Often, when we think of stress, we think of what we need to do or accomplish in a day. We tend to think of stress as the pressure we feel from the demands placed upon us. However, most often, if not always, stress arises from the emotional demands that are placed upon us.

For instance, stress is the experience people have when they have expectations of themselves or others. Sometimes, stress arises when those expectations are greater than what someone believes they can achieve. Of course, stress also arises in life-threatening situations. And for those who had emotionally chaotic, abusive, violent families, life could have felt threatened regularly.

During stress, the body produces increased blood sugar levels to provide extra energy for the muscles. There is also an increase in cortisol that counters the pain and inflammation in the body, if there is any. The extra cortisol also helps ignoring physical pain in the body in order to focus on the tasks at hand. Blood pressure also rises. Blood is pumped away from the extremities of the body towards major muscles in order to provide them with extra strength. The long-term effect is an impaired production of cortisol in everyday life. Men and women who had this sort of upbringing might be hyper sensitive later in life and resort to using healthy coping mechanisms to be able to survive emotionally.

Often, a common unhealthy coping mechanism is using drugs and alcohol. It’s common to turn to drinking for example if you’re feeling depressed, psychotic, unstable, or emotionally at a loss. It’s common for others who had very critical parents to turn to marijuana, a drug that helps ease the internalized self-judgment.

However, there are much healthier ways to manage emotional stress. And in order to support your recovery, it’s important to learn how to handle stress. In fact, managing stress is very much related to being able to manage emotions. The two go hand in hand. If you can manage your emotions, you can manage stress. Learning how to do this can be the key to your sobriety.

First, recognize when you’re beginning to feel stressed. Below is a brief list of common symptoms of stress:

-Sleep difficulties
-Feelings of overwhelm
-Depression and isolation
-Stomach problems
-Dissatisfaction with life
-Difficulty concentrating
-Poor attitude
-A craving for the use of substances as a way to find relief

When you’re aware that you’re stressed, that’s a great position to be in. At that point, you have a choice to use a coping mechanism that’s healthy for you. However, frequently, people gravitate toward what has worked for them in the past, such as drinking when they are stressed, without really giving it some thought. However, if you know that you’re stressed and you can take some time to think about what would be the healthiest way to relieve that stress, you’ll be making healthier and healthier choices for yourself.

Below are some ways to relieve stress that can replace having a drink or using drugs:

-Focus on the present to redirect your attention on what’s going on for you right now. This can empower you to make a new choice instead of unconsciously making a choice you’ve always made to relieve stress.
-Say no to requests that are going to add pressure to your life.
-Exercise is another way to relieve stress. It can also enhance your mood, improve circulation, widen your perception, and increase overall physical health.
-Meditation is another substitute for unhealthy coping mechanisms. It is a practice that can help you stay present and facilitate making healthy choices for your life.
-Deep breathing can be an incredibly important tool, especially if you experience panic or high amounts of stress throughout your day. Breathing deeply can be done right in the middle of a stressful moment to stay clear minded and centered.
-Calling upon the help of a friend can also be useful. Sometimes feeling emotionally unstable or overwhelmed can lead to a craving for a drink or drug use. However, in those moments, calling a friend to talk about your feelings can be a safer option.

After reading this article, you might see how managing stress can be an essential component to your recovery. Learning this skill is not only necessary for your recovery but can be useful for sustaining long-term sobriety.

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