Everyone experiences stress. Whether it’s stress at work, in your relationships, having a long to-do list, feeling the demands placed upon us by others, or from simply listening to the news, stress seems to be a common experiences in life for many people. This article will address how to manage stress in a healthy way in order to better face triggers and cravings when they arise.
In addition to the everyday experiences of stress, sometimes stress can arise from having a mental illness such as depression or anxiety. And for some people who were raised with many experiences of trauma, high levels of stress can feel they never end. Being raised in emotionally volatile, abusive, or violent family can create ongoing experiences of stress, even into adulthood. When a person was raised under circumstances that frequently felt life- threatening, high levels of stress can feel like an everyday experience.
However, there are many ways to help reduce the experience of stress, even for those who have lived with trauma. Managing everyday stress including anxiety and fear might require a plan for self-care and relaxation. Over time, with many experiences of relaxation, a person can become more and more familiar with the state of ease versus continuously being in a state of tension.
Common Reaction to Stress
As any recovering addict knows, when a person is stressed, they may tend to gravitate toward unhealthy ways of managing stress – perhaps what has worked for them in the past, such as drinking, without really giving it much thought. They might even become used to the many common reactions to stress, which can include:
- Sleep difficulties
- Feelings of overwhelm
- Depression and isolation
- Stomach problems
- Dissatisfaction with life
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor attitude
Of course, these reactions to stress can contribute to even more stress and then a person might drink or use drugs to manage stress. And again there might be more stress! It’s a never ending cycle of stress, managing stress in unhealthy ways, which only gives rise to more stress.
Yet, as mentioned above, having a plan for relaxation can help break the cycle. If you’re already in recovery then you’ve come a long way! A self-care plan can further support your sobriety.
What a Self-Care Plan Might Include
- the types of activities you know are nourishing and nurturing for you
- the days of the week (ideally everyday) that you’ll commit to one of your relaxing activities
- the time of the week you’ll commit to one of your relaxing activities
- the self care activity you’ll do immediately once you notice yourself feeling symptoms of stress
- the person you’ll call when stress is taking over and you’re reacting more to triggers and cravings
- the ways that you can reward yourself for sticking to your self-care plan (such as buying yourself a latte or watching a movie in the theatre)
- a list of the ways you see that your self-care plan is working
Of course, you may need to revise your plan from time to time. For instance, if you’re going out of town then you may not be able to go to your favorite yoga class. If you’re feeling more stress one week, then perhaps you need to schedule in more self-care activities.
When you have a plan for taking good care of yourself, you’ll feel more equipped and more resilient when faced with the stress that life brings.