We all get them. Those feelings that come up, the intrusive thoughts that creep in telling us, begging us to act impulsively. Those are urges, and they can compel us to fall back into the destructive habits we’ve been working so hard to break. Dealing with those urges is often a source of incredible stress. The good news is there is a way we can cope with urges and create an easier, smoother way to get through them.

Making the choice to eradicate harmful habits, whether it’s substance misuse, stress eating, gambling, overuse of social media or any of the other detrimental indulgences is an honorable one but can come with cravings. Urge Surfing is a mindfulness technique that when put into practice can help you to ride out and get through the pull to fall back into old ways.

Developed by clinical psychologist Dr. G. Alan Marlatt, WebMD defines Urge Surfing as “a mental technique to observe and experience an urge without engaging in it.” Dr. Marlatt developed this coping mechanism for individuals in substance misuse recovery as a way for them to picture their urges as “waves that rise in intensity, peak, and eventually crash and subside.”

Urge Surfing emphasizes acknowledging your cravings and accepting rather than resisting them. As we all may have experienced, fighting cravings and urges can be a losing battle. By learning to accept them rather than struggling with them, or giving up and giving in to them, we allow ourselves to bear them in a less stressful and healthier way.

Ease yourself away from the fight by choosing to take a few simple steps when an urge is triggered. Try writing down your thoughts in the moment or having a time tracker on your device to manage online usage. Or use this simple mnemonic to remind you to surf the urge as it happens:

Acknowledge: When the urge hits, instead of acting on it get curious about where it’s coming from. Are you hungry, angry, bored? Anxious about something? Take a moment to feel what you’re feeling so you can identify what’s really going on and what positive steps you can take to assuage that feeling.

Breathe: Practice measured breathing to ease anxiety about the presence of the urge. Try inhaling for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds and exhaling for 8 seconds for four breaths to steady your nerves. Taking slow, deep breaths will help to anchor you in the present moment.

Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that urges and cravings are the bumps everyone experiences on the road to change. Think of how you would speak to a friend in a similar situation, and speak to yourself with that same level of kindness.

Looking at urges like a wave allows you to see that they, like waves, come in and go out. Sometimes fiercely, sometimes quietly, always passing. Practicing Urge Surfing can help you to ride those waves.

This practice can be scary and uncomfortable at first but don’t let that deter you. Learning any new skill takes time, practice and persistence. Our Mental Health and Recovery Coaches are available to help you ride the waves of change. For information about our coaches and additional services, you can contact Cindy directly at 631-921-4085 and email her here.

The Recovery Coach NY honors all paths of recovery with our years of experience and vast array of resources that can help those in need find the way to the life of joy and purpose they deserve. We come with an empathetic ear and solution-oriented actions that can begin to bring the relief you and your loved one seek.

We provide Recovery Coaching, Mental Health Support & Coaching, Executive Function & Accountability Coaching, Academic Coaching, Sobriety & Mental Health Companionship, Safe Transport, Case Management, Psychedelic Integration Coaching, Intervention and Emergency Services. For more information and additional services, go to our website.

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