Last Updated on March 25, 2020 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Everyone experiences stress sometimes.  It can come from so many different sources and from all directions, and it can make any difficult time even harder.  It can arise suddenly and intensify rapidly, and, when not addressed, it often sticks around for a while.  It’s important to learn how to identify stress and to know how to handle it so you can bounce back quickly and get back to your normal, happy, healthy life. 

Now that you’re in recovery, it’s not as if suddenly you are living stress-free every day.  In fact, now that you are clean and sober, there may even be more stress in your life than there was before, and you no longer can turn to drugs or alcohol to shield you from it.  Surely, as a sober person you are likely creating fewer problems for yourself, but life in general can be stressful, and making money, keeping relationships healthy, and even just general day-to-day survival and looking towards the future can all be a lot to think about.

Stress is an emotion that can quickly threaten your recovery.  When the world gets overwhelming or seems to be too much to handle, many people turn to drugs or alcohol to escape or blow off steam.  Although consumption is surely not the best way to respond to stress for anyone, many people can do this and then go on and go back to their lives. People in recovery no longer have this option available to them.  Stress is a trigger and responding to triggers in an unhealthy way is a fast track to a relapse for individuals invested in their sobriety.  Therefore, it is vital that you find and cultivate ways to deal with the stress in your life, or to keep it from arising in the first place.

Stress Warning Signs

Most people know they are stressed when they are stressed.  If you ask an individual to rate their stress level at any given time or over a period of time, they can easily come up with a number.  However, there is often underlying stress, hidden below the surface, that we hardly even realize is there.  Fact of the matter is, humans can only think about one or two things at a time, especially while actively trying to put out those small internal fires.  But over the course of a day or a week or a month, you may be preoccupied and worried about so many different things that you simply do not fully grasp the overall scope of it all.

Therefore, being aware of signs of stress is very important.  You may think you know how stressed you are, and you may think you have everything under control.  But if you are experiencing several of the following signs and symptoms, you may be more stressed out than you realize – and that can be detrimental to your recovery as well as to your overall health.

Signs of stress, according to the American Psychological Association:

  • Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Increased frequency of colds
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Memory problems or forgetfulness
  • Jitters
  • Irritability
  • Short temper
  • Anxiety

It’s certainly interesting to note that many of the symptoms of stress are the same as many of the warning signs of addiction.  Neither is healthy for you, nor is either going to make you happy in the long term, so just as you tackled, fought, and defeated your addiction – you simply must do the same for your stress levels when elevated.

Risks & Effects of Stress

If not addressed, ongoing stress can lead to a wide variety of short and long term health problems.  A little stress every now and then is fine, and may even be healthy in small amounts; after all, it is a natural emotion for all humans.  However, long term or reoccurring stress can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders.  Increased heart rate due to stress over the long term can result in cardiovascular disease including heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks, or stroke.  Reacting to the stress can lead to obesity and other eating disorders.  Skin and hair problems like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and hair loss can also be triggered by stress.  And finally, even digestion can be effected by stress – doctors have found that certain gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon can all be exacerbated by stress. 

Clearly, if stress can lead to all of these conditions, its extremely important to find out how to avoid it, how to deal with it, and how, for the most part, to eradicate it from your life as much as possible.

Tips for Dealing with Stress

There are many ways to deal with stress.  Incorporating one or several or all of the following recommendations will help you immensely with working towards a life with little stress – and, when you do encounter stress, dealing with it swiftly in a healthy way.  Best of all – each of these suggestions are for activities that are free of charge, and that will help you in countless other ways in your life, too.

  • Meditate.  Taking time to focus inward and on your breath can be all you need to approach a difficult task with a new outlook.  Live in the present moment, and for just a few minutes a few times a day, stop thinking about the past or the future.  Seek out guided meditations online if you need guidance.
  • Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins that help us feel happier and reduce our stress levels.  And, it’s good for you physically, too!
  • Journal.  Sometimes just writing down your stressors and grievances about the world around you is all you need to break free of the pain they are causing you.  Do this regularly, and you will learn a lot about yourself.
  • Take breaks and do things you enjoy. If something is stressing you out, step away from it for a bit.  Go do something you love for a little while, and then come back to the difficult task with fresh eyes.
  • Get social. Spending time with friends and family and surrounding yourself with people that you love is always a surefire way to feel less stress.
  • Breathe. Feeling overwhelmed?  Take ten deep breaths in a row.  It may only be a temporary fix, but you will feel better.
  • Talk it out.  Find a friend who is a good listener and unload. Just talking about things always seems to make them better.
  • Get a lot of sleep. If you are well rested, you will feel better all day, which will result in a less stressful life automatically.
  • Get organized.  Many people are stressed because they have a lot of things to do and can’t find anything. Write a to do list.  Put things back in their place.  Declutter.
  • Express gratitude. There are so many things for which to be thankful.  Make a list of them every day.  Write it down, and refer back to it often.
  • Let go of things that are beyond your control.  You can’t fix everything, and a lot of things are out of your control.  Let them go.  Accept the things you cannot change, and don’t let them stress you out!

Each of these things individually will surely help you to deal with stress, but put them all together and you have a virtual arsenal assembled to defeat this combatant.  Although stress can never be eradicated completely, and it is a part of everyone’s lives, staying levelheaded, calm, and relaxed is the key to a happy, healthy life – and to your recovery, too.

At Clear Sky Recovery, we want to help you to take the first steps on your recovery journey.  Our ibogaine detox treatment is ancient yet innovative, and has helped countless individuals make a new start.  Our staff is experienced and effective, our facility is beautiful and tropical, and we are standing by to answer your questions.  Please contact us today.