How to Deal with Stress Without Using
There are a number of ways to cope with stress and anxiety that don’t involve abusing drugs or alcohol. Some of the most effective tools for natural stress relief include:
Intense physical exercise, such as swimming, weight lifting and jogging, causes the body to release many of the same feel-good chemicals that give drugs and alcohol their euphoric effects. Not only does exercise act as a natural stress reliever, it also helps the brain heal from the effects of addiction.
Meditation is the practice of focusing all of your attention on the present moment. When a craving to use drugs or alcohol hits, meditation allows you to observe your addictive impulses without judgment and to let the craving pass without acting on it.
Talking to Someone
Talking to friends and family is a great way to process stressful experiences. Bottling up your negative emotions will only cause them to become more powerful. Communicating your thoughts and feelings not only helps to relieve stress in the moment, it can also help you recognize which situations trigger your addictive urges.
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Why Do Addicts Respond to Stress Differently
than Non-Addicts Do?
One reason why addicts respond differently to stress than non-addicts is due to the changes that occur in the brain related to substance abuse. Addiction negatively impacts the brain’s ability to naturally produce dopamine and serotonin. This means that addicts are more susceptible to feeling stress and anxiety during situations that otherwise wouldn’t cause them to become upset.
While many begin to use substances in an effort to self-medicate their stress, over time, the resulting addiction can itself become a source of stress. A person suffering from addiction is likely to be constantly preoccupied with how they’re going to obtain more of their substance of choice.
The negative consequences of substance abuse – such as financial problems, loss of friends and legal troubles – can also be sources of chronic stress in an addict’s life. Once an addicted person’s brain has become wired to associate drugs or alcohol with stress relief, these addiction triggers create a sort of feedback loop. In short, substance abuse becomes both the cause of and solution to the addict’s chronic stress.