Stress is a common trigger for addiction relapse, making it crucial to develop healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress during addiction recovery. That's why we're highlighting the importance of stress awareness during the month of April: National Stress Awareness Month.
This Year’s Theme: ACT NOW
This year’s theme takes a slightly different approach to previous years, focusing on taking action rather than creating an open dialogue for conversation. The hope is to empower people to feel they can take conscious action towards perceiving things differently, making a plan and creating positive change.
What’s the Relationship Between Stress and Addiction?
There is a complex relationship between stress and addiction. Stressful experiences can increase the risk of developing addiction, and addiction can also increase stress levels.
When a person experiences stress, the body's stress response system is activated, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can affect the brain's reward system, leading to a temporary feeling of pleasure or relief from stress. Over time, the brain can become accustomed to this reward response and seek it out again, leading to a cycle of addiction.
Additionally, stress can increase the risk of relapse in individuals who are in recovery from addiction. Stressful events or situations can trigger cravings for the addictive substance or behaviour, making it more difficult to resist the urge to use.
On the other hand, addiction can also increase stress levels. The ongoing cycle of addiction can lead to negative consequences, such as financial problems, relationship issues, and physical and mental health problems, which can all contribute to increased stress levels.
Overall, the relationship between stress and addiction is complex, with each factor influencing the other. Addressing stress management techniques and developing healthy coping mechanisms can be important in preventing and treating addiction.
How Stress Effects the Body and Mind
Stress can have a significant impact on both the body and mind and the effects can vary depending on the duration and intensity of the stress.
Physical Effects of Stress:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Rapid breathing and shallow breathing
- Muscle tension and pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Digestive problems like nausea, diarrhoea, and constipation
- Weakened immune system and increased risk of illness
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
- Fatigue and low energy levels
Mental and Emotional Effects of Stress:
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Depression and low mood
- Irritability and mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Memory problems
- Decreased productivity and motivation
- Decreased self-esteem and confidence
- Social withdrawal and isolation
Chronic stress can also increase the risk of developing physical and mental health problems in the long term, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic pain, and anxiety or other mood disorders.
It is important to manage stress effectively to reduce the impact it has on the body and mind. Some strategies for stress management include exercise, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, social support, and seeking professional help when needed.
Managing Stress Alongside Addiction Recovery
Managing stress effectively is an important aspect of addiction recovery, as stress can trigger cravings and increase the risk of relapse. Here are some strategies for managing stress alongside addiction recovery:
- Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation are all effective techniques for reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help reduce stress, improve mood, and boost overall health. It can also help individuals in recovery to establish a healthy routine.
- Connect with support networks: Talking to a therapist, attending support group meetings, or connecting with friends and family can all provide emotional support and help manage stress. It’s important to look after your social wellbeing!
- Eat a balanced diet: Eating a healthy diet can help reduce stress levels and improve overall physical health. Eating a balanced diet that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help individuals in recovery feel better and stay on track.
- Practice self-care: Engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as reading, listening to music, or taking a warm bath, can help individuals in recovery manage stress and promote overall well-being. Make the time for it.
- Avoid stress triggers: Individuals in recovery should try to identify stress triggers, such as certain people or situations, and avoid them when possible.
- Seek professional help: If stress becomes unmanageable, individuals in recovery should seek professional help from a therapist or addiction specialist. Be strict with your boundaries.
It is important for individuals in recovery to prioritise stress management as a key aspect of their ongoing recovery journey. By incorporating these strategies, individuals can reduce stress levels and increase their chances of long-term success in recovery.
Get Help With Your Recovery
Whether you're in early recovery or have been sober for years, New Leaf Recovery can help you develop healthy habits and build resilience to stress. Join us this month in raising awareness about the importance of stress management for addiction recovery. Let's work together to prioritise stress management as a key component of long-term addiction recovery.