For many people, gambling problems are related to underlying issues such as anxiety, impulsivity, and stress. Research shows that techniques of relaxation can help ease the impulse to gamble, making it easier to avoid and ignore. Furthermore, with a regular practice of relaxation (ideally a daily one), a person who is in recovery from gambling can avoid relapses.
In America, gambling is a popular social activity. For many individuals, it can be entertaining, fulfilling, fun, and financially rewarding. When gambling is a social activity and not an addiction, there is no to little worry about money. However, gambling can slowly become a significant problem in one’s life. In fact, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 15 percent of Americans gamble at least once per week, and approximately two to three percent (approximately 6 million) of Americans meet the criteria for problem gambling.
Signs that indicate that gambling is a problem include:
- –Selling personal belongings
- –Borrows money and does not return the loan
- –Stealing and lying to friends and family
- –Possessing large amounts of money without good explanation
- –Possessing a great deal of debt
- –Receiving a number of phone calls from strangers
- –Isolation from friends and family
- –Growing absences from work
- –Making frequent calls to 900 gambling numbers.
- –Spending large amounts of hours online
If you see any of these signs in yourself or someone else, learning to relax may help avoid the temptation to gamble. However, keep in mind that utilizing relaxation techniques alone is not a substitute for treatment. It’s best to include a mental health provider in your attempt to stop gambling. The following is a list of techniques to use whenever you feel the urge to gamble:
Visualization: This can be incredibly relaxing. You might purchase CD’s or a DVD that will guide you to imaginary peaceful states. Doing this on a regular basis can create an ongoing sense of relaxation and peace that will allow you to feel more relaxed throughout your day.
Deep Breathing: This is a practice that you can do regularly throughout the day. Whenever you feel anxious or nervous or overwhelmed, take five minutes and notice your breathing. Slow down, get in touch with your surroundings, and become mindful of your inner state. Essentially, this is a practice of becoming mindful. Mindfulness is becoming conscious of one’s internal and external environment. It is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting the existing feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and surrounding activity.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This is the conscious contraction and relaxation of certain muscle groups in your body. The purpose of this technique is to help someone become more aware of the anxiety they feel. In particular, this exercise can help a person notice the difference between tense muscles and relaxed muscles. When a person has this awareness, they can identify when their body feels tense and relax right in the moment.
Many men and women tend to use gambling as a way to cope with strong feelings of anxiety. They tend to project the anxious feelings upon the excitement of winning. However, the above techniques can help a person avoid using gambling as a coping tool and instead use tools that are healthier.
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