Stress can affect your mental, physical, and emotional health. There is also evidence that chronic stress can be a significant risk factor for relapse. Taking even small steps towards lowering your everyday stress levels can make a difference in how you feel. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that “stress is one of the most powerful triggers for relapse in addicted individuals, even after long periods of abstinence.”
While it might be impossible to eliminate stress, there are things you can do to decrease it. The very first step is identifying what areas in your life may be causing you to feel pressured. Once you know what they are, you can find ways to cope with or work around them.
Most Common Daily Stressors
There are some things that most people cannot avoid that can cause a large degree of stress. Even something as simple as a commute to and from work each day can significantly increase your daily level of anxiety. Some typical daily stressors include the following:
- Financial or socioeconomic hardship
- Relationship issues
- Job stability
- Mental health conditions
- Major life changes such as a move or the death of a loved one
- Chronic illness, injury, or disability
- Being the primary caregiver for someone with a chronic disease, injury, or disability
- Experiencing a traumatic event
According to the United States National Library of Medicine, everyone experiences stress differently. Some may find themselves feeling nauseous, depressed, or anxious, while other people facing the same situations may not have any trouble at all. The primary reason for this is that some people have the life skills necessary to cope with these types of stressful situations without disrupting their daily lives, but others may not have those skills, so they struggle.
Stressors Unique to Recovery
Even though everyone shares certain stressors, some are unique to people in recovery from substance abuse. These stressors include the following:
- Triggers related to previous drug or alcohol use
- Intrusive cravings
- Being around people or situations where substances may be present or have been present in the past
- Chronic health issues related to sobriety, including long-term withdrawal symptoms and mental health disorders
The Effects of Chronic Stress
There is evidence that when experienced over some time, stress can change the way your brain functions. A study at Harvard Medical School revealed that “stress affects not only memory and many other brain functions, like mood and anxiety, but also promotes inflammation, which adversely affects heart health.” Harvard researchers also reported that “stress has been associated with multiple chronic diseases of the brain and heart.”
Stress manifests as physical or mental tension. Stress increases the risk of developing the following conditions.
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Menstrual or reproductive issues
- Skin conditions
- Insomnia or other sleep disorders
- Addiction or relapse
5 Ways to Destress Your Life
Now you know how to identify the signs of chronic stress and some of the more common forms it can take. Knowing those things can help you find ways to cope. Getting your stress under control through therapy and other treatments can improve your physical and emotional health. Also, by taking steps, you will decrease the risk of a relapse.
Below are five ways to destress your life:
- Set Achievable Goals: In all aspects of your life, including therapy, relationships, career, or any part of your recovery, make sure that you are setting realistic and achievable goals. By doing this, you will improve your self-esteem and increase confidence.
- Be Observant: You need to recognize what is causing your stress before you can get help. To do this, you need to pay attention to what is happening around you and what you are feeling directly before you experience a high degree of stress to pinpoint the cause. Then you can get help from your doctor, therapist, or someone else in your support system to find a way to overcome that obstacle.
- Exercise Regularly: Research has repeatedly proven that regular exercise is an excellent way to decrease overall stress levels. As little as 15 to 20 minutes a day can improve your mood, increase health, and lower stress.
- Stay Connected: You should have a support system composed of peers, therapists, loved ones, and your doctor. Stay connected with them and regularly check in to let them know how you are doing. To have a group of supportive individuals who are there to encourage you can make a big difference. You do not have to shoulder stressful situations alone.
- Get Quality Sleep: Sleeping disorders and changes to sleep patterns are an average side effect of stress. By getting your sleep schedule back on track, you can help lessen the negative impact of stress on your body. Adults should get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. You can speak with your doctor about ways to improve sleep quality using meditation, medication, or other treatments.
Everyday pressures at your workplace, school, or home can lead to chronic stress that can come with some uncomfortable physical or mental side effects. When you feel bad mentally, emotionally, or physically that can be a trigger for substance cravings. You may even find yourself tempted to return to old habits. There are steps you can take to lower that risk and keep your recovery on track. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating balanced meals, exercising regularly, and ensuring you get the proper amount of quality sleep are excellent tools for keeping your stress under control. Your therapist can also teach you reframing and mindfulness techniques that will make it easier to cope when stress begins to feel overwhelming. Everlast Recovery Centers and other recovery resources are here to help you stay on track even when you are under a lot of pressure. Call Everlast Recovery Centers today at (866) 338-6925.