People battling addiction while simultaneously trying to manage symptoms of stress often experience increased cravings and risk of relapse. Without the proper coping strategies to deal with stress, it can be tempting to turn to drugs or alcohol, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms, to help alleviate stress and reduce its effects.
While it’s virtually impossible to remove all pressures from life, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of the way stress works, how it effects the body and how to develop appropriate coping strategies to handle stressful situations.
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s response to pressure, such as when one is feeling intensely overwhelmed or when something happens that is entirely out of one’s control. Stress triggers the fight or flight response of the body, keeping us safe in dangerous situations, but it can also take a toll on our immune system — especially when the body is in a state of constant stress.
Stress can be caused by a variety of situations. Sometimes stress is the normal experiences of life, such as dealing with issues at work or handling responsibilities like taxes or rent payments; sometimes stress is the result of unanticipated negative situations, such as the death of a loved one or loss of employment. Stress may also be the slow build-up of smaller stressors overtime.
Each person feels the effects of stress differently, and how people manage stress plays a significant role in the impact it has on the body and mind. For some, relying on support systems like family or friends helps them cope effectively. For others, the only way they may know how to effectively deal with stress is through unhealthy, numbing methods.
Stress signs and symptoms
While some signs of stress are physical, others might not manifest in such obvious ways. In addition to physical signs, keep an eye out for mental and behavioral indicators as well.
- Exhaustion or insomnia;
- Stomach cramps;
- General aches and pains;
- Tense muscles/ clenched jaw;
- Weakened immune system/frequently sick.
- Compulsive behaviors, like gambling;
- Using illegal drugs or large amounts of alcohol;
- Inconsistent eating patterns;
- Engaging in reckless behaviors.
- Depression or anxiety;
- Panic attacks or anxiety attacks;
- Feeling unmotivated or distracted;
- Memory problems;
- Racing thoughts.
Again, each person will feel the effects of stress differently based on their experiences. Therefore, this list is not complete as far as the possible signs of stress, but should provide a helpful starting place when determining if levels of stress in your life are reaching an unhealthy peak.
Stress and substance abuse
Unfortunately, stressful or traumatic events can significantly influence alcohol or drug abuse. Since stress is a common factor in the beginning or continuation of substance abuse and increases the risk of relapse, it should be addressed during addiction treatment.
How to cope with stress
Stress is a common experience in life that can’t be entirely avoided, but it’s a good idea to try to manage stress levels and reduce unnecessary stress as much as possible. Some methods for effectively coping with stress include:
- Find the best, healthy ways to cope that work for you. Reflect on what works and doesn’t work, and skip methods that don’t bring you any results.
- Take good care of your physical and mental health. This includes sleeping enough, eating well and exercising, in addition to avoiding smoking and using substances to relieve stress.
- Try new ways of thinking. In addiction treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches new ways of thinking and behaving that lead to more positive decisions. When worry starts to feel overwhelming, try to reorder these thoughts with a different perspective, or interrupt them with distractions like exercise or reading.
- Talk to someone you trust. Speak to a counselor, family member or friend who can listen to your concerns and allow you to work through negative feelings. Having a conversation in thoughtful and meaningful ways can help manage stress better.
- Ask for help. Stress can be better managed when people develop a strong support network of mental health professionals, family and friends. Sometimes, therapy at a high-quality treatment center is the best option for helping to restore a sense of calm and well-being to your life.
Reach out today
If you are concerned about habits you have created as a result of stress, or simply want a better method of managing symptoms of stress in your life, Rehab After Work for more information. Give us a call today at 610-644-6464.