Stress is the perception that more is being demanded of you than you can comfortably handle. A tiny amount of stress can be beneficial, helping you take on and master a new challenge and taking you to a new level of competence. Too much stress, on the other hand, can affect your health, leaving you feeling drained and miserable.

Drug and alcohol abuse

Learning to cope with stress reduces vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse.

As you may suspect, stress can contribute to relapse of drug and alcohol abuse. Many substances inhibit or blunt the effects of stress. Some substances, like cocaine, do not blunt the stress response, but activate it, along with powerful “reward centers” of the brain. However, once the pleasure of using the substance is gone, the stress remains until you cope with it effectively. Therefore, it is essential that you learn to cope with stress without drugs or alcohol, and the effort is well worthwhile. Here are seven healthy ways to handle stress.

1. Identify the Source of the Stress

What is “getting to you” the most? If you could wave a magic wand and make only one source of stress go away, which one would it be? Simply being able to say that it is the work deadline, the pile of undone laundry, an upcoming final exam, or an argument with a family member that is pushing your stress beyond what you feel you can handle gives you perspective and a certain amount of power over it.

2. Identify What You Can Control

Some stressors are things you cannot control, but many stressors do offer you a degree of control. If that upcoming exam is bothering you, then you have the control of determining what and when to study. If the sink full of dishes is causing you excess stress, you can work on it for 15 minutes to make headway, or ask someone to help with it.

3. Preserve Healthy Boundaries

Being a people-pleaser can make you vulnerable to excess stress, but you have to remind yourself that it is okay to say “no” sometimes, and it is okay to be protective of your time. Your time is as valuable as anyone else’s. Saying “no” that first time may not be easy, but you will not hurt people’s feelings as much as you imagine, and you will avoid adding to your existing stress load.

4. Make Time to Do What You Enjoy

Drug and alcohol abuse

Time spent doing what you enjoy is essential to effectively coping with stress.

Even if it is just half an hour, carving out time to make a casserole, play your guitar, dig in the garden, or watch an episode of your favorite sitcom, reminding yourself of what is enjoyable in life has value. Spending a little time doing your hair, singing, talking to a friend on the phone, or reading a book can refresh you and remind you why you take on the commitments that you do.

5. Incorporate Physical Activity into Your Day

Getting up and moving around is important enough that many major corporations and businesses schedule activity breaks throughout the day. A 15-minute walk at lunchtime or half an hour tidying the garden can help work some of the tension out and take you out of your head for a while. You do not have to train for marathons. Shooting hoops in the driveway or walking your dog can redirect your energy and improve your mood.

6. Do Not Forget to Laugh

Laughter is a positive form of stress relief. Laughter activates and relieves your stress response, soothes tension, and stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles. Can you take a couple of hours off work and watch a comedy movie? If not, maybe you could read something funny. And if nothing else, the internet is replete with hilarious videos, photos, and memes.

7. Avoid Making Yourself Vulnerable to Excessive Stress

Small things can make you significantly more vulnerable to stress. Sometimes they cannot be avoided, but many times they can. Trying to get sufficient sleep, having some breakfast before going to work, and keeping caffeine consumption under control can help you respond better to everyday stress. Positive health habits can make a difference in how stress impacts you.

Stress can contribute to drug and alcohol abuse. If your resources for coping are not enough, or if someone you love struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, we encourage you to contact us to learn more about admissions. Help is there, and reaching out is the first step to healing.