Recovery from an addiction is more than just an accomplishment - it's an ongoing process that requires focus and effort in so many ways. Without a continued dedication to doing the work required to stay sober, the risk of a relapse becomes very real.
One thing that's important to be aware of is that there are a few triggers that can lead to a relapse. Stress is by far the biggest of these triggers, and many of those new to recovery don't know how to deal with it.
The following is a short guide to the role stress plays in recovery, what causes it, and what we can do to handle it in a healthy way before it causes problems in our lives.
The effects of stress are not only bad for our bodies, they have a negative impact on our minds as well. It's all too common to see people use drugs or alcohol to deal with the effects of stress.
What may seem like an innocent way to get temporary relief from stress can actually quickly develop into a full blown addiction. Using drugs or alcohol will also keep a person from dealing with the real source of their stress in a way that's healthy and effective.
Dealing with stress in a healthy way means being more aware of the things that trigger it. Many common life events that can cause stress include:
- relationship issues or a breakup/ divorce
- major life changes such as moving to a new city, losing a job, or the death of a loved one.
- legal or financial problems
- being overworked
- not enough time to finish tasks at work, school, or other responsibilities
- conflicts at work or at home with family members
- major illness or other health problems
- substance abuse
It's also important to recognize the symptoms of stress in yourself to know when you're in danger of becoming chronically stressed. Some of the common symptoms include:
- frequent sleep disturbances or sleeping too much
- headaches and muscle tension
- loss of appetite or eating too much
- feeling anxious or uneasy
- frequent negative thoughts or obsessive thoughts about problems
- stomachache or indigestion
- not being able to concentrate
- loss of interest in sex or other activities that once gave enjoyment
- irritability or mood swings
- a weakened immune system, resulting in frequent colds or other illnesses
It's interesting that substance abuse is a stress trigger in itself, since many people turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with stress in the first place. The result is often a spiral of increasing abuse and building stress, with no obvious way out.
Chronic stress really takes a toll on the body and mind. This is because the body releases chemicals when it is stressed that are only meant to be in the bloodstream for a short period of time.
Being chronically stresses means these chemicals are constantly being released and end up being present in the body at abnormally high levels.
Learning effective methods for dealing with stress is important for your ongoing sobriety, as well as for just being a generally healthier, more balanced person. It's also impossible to avoid being stressed in our lives. The only thing we can change is the way we handle it. Some good methods for dealing with stress include:
- Finding an outlet for our emotions through art, music, or another creative hobby.
- Learning relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or visualization.
- Practicing meditation daily.
- Getting regular exercise.
- Eating healthy foods and taking care of our bodies.
- Taking a break when things get especially difficult.
- Keeping a journal, or finding a therapist or group to talk to.