Stress management is one of the most important aspects of addiction recovery. It helps us cope with the stresses of daily life and allows us to focus our energy on the positive aspects of our lives.
However, even after someone has achieved sustained recovery from alcohol or other drug addiction, anxiety and stress can still remain an everyday challenge.
A growing body of evidence suggests that chronic stress may be as important a risk factor for drug and alcohol addiction as genetics or environment.1
It is therefore essential that we utilize stress management techniques to cope with stress in a healthy way. Understanding the role of stress in causing addiction, and how to manage stress in order to prevent and overcome addiction, is crucial to helping people avoid the suffering addiction brings both to those affected by addictions and their loved ones.
In this article, we will look at how addiction and stress can often correlate. We will also look at why managing stress in a healthy way is important and how it can help us recover from addiction.
Stress Response & Effects of Stress
Our brains are designed to respond to stressful situations by releasing chemicals called “stress hormones” into our bloodstreams. These stress hormones cause changes in our body which give us feelings of fear or anxiety. When these stress hormones reach their peak levels, they trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases heart rate and blood pressure while cortisol causes us to sweat more, breathe faster, tense muscles, and become focused. The result of all this is that we experience physical symptoms like shaking hands, increased appetite, and muscle aches. Our bodies go through physiological responses to cope with the stress caused by the release of these stress hormones.
Substance Use Disorders and Stress
Many problems arise when people start using addictive substances to cope with their stress. This triggers an increase in the amount of stress hormones released by the brain. As a result, the person feels anxious, depressed, and irritable. They may have trouble sleeping, eat too much, and crave certain foods. Over time, these symptoms lead to further substance abuse.
Studies have found that people who were more prone to addictive behaviors had higher levels of stress hormones in their brains during stressful situations.3 This suggests that those with addictive tendencies may be more likely to develop those addictions due in part to a heightened response to stress.
Addiction is one of the most common causes of physical and psychological stress. When people experience stress they tend to turn to substances such as alcohol and other drugs to ease their pain. However, these substances only exacerbate the problem.
Physical Consequences of Chronic Stress
Stress can cause many negative effects on our bodies including headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke
In addition, chronic stress can lead to weight gain and obesity. This is because stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline increase hunger levels and decrease metabolism.
Chronic stress can also affect other parts of the body including the immune system, reproductive organs, digestive tract, skin and muscles.
Other common symptoms of stress include:
- Muscle tension
- Back pain
- Poor digestion
- Mood swings
Common Sources of Stress in A Life In Recovery
- Relationship problems: Strained relationships can often be a source of stress, especially relationships that are toxic or dysfunctional.
- Financial issues: Economic stressors are some of the leading sources of stress in many people’s lives.
- Academic or workplace pressures: Demanding work environments, tight deadlines and hostile work environments can take a toll on mental health.
- Lack of social support: Loneliness and lack of support can inhibit stress relief, and exacerbate existing feelings of stress.
- Health concerns: Having health issues is often an uncertain time for an individual, which can be an enormous source of stress.
- Traumatic events: Many of these include deaths in the family, divorce, moving homes, natural disasters, assault and more.
- Legal issues: ongoing legal battles can be a large source of stress, especially in cases involving large sums of money from lawsuits or potential jail-time from criminal charges.
These are some of the primary sources of stress for most people. Most people experience at least one of these stressors within their lifetimes. Therefore, it’s important to learn and identify what creates stress in your life, and develop effective strategies for dealing with these factors.
8 Steps to Help You Manage Your Stress Levels
1. Understand Your Emotions
The first step towards coping with your stress is understanding what you are feeling. If you don’t understand what you are feeling, you won’t be able to effectively manage it.
2. Identify the Cause of Your Stress
Once you have identified what you are feeling, ask yourself what caused it? Was it something external or internal? External factors include things like work pressures, family problems, financial issues etc. Internal factors include things like anxiety, depression, anger etc.
3. Find Ways to Cope With Your Feelings
If you identify an external factor that has caused your stress, you need to take action and change it. For example, if you are experiencing stress due to work pressures, you may want to start looking for another job. If you are experiencing stress due anxiety, you may want to seek professional help.
4. Take Time Out
Taking time out is very important when recovering from addiction. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your situation, taking some time out can give you a much needed break. It can also allow you to think about what you should do next.
5. Practice Self-Care
Self-care means doing things for yourself that make you happy. These could include going for a walk, listening to music, reading a book, having a massage etc.
6. Exercise Regularly
Exercise releases endorphins which makes us happier. It also improves our mental health and physical fitness.
7. Get Support
Getting support from friends and family members is extremely helpful during stressful times. They can provide emotional support and advice. They can also encourage you to get back into activities that you enjoy.
8. Be Mindful
Mindfulness is a technique used to reduce stress. It involves being aware of your thoughts and feelings without reacting to them. The more mindful you become, the less reactive you will be and the better you will be able to cope with your stress.
Let Schick Shadel Help with The Stress of Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Addiction is a disease that causes a vicious cycle of severe stress on the body and mind. When someone suffers from addiction, they often experience anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. These emotions cause the person to feel trapped and unable to cope with everyday life.
At Schick Shadel Hospital, we understand that this cycle is a serious issue. That is why we offer a variety of programs designed to help those who are struggling with addiction. Our highly trained staff will work closely with you to develop a personalized plan of action to help you overcome drug and alcohol addiction, as well as stress management techniques and support to avoid relapsing.
- (2021). Retrieved November 2021, from https://www.mirecc.va.gov/cih-visn2/Documents/Patient_Education_Handouts/Stress_Response_and_How_It_Can_Affect_You_Version_3.pdf
- Stress a major health problem in the U.S., warns APA. (2007). Retrieved November 2021, from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/10/stress
- The Treatment for Stress & Addiction In a Recovery Center. (2021). Retrieved November 2021, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/adult-addiction-treatment-programs/stress-and-addiction