April is National Stress Awareness Month, which is a national effort started by the International Stress Management Association.
It’s meant to increase public awareness about major stressors, the dangers of stress, and different coping strategies you can use to deal with stress and the fight or flight response.
Stress affects nearly every system in your body, and long-term stress can increase your cortisol to a point that it leads to both physical and mental health problems. There is also a strong link between stress and substance abuse.
While everyone copes with stress in different ways, some people turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. On top of that, substance abuse and its effects on your life can also lead to more stress and create a dangerous cycle.
Stress, Substance Use, & Addiction Recovery
Avoiding stress can be an important component of staying on track with your addiction recovery goals.
Stress and substance use are well-known for changing and damaging the brain. When stressful events occur they can lead to more drug abuse and make the event even more stressful.
Stress & Relapse Risk
If you’re used to dealing with stress by using drugs or alcohol, when you start recovery, it may be difficult to deal with stress without those substances.
The detox process can be stressful on the body and brain due to the difficult withdrawal symptoms. And any extra stress on top of the detox process can make it even more overwhelming.
Whether at the beginning of your recovery or months in, stressful situations can have a negative impact on your recovery and even lead to a relapse. And a relapse can lead to even more stress.
The Link Between Stress & Addiction
Unfortunately, there is a two-way relationship between stress and substance use. While stress can lead people to use substances, it works the other way around as well. Alcohol and drug use can contribute to stress or, at the very least, affect how well you manage stress.
Long-term use of drugs or alcohol can cause certain changes in the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control, motivation, pleasure, and behavior.
The negative consequences that come with substance abuse, such as financial instability, job loss, relationship problems, and physical and mental health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression, can also increase your stress levels as well.
Can Stress Cause Addiction?
There is no one cause of addiction, but stress can be one of the many contributing factors along with genetics, overall environment, and life experiences.
Chronic stress along with a lack of healthy coping strategies can lead someone to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of managing that stress, but the stress is not usually the only major factor in play.
Stress and anxiety can also intensify cravings and withdrawal symptoms and make the recovery process more difficult than it already is.
Tips For Stress Relief
To effectively manage stress in addiction recovery, there are coping strategies and stress management techniques you can turn to when stress starts building up, including:
- Eat as many nutritious and healthy meals as you can.
- Take a walk at a specific time every day to clear your mind and get some exercise. Being outdoors can also help your mood and reduce stress.
- Go to bed 30 minutes earlier to ensure you are getting eight hours of sleep or more.
- Lean on a strong support system to decrease the effects of stress. This can be family members, support groups, or your circle of friends.
- Practice meditation or mindfulness. Studies show that participating in meditation can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
- Do deep-breathing exercises to reduce stress hormone levels immediately and leave you feeling calmer and more relaxed.
- Stay away from people who are using, avoid passing by your favorite bar or places you associate with using, and get rid of any paraphernalia you have that reminds you of substance use.
If you or a loved one are struggling with stress and addiction, Northeast Addictions Treatment Center can help you learn coping strategies and receive addiction treatment together.
To learn more, please call our helpline today.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences — Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction
National Institutes of Health — National Stress Awareness Month
National Today — Stress Awareness Month – April 2023