Stress Awareness Month: The Stress-Addiction Link

stress awareness month

In honor of Stress Awareness Month this April, we’re shining a light on stress and addiction.

We all experience stress and it can even be useful when it helps us react to imminent danger or motivates us to take the proper course of action or perform better. For most people, occasional stress is normal and doesn’t pose a health threat. Chronic stress, on the other hand, can cause lasting physical and mental problems, including a vicious cycle of addiction.

Without the right tools to manage stress, some people self-medicate with mood-altering substances. A seemingly innocent drink to de-stress after work can become habit forming and escalate if underlying issues and/or trauma aren’t resolved. And once addiction takes hold, it can create more stress from the negative consequences of substance abuse. In fact, research shows that people with substance use disorders are often worse-equipped to deal with stress and traumatic events than their non-addicted peers.

Stress Management and Recovery

Addiction is a traumatic experience, and so it’s no surprise that recovery can be stressful. Managing stress is an important part of maintaining a healthy, sober life. In fact, many experts say that stress is one of the biggest relapse triggers.

After years of using alcohol and/or drugs to cope with stress, you may no longer recognize the physical and mental signs of stress. A big part of recovery is developing a greater awareness of how you experience stress – what happens in your body and how you feel when you’re under pressure. This can be the start of developing healthier responses and coping mechanisms for keeping stress at bay.

6 Steps for Managing Stress in Recovery

Managing stress is an ongoing practice but developing healthy coping habits can help you address stress and prevent it from damaging your progress. Here are a few recovery strategies for handling stress and addiction:

  1. Consider the basics: If you can’t identify the cause of your stress, refer to the popular recovery acronym H.A.LT. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired? Learning to identify and address the causes of stress in your life, then taking action to address that stress, will help you to maintain your recovery.
  2. Prioritize sleep: Proper sleep is paramount to your recovery. The more rested you are, the less stress you’ll likely feel throughout the day. This is because sleep deprivation can take a toll on your emotions and make even the smallest stressors feel overwhelming.
  3. Stay active: Making a point each day to do some form of exercise will pay off physically and mentally. So, if you discover yourself experiencing more stress than usual, make a point to get moving. Bonus: Those who exercise regularly sleep better.
  4. Share your feelings: There is no shame in admitting that you’re struggling with stress. One advantage of recovery is having a support network of men and women who share similar challenges and goals; if you’re feeling stressed, talk about your feelings with your recovery peers. Just knowing that you’re not alone may be enough to help you decompress.
  5. Slow down: In active addiction, you likely dealt with stress by immediately reaching for alcohol or drugs. Now that you’re in recovery, you can slow down and choose how to respond to a stressful event or whether to just take a break so you’re better equipped to tackle it later.
  6. Stay in the present: When you feel stress, it’s easy to go full speed into the future or dwell on the past. This behavior can heighten your stress, however, so do your best to bring yourself back into the moment and focus on today.

Get Help with Your Recovery

If you’re seeking a way to start your own journey to recovery from addiction, BRC is here for you. Our compassionate team is ready to help you overcome addiction and learn life skills to deal with stress in a healthy way — starting today. Call us: 866-905-4550.