Stress surrounds us in our daily lives. It comes from work, from family, from school, from our health. It can have devastating effects on our quality of life. If you’re struggling with the pressures of daily life, you might be wondering how to manage your stress better.
It’s something we can all do better. Managing stress rarely comes easy, and typically involves multiple levels of coping — whether counseling, or exercise, or medication, or all three. Building our defenses against stress takes a lot of practice, but once you have the skills, you will never forget them.
How you manage stress is crucial in terms of living a long healthy life. Some people choose to manage stress by turning drugs or alcohol and end up needing addiction treatment programs. And the more you do that, the more chances you have to find yourself weighed down by substance abuse.
What Is Stress?
In the long view, stress is a good thing. It’s our body’s reaction to a threat or a problem — you’re about to go on stage to speak to a crowded auditorium, interview for a job, take a test.
What isn’t good is chronic stress — when you are feeling under pressure all the time.
That stress has to go somewhere, and it frequently shows up in health problems, including substance abuse. Physical signs of stress include:
- Tight or painful muscles
- Loss of interest in sex
- Upset stomach
- Sleep disruptions
While some of these symptoms may cause you to overeat or become prone to angry outbursts, others lead to more serious side effects such as drug or alcohol abuse. If stress also leaves you anxious or fearful, an anxiety treatment program can help reduce symptoms.
How Do I Manage Stress?
Managing stress could be considered an art, not a science. There is no “right way.” Once you gain a broader understanding of how to manage stress, you can figure out what things work best for you. But some of the best ways to manage stress include:
- Getting exercise
- Learn and practice meditative activities such as yoga or Tai Chi
- Develop hobbies, such as painting or reading
- Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine
- Experience the outdoors
Those activities will help. But they may also be supplemental. You can also seek support from a counselor in either individual or group therapy. In extreme cases, medication may be required as well.
What you want to be most careful about is taking steps toward self-medication. Using drugs or alcohol on your own can lead to substance abuse, which leads to even greater problems. They may seem to help but they only make symptoms of stress and mental illness worse.
Stress and Substance Abuse
Researchers have long established a link between stress and substance abuse. It happens exactly the way we’ve described. Things get too out of control, and to cope with a world that’s swirling around chaotically, a person chooses to drink, or take drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
The thing is — the relief from those substances never lasts. Soon after you consume them, the effects wear off. But your brain remembers and grows to depend on that fix. When it doesn’t come, you experience withdrawal symptoms. And so the cycle begins.
High-stress individuals are at enormous risk of drug abuse, and that drug abuse becomes increasingly difficult to break.
Managing the Moment
The pressures of everyday life are unrelenting, to the point where you might be wondering how you can manage stress. It’s something that takes patience and practice to figure out.
If stress has led you down the wrong road, and you’re worried about your use of alcohol or drugs, it’s time to reach out for professional help. The clinical team at Wellness Counseling Vida Entera is here to help you return to normalcy. Our team of addiction specialists can build a treatment plan utilizing services that include:
- Drug detox programs
- Alcohol detox program
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Residential addiction treatment
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)