Today is National Stress Awareness Day. As we approach another winter in COVID and the holidays, stress levels might be high. This day is a reminder of the ways stress impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally—and what we can do to reduce it.
When we’re stressed, we often feel powerless. We can’t control whether lots of stressful events are happening in our lives. But I’ve found that one way to reduce my overall stress is to find what I can control about the situation, and focus my energy there.
This sounds simple, but it can be one of the hardest things to do. When circumstances are difficult, we often want to change them or our feelings; many of us in recovery previously tried to alter our emotions through substances. It’s important to allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, but you also have control over how you respond to your emotions.
Try making a list of coping skills that have worked really well in the past. You can always go to these, no matter how bad things have gotten, or how far you feel like you’ve strayed from them. Remembering this has always been helpful for me.
It’s understandable to want to go back to drugs or alcohol if those have been your main coping mechanisms in the past. However, active addiction increases your stress on a physiological, emotional, and material level.
Chronic stress leads to changes in the brain, including decreased reward sensitivity. This can lead a person to find less pleasure and motivation in life. Then, because addiction impacts the brain’s reward system, the person comes to anticipate pleasure only from drugs or alcohol—even as the substance no longer has that effect. Addiction reduces your ability to manage your emotions, and stressful events tend to add up due to chronic substance use. All of this leads to a much more stressful life, with less ability to cope with that stress.
This Stress Awareness Day is a good reminder that being in recovery is the best thing we can do for our stress levels. No matter what happens in our lives, we have much more ability to cope—and do whatever is in our power to improve our situation.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you find healthy ways to cope with stress, so that you can stay sober through whatever life brings. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.