Stress is a known trigger for addiction, which is why embarking on a stress reduction strategy should be a major priority for those in recovery. One study published by researchers at Leiden University showed that stressful situations can encourage addiction by affecting areas of the brain that cause the body to crave more substances like cocaine. Studies have also shown that females seem to be particularly impacted by the harmful effects of stress. In lab studies, researchers have found that they are seemingly genetically predisposed to reproducing the ‘reward’ produced by cocaine. What are the unique factors that make addiction recovery stressful, and what are some natural means you can use to nip the ‘fight or flight’ response in the bud?
Stress During Recovery
Many people use drugs as an escape and during recovery, they may find that they are facing issues in their relationships and professional lives for the first time in various months or years. Some may also be facing the health consequences of legal or medical issues, which can result in anxiety, nervousness, internal pressure, and changes in sleep patterns. Legal problems that began when someone was consuming substances can result in financial strain, relationship breakdowns, and stress-related illness. Finding legal help is the first step to take. Doing so will help the person in recovery feel like they are making positive advances in their health journey. Taking the steps required to rebuild family and social relationships will also help surround the person in recovery with love and support during this challenging time.
Embracing The Power of Therapy
Medication-assisted therapy is considered the ‘gold standard’ approach to addiction. It relies on FDA-approved prescription medications to support complementary therapies such as education, counseling, and group therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is widely used in rehabilitation centers. It is a talk therapy that seeks to highlight the connection between one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Therapists can help their patients achieve progress by teaching them how to reframe their thoughts and by encouraging behaviors that can have a positive effect on thoughts and emotions. Other approaches that are known to be useful include dialectical behavioral therapy (which relies heavily on building mindfulness skills), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (which relies on mindfulness techniques), and acceptance and commitment therapy (which emphasizes acceptance as a way to deal with negative emotions and thoughts).
If you are in recovery from substance abuse, know that there are many ways to feel more relaxed and mindful. These include art therapy, music therapy, and spending time in nature. Studies have shown that being in a natural area can pulverize stress in a matter of minutes! Additional activities that have all been scientifically proven to boost tranquility are engaging in hobbies, doing exercise, and caring for a pet like a dog. When it comes to exercise, those which have mindfulness components (such as Tai Chi and yoga) are particularly powerful when it comes to curbing stress.
Stress can be a trigger for people who are in addiction recovery. If you are in recovery and you are trying to keep stress levels down, attending recommended therapy appointments is key. So, too, is finding complementary ways that are as enjoyable as they are effective at introducing greater peace into your life.