Managing Stress in Recovery from Addiction
For most people, stress is a daily part of life. Work, relationships, finances, and random events in life can all contribute to a person’s stress level.
While everyone experiences some level of stress on almost a daily basis, the way they cope with it can determine how impactful it can be on the quality of a person’s life.
Stress on its own is known to negatively impact physical and mental health, but for some, the consequences of stress are worsened by the introduction of substances. Addiction and stress often accompany one another. After a long, stressful day, many people want to simply unwind and relax. In some cases, the only way a person knows how to do this is through the use of drugs or alcohol. Substances provide an escape from everyday life that allow a person to temporarily avoid worry, but over time, these behaviors can worsen a person’s life and take a toll on their overall wellbeing.
Stress and Addiction
Stress can produce numerous reactions in the body.
Most commonly, a person experiencing stress may exhibit:
- Low energy
- Loss of sexual desire
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Upset stomach
- Frequent illness
Chronic stress can place a great deal of weight on a person. It can make every day a struggle and can fill a person with a constant state of dread. Without healthy outlets or proper coping mechanisms, many turn to anything that will provide them with temporary relief. Substances such as alcohol, hallucinogens, opiates, and tranquilizers are commonly misused to reduce discomfort. Instead, it temporarily replaces negative feelings with a euphoric feeling. Treatment for stress addiction comes from professionals and new coping skills rather than substance use or abuse.
Although these substances may provide temporary relief from feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable, in the long run, it can prove to be incredibly damaging. Because stress is unavoidable, it is important to help those with a stress-related addiction find ways to cope with it in a healthy way. Stress will always serve as a triggering feeling and often contributes to relapse. Finding healthy outlets can improve recovery outcomes and equip a person with the tools needed to manage stress effectively.
Treating Stress and Addiction
Stress is often a catalyst for relapse making it imperative to help those in recovery find healthy coping mechanisms.
Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms of stress, it is important to find outlets that promote better stress management to improve a person’s overall wellbeing. Some of the most effective ways to treat addiction and stress simultaneously include:
- Exercise: Exercise provides numerous benefits for those in recovery. Working out regularly can reduce levels of anxiety, boost mood, and improve a person’s quality of sleep. It also serves as a positive outlet for stress, helps reduce cravings, and diminishes the effects of withdrawal symptoms. Exercise can also improve a person’s physical appearance which can boost confidence and self-image. All of these benefits combined can help a person develop a more positive outlook and healthy habits that support sobriety.
- Behavioral therapy: Different behavior therapies can provide numerous benefits throughout recovery and in life after treatment. Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are effective in helping people recognize patterns and behaviors that enable addiction. Being able to recognize these patterns and change their behaviors to support sobriety is effective in managing long-term sobriety and can be applied to other areas of life. Therapy can help many explore experiences and topics that can cause distress in a person’s life. By exploring these areas and developing healthy coping mechanisms, they are better able to manage stressors and triggers that would otherwise threaten sobriety.
- Meditation: Meditation and other mindfulness practices can lower anxiety, depression, and stress. Mindfulness exercises require a person to clear their minds and focus their energy inward. Breathing exercises are commonly used to help lower heart rate and reduce rates of anxiety. These practices are helpful in calming a person. Those who practice it frequently are better able to be faced with temptation and stressors and not succumb to it.
- Peer support: Becoming involved in groups, such as 12-step groups, can help reduce levels of stress. Many feel heightened levels of anxiety for numerous reasons. They may feel as if they are alone in their struggles; they may experience difficulty managing their own motivation and accountability, or they may struggle because they do not have outlets. Peer support can help build a sense of community that encourages people throughout recovery. Support groups can help promote accountability and provide members with an understanding group of peers to help them through troubling times. Support groups can lessen levels of stress among members simply through their ability to help people connect with others who relate to their experiences.
If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.