sure where to start with this technique? Consider practice talking to yourself like you were own best friend. For example, if your friend was coming to you stating that he will never be able to stay sober, what would you say back? Chances are, you’re a lot more patient and kind!
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Cravings often represent both emotional and physical imbalance. Because we store so much tension in our bodies, simply acknowledging and releasing this tightness can make a profound difference. Start by taking in several deep breaths. You’ll move top-to-bottom and practice contracting one muscle group for 5-10 seconds. Then, aim to release all the tension in that specific group. Move down the body accordingly. You can also download or audio recordings to help you stay focused and present. By the end of the exercise, you should feel an increased sense of peace and calmness.
Final Thoughts On Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques for Cravings
Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can help you withstand the difficult emotions during your recovery. By taking control of your responses, you take control of your cravings. Remember that practice and consistency make the strategies more efficient. The more you do them, the more second nature they become!
How do you get through a vicious craving? Let us know below!