Stress is a significant factor in the development of addiction. People who are feeling overwhelmed often turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to relax and get through stressful periods. Unfortunately, using addictive substances to relax create dangerous patterns as more and more of the substance is required to reduce stress, which in turn, leads to more stress.
It’s easy to understand why stress is dangerous during the first weeks and months after addiction treatment. Even the stress of day-to-day events or conflicts associated with career, finances or family can trigger relapse when sobriety is new and precarious.
Once you’re aware of the early warning signs, you can use on-the-spot techniques to help minimize the harmful effects of stress, including possible relapse.
- In today’s fast-paced culture, we are often advised to “take something” to minimize stress and tension. However, learning how to cope with stress in a positive way is nearly impossible if one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and often, prescribed medications.
- Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but it’s possible to minimize its effects without resorting to drugs and alcohol or destructive behaviors such as gambling or compulsive sex. Practicing relaxation techniques when you’re calm will help you maintain an even keel when life’s stresses threaten your wellbeing and recovery.
- Learn to spot the early signs of stress. Pay attention to your body because it will give you clues. These clues are called "somatic markers", where emotions show up in the body. For example, you may notice that your muscles feel tight or your jaws are clenched. You may feel queasy or have a headache. For some people, early signs of stress are a feeling of frustration, restlessness, or a quickened heart rate. You can train yourself to notice these signs and take them seriously.