A normal person is bound to experience stress several times in his or her lifetime, since it is a normal human experience. The American Psychological Association conducted a study on the American people and stress and discovered that about 73% of the American population experiences the psychological symptoms of stress, while another 77% experience physical stress.
Due to such findings, it is important to define stress before venturing into its management during the addiction recovery period.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the normal and natural way that your body responds to certain demanding situations and triggers. Therefore, it is a result of certain internal and external factors. The internal factors may include health, lack of sleep and hunger, while the external factors are such as finances, work and relationships.
This means of response can either be helpful or harmful to you, depending on the reasons for its occurrence. For example, if you are stressed because you are unmotivated or because you might miss to hit a specific deadline, such stress could help you struggle to do as required in the shortest time possible.
Stress is helpful in this case due to the hormones and neurotransmitters that your body will produce, which will boost your emotional motivation and energy, causing you to react in a useful way. On the other hand, stress can also be harmful since it will drive you to seek comfort in all the wrong places while still harming your body.
This explains why it is a trigger for the majority of addictions. Since many people do not know how to deal with stress, they seek an escape through consuming drugs, gambling, abusing alcohol, eating too much and adapting unhealthy sexual behavior, among others. As these habits continue, they become addictions especially if you are not aware of the growing urge to do more of them.
Stress In Recovery
Alcohol and drug abuse and addiction destroy your life to the point of losing what you value most. You may lose a spouse, experience resentment from your family, friends and neighbors, lose your job as well and lack respect among your peers. However, after admission into a rehabilitation center, you tend to have hope that you will regain what you lost.
Therefore, the recovery period entails getting back to your life, to live a better life style through rebuilding you relationships and adopting healthy habits. It takes place after you have gone through the detoxification period and recovered from the withdrawal symptoms that caused you pain and even threatened your life.
Unfortunately, this recovery period is not an easy journey. It is a time whereby you must face the reality of things as a sober person and must acknowledge that whatever substance you abused and got addicted to change you into a bad person. It led to you causing a lot of pain and therefore, you must try to make up for all the harm you caused.
Consequently, it is a period where stress will be common. After all, it is not easy getting people to forgive you or convincing your former boss that you deserve your job again and will actually give good performance. Also, your family could be hurt to the point of no return, which will hurt you since acquiring their forgiveness and rebuilding your relationships matters so much to you in this period.
The frustrations that you experience in this recovery period will cause you stress and how you deal with such stress will determine the rest of your life. The medical specialists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse have reason to believe that stress in the recovery period is the leading cause of relapse into the addiction and substance abuse habits.
They reason that if you have ever abused a drug and actually landed in addiction, your brain is more hypersensitive to stress as compared to other people that have never abused substances. Due to this hypersensitivity, it is highly likely that you will return to abusing drugs just escape or relieve your stress.
However, it does not have to be this way. You need to be strong to avoid relapsing and acquire whatever healthy techniques that you can to manage the stress.
Signs And Symptoms Of Stress In Recovery
Despite that stress is normal in the life of a normal human being, its occurrence may go unnoticed. For you to be in a position to manage stress in recovery, you need to know the signs and symptoms to look out for as you determine the presence of stress.
* Emotional Symptoms
Various emotional symptoms will let you know that you are actually under stress, which then means that your sobriety in recovery could be jeopardized. If you start feeling moody all the time or frustrated and agitated easily, then it is possible that you have stress.
If you often feel the urge to stay alone and avoid others, you should ask yourself why. It could be that you feel worthless, depressed or have a low self-esteem, which all indicate the presence of some stress.
Additionally, if you constantly feel lonely even when around people, it could be that your mind is under stress whereby you feel that nobody understands you.
Also, the difficulty in quieting your mind or relaxing it may also mean that you are under stress. Other emotional symptoms are development of mental health problems and general unhappiness.
* Physical Symptoms
Physically, your body will also display some signs if you are under stress during the recovery period. If you feel that your muscles are tensed or aching for no particular reason such as lifting heavy objects, it is advisable to dig deeper to find the problem. This pain may also be accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and chest pain as well.
Also, if you constantly experience headaches, low energy and insomnia, there is a very high possibility that you are under stress. Other symptoms that you could experience while under stress are such as diarrhea, nausea and constipation, difficulty in swallowing and dry mouth.
You may also suffer from infections and colds on a frequent basis since you are vulnerable to illnesses. Additionally, you may have grinding teeth and clenched jaw, accompanied by sweaty and cold hands, ringing in the ear, shaking and nervousness.
* Cognitive Symptoms
Your cognitive health may also be under attack as the stress levels continue to increase. Consequently, you may have racing thoughts that could cause constant worrying. Additionally, you may be unable to make good judgment.
With racing thoughts, is likely that you will be unable to focus of your duties, activities or studies. You may also experience forgetfulness, since your thoughts are disorganized. Regardless of the good things happening around you, you are likely to only think of the negative side of things.
* Behavioral Symptoms
Due to the above cognitive symptoms that affect your thinking and concentration, your behaviors will change as well since your thoughts tend to create habits and behavior. Lack of focus and disorganization will cause to develop bad habits such as avoiding responsibilities and procrastinating.
You could begin exhibiting nervous behaviors especially around others, which include pacing, fidgeting and nail biting. Due to changes in appetite, you may either eat much more than the usual or even very less.
If you do not confront your stress issues, it is highly likely that you will relapse, or begin abusing other drugs like cigarettes and alcohol.
Stress Effects On Your Body
As soon as you are under stress, your body reacts through producing the hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that are meant to defend your body. This means that stress affects every major organ or system in your body since your brain may not differentiate between physical and emotional threats.
The responses, which are mostly physiological, are helpful if you need to make a fast move to escape danger, such as escaping a dear that is running after you, or pulling somebody from harm’s way as fast as possible.
However, if these stress become chronic or severe, they do go out of control. This means that your body, behavior and mood will suffer dearly due to too much exposure to toxic hormones, which increase you vulnerability to diseases.
Effects On Your Body
Consequently, the stress effects on your body will include frequent episodes of body pains such as chest and muscle pains as well as muscle tension and headaches. Additionally, you could experience fatigue, stomach upset and sleeping problems. In other cases, your sex drive may change.
Effects On Your Mood
Since stress also affects you emotionally, you mood could be affected as well. Consequently, during this recovery period you will experience anxiety whereby you will be anxious most of the times, which could also cause you to feel overwhelmed.
You may become restless, and experience anger since you may become highly irritable. You may end up in depression or severe sadness, since you could feel less worthy if people do not welcome you back to the community with open arms. Consequently, you may lack focus or motivation to continue with the sobriety journey.
Effects On Your Behavior
The above stress effects on your body and mood during recovery will further affect your behavior. Since you are still a normal human being, you are prone to change your behaviors since your inside self is under attack.
You may start having angry outbursts, which will further lead you to withdraw from society since you are unable to handle your emotions and interact with people the way that you should. Overcoming the stresses may also encourage you to eat often, which could be overeating or make you lose your appetite and thus under eat.
If you continuously overeat, there are high chances that you will care less about your body and thus will not exercise. Lack of regular exercises after high consumption of food will result to gaining weight. If you are not careful during this period, you are likely to become obese in the long run. Additionally, your sobriety will be in jeopardy, therefore, you could end up abusing alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Long Term Stress Consequences
There is the little stress that you can get over by relaxing, watching a movie or visiting a therapist. This kind of stress does not have long term consequences since it is manageable and not severe. However, there is that other type that becomes chronic and ongoing. It is quite unhealthy since it has multiple long-term consequences that may not heal at all.
* Reproductive System Problems
If you are a lady, your reproductive system may start having issues such as menstrual problems; alongside the change is sexual drive. If you are a man, you are likely to experience premature ejaculation. Whether you are a man or woman, continuous chronic stress may result to sexual dysfunction, which includes issues like impotence and loss of sexual desire.
* Mental Health Challenges
Your mental health could end up experiencing some challenges due to the anxiety and depression. Therefore, the depression may worsen to the point of causing suicidal thoughts. The anxiety as well may also proceed. What is worse is the personality disorders that you may end up developing as the stress continues to be chronic.
* Cardiovascular Diseases
Your heart will hardly survive the high stress levels that you may experience over a lengthy period of time. Therefore, you could begin having high blood pressure, which highly triggers heart disease due to the loads of pressure that your heart will experience. Additionally, you could suffer from a stroke or heart attacks. Also, your heart rhythms may become abnormal as time passes by.
As mentioned earlier, it is possible that you will eat excessive amounts of food as you try to make yourself feel better. What’s more, the foods that you consume will often have high amounts of sugars, and which are known to have high levels of cholesterol and fats.
As soon as these components enter your body, they will settle in your blood vessels and fat storage areas like the lower abdomen. You will begin to gain weight slowly and later end up in obesity. This consumption of food may also result to eating disorders that you can hardly control.
* Gastrointestinal Problems
Other issues that may arise as chronic stress progresses include gastrointestinal problems. Such issues will attack your system in the form of gastritis, irritable colon, GERD or ulcerative colitis.
* Hair And Skin Problems
Your hair and skin are delicate parts of your body as well. Therefore, they are prone to suffer from some long term problems if the chronic stress that you suffer from during the recovery period does not come down. You may begin loosing hair, which will eventually become permanent hair loss. Your skin as well could suffer from eczema, acne and psoriasis.
Managing Stress In Recovery
Since the recovery period is quite important in living a sober lifestyle after the treatment period, it is very important that you learn how to manage your stress. Incorporation of the multiple stress management techniques will not only keep you sober, but also save you from suffering from deeper issues in the future.
By managing your stress effectively in the recovery period, you are in a better position to convince your loved ones that you deserve another chance in their lives. Additionally, you will be able to focus and give good performance at work or in school. Without the angry outbursts you will rebuild your relationships and have better people by your side.
The following are stress management techniques that you can adopt as you strive to live a very sober and healthy lifestyle in recovery, and also achieve self-growth and development.
* Prepare For The Recovery Process
When you have some knowledge about what to expect in the recovery period, you are in a better position to be ready to face it. Being organized and understanding the process can go a long way in helping you reduce your stress levels.
This preparation may include learning the stress symptoms and effects mentioned above, so that you identify the presence of stress as soon as it beings. You may also carry things that motivate you to focus on recovery such as gifts and photos of loved ones, and anything that gives you good memories.
* Healthy Diet
The food substances that you consume will determine the chemical reactions that will take place in your body. Some foods are good at reducing stress, while others will cause more issues like nervousness and agitation. Foods that bust stress include fish, spinach, oranges and oatmeal.
In recovery, fish is highly advised since it contains omega-3 fatty acids that are good at managing stress hormones and suppressing depression. Water and black tea also help since you stay hydrated and feel calmer. You should avoid caffeinated drinks and high sugar liquids.
* Regular Exercise
Exercise causes the release of good endorphins that promote happiness thus suppress stressful thoughts. Therefore, it is advisable to join an exercise program while in recovery, since you will keep your body active. The best exercises include swimming, running, yoga, and weight lifting.
* Keep Positive Company
The people you surround yourself with will affect your thoughts and possibilities of experiencing stress. Therefore, it is good to keep positive company since they will encourage you to have positive thoughts and deal with issues from a positive angle, which hardly entertains stress. You can get this positivity from support groups, friends and multiple types of therapies.
* Keep A Journal
Bottling up your feelings and emotions will only promote stress and frustrations. It is highly advisable that you let them out by writing them down in a journal. As soon as you write down your thoughts, emotions and lessons learned every day, you are likely to go to bed feeling relieved.
A journal will also help you in identifying any unhealthy patterns of behavior that you may be developing. This stress management technique is most effective if you do not have people to talk to or want your experiences to stay private to avoid judgments.
* Proper Time Management
As you begin the recovery period, it is important to keep yourself busy by managing your time appropriately. Ensure that you do not put too many activities in one day, yet some can be postponed to another.
Proper time management will help you in conducting your activities well, and promote success. Otherwise, constant failure due to wrong appropriation of time will increase your chances of becoming stressed.
* Get Ample Sleep
The more sleep you get, they more you stay relaxed and energized as you conduct daily recovery activities. After all, your body takes advantage of that solid slumber to restore itself. Hence, ensure that you sleep for about seven to eight hours.
The more you sleep, the less stress you will have. On the other hand, stress can cause you to lack sleep. Therefore, ensure that you escape stress at all costs.
* Be Increasing Mindful
Being mindful means focusing on the present moment, without worrying about the past or future. It helps you to focus more on your current activities, thus improve your performance. Whenever you are mindful, you tend to create good memories since you ensure that your actions are right.
Therefore, mindfulness reduces the possibilities of having stress, and reduces your cravings since you are able to escape the triggers. In conclusion, stress management during the addiction recovery period is quite helpful in living a better life and avoiding relapse. First you need to acknowledge the occurrence of stress even before you enter the recovery process.
By educating yourself on what happens if stress creeps in, you equip yourself with know-how on how to deal with it. As soon as you notice that you are stressed, you should not ignore it. Discover its source and if you cannot get professional help, from a therapist. Deal with the stress until it disappears. As soon as you are good and stress free again, apply the above techniques of stress management to prevent its occurrence again.