One of the most common reasons that a substance use disorder first develops is because an individual is attempting to self-medicate or alleviate mental distress. While drugs or alcohol seem to temporarily numb emotional pain, the aftermath is much worse than the stress that originated the problem.
What often starts as a drink to decompress after work or a night getting high on the weekends to escape relationship issues can quickly turn into a full-blown addiction. If you’re currently struggling with problematic substance use or are in active recovery, here’s what you need to know about the effects of stress and handling stress in recovery.
The effects of stress
The Mayo Clinic lists three categories of the effects of stress: effects on the body, effects on mood and effects on behavior. The symptoms of stress are as follows.
Effects on the body
- Muscle pain or tension
- Chest pain
- Changes in libido
- Stomach issues
- Sleep issues
Effects on mood
- Restlessness or agitation
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
Effects on behavior
- Changes in diet
- Angry outbursts
- Substance abuse
- Social withdrawal
- Decreased interest in hobbies, such as exercising
The effects of stress can compile as stress builds, making a person feel physically, emotionally and mentally beat. When a person is drained, emotionally reactive, socially isolated and seeking solace, relapse can sneak in and compromise a person’s recovery.
Stress management in recovery
Avoiding stress is key to avoiding relapse. Stress management is a skill that any person in recovery can benefit from, and there are numerous reasons why. First, stress management in recovery can offer a person essential coping skills. A repertoire of coping strategies is a useful tool in combatting cravings and emotional triggers.
Second, stress management can make it less likely that triggers come up in the first place. Stress itself (and related emotions like anger, hopelessness and frustration) is a frequent pitfall for those healing from an addiction. Minimizing stress makes it less likely you’ll need to use a coping strategy in a pressured situation.
Stress management also aids in areas like distress tolerance, self-awareness and self-control. Learning how to manage stress implies learning a greater sense of mastery over your own emotions and reactions. When you learn effective stress management in recovery you’ll be able to make important decisions for yourself based on logic, not cravings.
Tips for effective stress management
No one is immune from stress, so learning how to actively minimize the potential for stress and manage it when it occurs is crucial to staying sober. Here are some top tips and tools for effective stress management.
1. Examine top areas of stress
Every person has unique triggers for distress. Some are overwhelmed by an upcoming presentation at work and others feel the responsibility of maintaining a home and balancing time with family. Understanding your unique needs when it comes to stress management is key to unlocking greater peace in your life.
2. Take an honest assessment
Everyone has methods of coping with tension and difficulty, and some actually do more harm than good. You may feel that working out on your way home from work helps you to alleviate pressure, but after consideration, you may find that the drain on your time and energy when you hit the gym is better used coping in another way, such as stretching or taking a nightly walk with your spouse.
3. Reel in your expectations
People face both external and internal sources of stress. External stress occurs when others place unreasonable standards on us that cause discomfort. Internal stress happens when we place unreasonable expectations on ourselves. We may have unrealistic goals for ourselves, often influenced by social media. Take a step back and reel in your expectations to decrease stress levels.
4. Try something new
Chances are that you’ve tried various coping strategies to deal with the effects of stress, but you haven’t tried them all. There’s guaranteed to always be something new under the sun so get creative and try a self-care activity that you’ve never done before.
5. Keep your body engaged
Stress often manifests itself physically, leaving a person feeling ill, weak or tired. Battling stress requires involving your body, and the best antidote to feeling low is incorporating regular movement into your daily routine. Keep your body engaged in your recovery by exercising at least 30 minutes each day.
Exercise can also improve your mental focus, boost your mood and keep cravings for drugs or alcohol at bay. If working out is new to you, try going for a walk, stretching, doing a free beginner’s workout video online, joining a class with a friend or biking. No matter your interests or ability level, there is something you can do to improve your health and decrease stress.
6. Get support for mental wellness
If you’ve struggled with the effects of stress, seeking support for your mental well-being should definitely be on your to-do list. There’s a common misconception that therapy is only for those who have severe clinical disorders, but any person can benefit from mental health support, especially those in recovery.
If stress is affecting your sobriety, don’t wait for a relapse to happen. Get help now. Contact Silvermist Recovery to get the care you need from professionals you can trust.