What is Stress, it’s Impact & 12 Ways to De-Stress in Trying Times
Coping in Recovery
April 24, 2020
One of our biggest challenges in life is managing our stress levels in a complex world filled with various demands and expectations. With COVID-19, we are globally experiencing an increase in anxiety, loss and uncertainty. Small daily hassles are compounded by much larger concerns regarding our well-being, safety and future.
Stress management has always been a critical component of long-term recovery. Given the global crisis we are all experiencing, it is absolutely imperative on so many levels.
Stressors can be internal or external. Examples of internal stressors include: physical (illness, fatigue) or psychological (negative feelings, holding onto resentments). As most alcoholics and addicts know, resentment is “the number one offender” and “takes out” more alcoholics/addicts than anything else. External stressors consist of vocational demands, lack of autonomy, financial insecurity, and excessive demands on your time and energy.
“Prayer & Meditation are also great stress relievers, providing a grounding and centering experience…”
It is important to acknowledge that stress may also be positive in nature. For example, one effect of stress can be to challenge us to perform at higher levels. It can be motivational, and help us focus on important goals. It can also be a signal that something is “not right” and needs to be addressed.
What is stress exactly? Stress is a bodily response to life demands and expectations. These responses are called stressors. It is important to note that what is experienced as very stressful to one person may not be considered stressful to another due to different bodily responses to the same event/situation.
Some of the negative effects of stress can include:
- a compromised immune system
- cardiovascular issues, negative impact on respiratory and circulatory systems as well
- other medical conditions, such as diabetes, colitis, ulcers, fatigue, eczema and fibromyalgia
- adversely affect your mental health
The following are warnings signs that you may be stressed out, and therefore at greater risk of relapse:
- feeling depressed, irritable, fatigued, guilty
- headaches, stomachaches
- muscle tension
- crying or laughing for no apparent reason
- difficulty eating or sleeping
- only able to see the negative things
- inability to enjoy things that you used to
- blaming others for “bad” things that happen to you
- resentment towards others or self
Twelve Ways to De-Stress During Trying Times:
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. And remember, it is almost always the “small” stuff.
- Will this be important in a week from now? How about a month from now? A year from now? This too shall pass.
- Challenge automatic thoughts, especially those that are “life-limiting.” Is this thought true?
- Your body registers stress long before the mind is conscious of it. Body awareness is the first step toward acknowledging and reducing stress. Muscle tension is your body’s way of letting you know that you are under stress. Doing daily body scans is an easy and effective way to identify stress as manifested in sensation. Letting go of physical tension by unclenching constricted areas is a practical way to release stress.
- Befriend feelings. Emotions are my friends. They are signals and our teachers. My emotional reaction wants my attention; when we name our emotions and identify their various components, we are better able to self-regulate.
- Mindfulness and presence can help us identify what is actually happening in sensation and the body, and create a healthier perspective. As soon as we name our emotion, we are not completely identified with it any longer. We now have a relationship with it, and in that space the emotion can begin to settle on its own.
- Get regular exercise such as walking, hiking, swimming, yoga, chi gong. Studies show that 20 minutes, 3 times per week reduces stress by releasing chemicals in your brain.
- Eat sensibly; proper nutrition is an important part of stress reduction; avoid excessive amounts of caffeine, as it has been proven to increase anxiety and agitation when consumed in larger amounts.
- Sleep deprivation increases the risk of stress. Maintaining normal sleep/wake patterns greatly assists your ability to cope with life’s stressors during your waking hours.
- There are many research studies that demonstrate the benefits of breathing exercises. Studies have demonstrated reduced stress and efficacy in treatment of anxiety disorders, depression, irritability, muscle tension, headaches and fatigue.
- Prayer & Meditation are also great stress relievers, providing a grounding and centering experience.
- Support – attending 12-step/recovery and other support group meetings is a great way to connect with others and express feelings in a supportive environment. Obtaining a sponsor and establishing a network of people in recovery is a vital component in dealing with difficult issues and alleviating stress.
Haley House for Women
Borysenko, J. (2001). Pocketful of miracles: Prayer, meditations, and affirmations to nurture your spirit every day of the year
Bourgeault, C. (2004). Centering prayer and inner awakening
Fiore, A. & Novick, A. (2005). Anger management for the twenty-first century. Century Anger Management
Rosenberg, M. B., & Chopra, D. (2015). Nonviolent communication: A language of life: life-changing tools for healthy relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides)
Sofer, O. J. (2018). Say what you mean: A mindful approach to nonviolent communication
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