Stress biologically compromises your body in many negative ways. It can affect the function of your digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular system, and overall mental health. Understanding how to deal with stress can not only help you overcome psychological challenges but physical challenges as well. Using a substance as a form of coping with stress can lead to many dangers and the potential onset of addiction.

Psychology of Stress

The body responds to stress in various ways, including psychologically. When we are stressed, we often experience heightened emotions, high levels of anxiety or irritability, or an overall feeling of being overwhelmed. Coping with these feelings can be very difficult. Since stress is a natural and recurring part of life, it can be hard to consistently manage it in a healthy way.

Many individuals find that using substances can ease these feelings of stress. Engaging in substance use to cope with these feelings may seem to be the best and most efficient option at the moment. You will receive immediate gratification from this action; however, it often leads to serious future consequences, including addiction.

Learning to manage stress in a healthy way can help you avoid the temptation to engage in substance use to cope. Relying on the use of substances will cause a psychological dependence on the substance for you to handle stress and physical dependence. Stress can physically damage your body over time, and the use of substances will rapidly increase that damage. Managing stress without substances can prevent the potential physical harm from addiction as well as the physical harm from stress.

From Stress to Addiction

Because stress is a recurring obstacle for everyone, using a substance as a coping mechanism can easily become a regular behavior. As our reward circuits spread the pleasurable feeling or immediate gratification from substance use, we begin to associate the use of the substance with relief, and we become more likely to turn to substances when stressors arise again.

Many studies have shown that an increased rate of stress can increase cravings for people working to overcome addiction. Since substances are commonly used as a method for coping with stress, it can be hard to refrain from use when high levels of stress arise during or after recovery. Knowing that the substance previously has benefited their state of mind and given them relief, people often feel a compulsion to use again.

Each time that a substance is used as a coping mechanism, the desire to use is reinforced, and people develop a greater vulnerability to addiction. Although using substances can temporarily lower your levels of stress, it will increase levels of stress in the future. When addiction sets in, you will likely experience cravings for the substance over minor stressors or even boredom. If you are not able to use the substance immediately, the stress will drastically increase until it feels completely beyond your control.

One of the major benefits of having alternative coping mechanisms to deal with stress is that most alternative options do not lead to increased stress in the future. Using substances has a high potential of increasing stress in the long run, but managing your emotions and releasing stress in healthy ways can improve your life in the long term as well as the short term.

How to Keep Stress From Leading to Addiction

If you find that you are struggling to maintain balance in your life, you have a greater chance of experiencing heightened levels of stress. Taking the necessary precautions to keep your life in balance and practicing moderation can help you manage your stress levels and keep you on track with staying sober.

One of the best ways to avoid falling under the influence of addiction when you encounter stress is to ensure you have alternative coping mechanisms in place. Healthy coping mechanisms are important for everyone, regardless of their history with addiction or psychological struggles. Understanding the way your body and mind react to stress can help you to reverse the negative effects of stress without introducing an alternative problem. 

Coping mechanisms will often vary between each individual. They can even vary in different situations. Keeping track of the different coping strategies you try and observing their effectiveness over time can help you to see which methods are the best for you and which situations they will suit best. One way to observe the methods you try is to keep a journal, writing down the pros and cons of each mechanism you try. Journaling can have many benefits and help you to find the best strategies for you.

There are a variety of coping mechanisms you can try to discover which works best for you. Between meditating, exercising, appreciating nature, deep breathing, reading, writing, taking baths, and various other ideas, you can find a method that is highly efficient for your stress management and healthy for your body and mind. These skills can be used throughout your life to overcome new stressors as they arise.

Each person can experience various forms of stress throughout their life. Stress is an inescapable obstacle. Learning how to manage stress and deal with it in a healthy way can be extremely beneficial to your long-term health. Many effective coping mechanisms can be used to work through stress. Unfortunately, many individuals decide to use substances to escape stress. While this can diminish the immediate feeling of stress, using substances only increases the potential for stress in the future. Using substances as a coping mechanism for stress increases your chance of developing an addiction, as the positive feelings from the substance will be greatly reinforced when coupled with stress relief. Understanding how your body and mind naturally react to stress and finding healthy coping skills to implement during times of high stress can benefit your long-term health. To learn more about stress and addiction, contact Dream Recovery at (949) 732-1960.

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