Quitting porn can be emotionally and physically stressful. People who are used to using porn regularly and compulsively may experience with­drawal symptoms similar to those experienced by drug addicts who stop using cocaine or other hard drugs. Like recovery from prolonged drug use, it can take a period of time to completely heal changes in brain chemistry that may have been caused by extensive porn use. During this period of recovery and physiological readjustment, it’s not uncommon to experience increased irritability and insomnia for a while.

One of the best ways to cope with the emotional and physical prob­lems that are common among people quitting porn is to take positive steps to stay healthy. Not only do people with strong bodies, minds, and spirits recover faster, they also have more energy to explore alternatives to porn and move forward toward a new life and improved relation­ships.

Many of us are familiar with the basic principles of good self-care, but if you’ve been trapped in the world of porn for a while, chances are you’ve been neglecting your health and could benefit from a few remind­ers of what’s important. Here are some suggestions:

• See a doctor or other health practitioner to evaluate your current health status. Obtain recommendations for dealing with stress and staying healthy as you resolve your issues.

• If you don’t have a daily exercise routine, now is the time to begin one. Develop a routine that improves strength, stamina, and flexibility (for example: weight-lifting, running, and stretch­ing). Being in shape will help you strengthen your nervous system and help you manage stress. Whether you start jogging, swimming, or take up boxing, exercise itself can also help you defuse many negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, frustra­tion, and depression, which you may experience while quitting porn.

• Find a workout partner to help you commit to exercise. You may even want to find a porn recovery support person who is also a regular exerciser so that you can accomplish two goals at the same time. Having a partner can help you stay motivated during those times you don’t feel like exercising.

• Try to get at least seven hours of quality sleep every night. Good sleep improves your physical well-being and your ability to make good decisions. In addition, you may find that you actu­ally need more sleep during the quitting process to deal with any added stress.

• Evaluate your eating habits and make necessary improvements. Consider consulting a nutritionist and getting advice on what you need to do to improve your dietary habits to help you feel better physically and emotionally.

• Identify several stress management techniques you can use on a reg­ular basis to feel less tense. These can range from simple things such as listening to your favorite music or taking your dog for a walk, to more structured techniques such as yoga or medita­tion.

• Seek evaluation and treatment for any underlying conditions that can hamper porn recovery, such as drug and alcohol prob­lems, clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and hormone imbalance. It’s hard enough freeing yourself from porn—doing so without dealing with other serious issues can make the process significantly more difficult.

Improving your health while quitting porn can be a reward on its own. Tony said, “I work out at the gym nearly every day. I avoid junk food and eat well. I’m getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. I’m in better physical and mental shape now than I’ve ever been before. Exer­cise and all doesn’t just feel good, it keeps me in a self-improvement head space where the thought of doing porn is not so appealing.”

Part of the process of improving your health is to keep track of your emotions and work to make sure you deal with them as they arise. Desires to use porn tend to increase when people slip into unpleasant emotional states, such as feeling bored, lonely, anxious, hurt, angry, or stressed out. Your ability to successfully quit porn will be affected by how well you are able to recognize how you’re feeling and respond effectively.

Bill noticed a pattern of craving porn during his lunch breaks at work. When he tuned into how he was feeling emotionally, he realized that the underlying culprit was boredom. This information gave him a direction to go in to reduce the cravings. “I started engaging myself with fun ac­tivities during my lunch break,” he said. “Instead of thinking about porn, I play video games. It doesn’t totally eliminate my interest in looking at porn, but it helps and gives me something better to do. Other times, I call my wife, socialize with coworkers, take a walk, or go on a short bike ride.”

It’s a lot easier to stay away from porn when you are actively doing positive things for yourself that make you feel good both physically and emotionally. Any healthy activity that you enjoy doing, such as playing sports, gardening, playing a musical instrument, hiking, or solving a Sudoku puzzle, can boost your self-esteem while giving you the strength to deal with the stress of quitting porn.

Marie told us, “In the past, I didn’t feel I deserved to take care of myself or nurture myself. Now I take yoga classes and I exercise every other day. And I get a therapeutic massage every month whether I need it or not. If I want to take a nap, I take a nap. I never used to let myself do that. I never thought I had time. I’m learning that making my health a priority is essential to my recovery.”

It may seem a little overwhelming at first to try to quit porn at the same time you begin other healthy habits. But you’ll soon find that the energy you devote to taking better care of yourself is more than worth the effort. It will make the process of quitting porn not only easier, but more likely to be successful in the long run.