Stress doesn’t cause addiction, but there is an absolute correlation between high cortisol levels and substance use. For many people, the push to use drugs or alcohol comes from an inability to manage stress or anxiety in healthy ways. Substances, then, become a means of “escape” from dealing with uncomfortable emotions or circumstances.

Here we will explore the link between stress and substance use. Enlightened Solutions, a holistic facility that helps people recover from addiction and mental health disorders, offers a variety of programs and assistance for handling stress in sustainable, natural ways.

The Link Between Stress and Substance Use

Like many physical and mental health conditions, there is no single cause of substance abuse. It has its roots in both genetic and environmental factors. People from families where substance abuse is prevalent may be more at risk, though certainly not guaranteed, to struggle with addiction themselves. Those who work or live in high-stress environments may also be more at risk. One common denominator in both scenarios is stress. Those who experience chronic stress are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than those who don’t.

Stress, of course, is a part of life. In our early history, stress was critical for humans to protect themselves from environmental threats. Today, stress can still serve that purpose, but in many cases, it is brought on by factors in our personal lives as well. Some people may thrive in stressful, fast-paced environments, but many others do not. The increase in stress in certain people can enable them to seek quick fixes for overwhelming emotions. This is how addiction can begin.

Stress that is not dealt with properly can have consequences on both physical and mental health. When combined with accumulated damage from substance use, the effects can be more disastrous. Some health issues related to stress include high blood pressure and heart rate, cardiovascular disease, and migraines. A combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions may be needed to help reduce stress levels and address the “need” for drugs or alcohol to feel calmer and more relaxed.

How Substance Use Affects Stress

Substance use and stress can feed each other in an unhealthy cycle. Alcohol can affect parts of the brain that manage feelings of pleasure, behavior, and impulse control. The consequences of prolonged substance use can lead to losing a job, housing, or damaging relationships – all contributors to feelings of stress. The discomfort associated with withdrawal can also contribute to stress, which is why many people who undergo the detox process by themselves often fall into relapse.

Suggestions for Managing Stress in Healthy Ways

The mind and body both benefit from managing stress without substances. Some helpful techniques include the following.

Reach Out for Help

Addiction is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to conquer alone. Having a supportive community is paramount for reducing stress and having a successful recovery. This can include family members, close friends, people in 12-Step meetings, or a sponsor.

Practice Meditation or Mindfulness

Promote feelings of calmness and relaxation by focusing on the present, practicing breathing exercises, observing thoughts without judgment, or observing the beauty of nature. If an individual does not have the means to attend a meditative program, there are plenty of free meditative apps to download.

Eat and Sleep Well

It sounds basic, but it’s incredible how much better we feel when we eat healthily and get the right amount of sleep. Insomnia and poor diet can contribute to stress because our bodies and minds are more equipped to handle it. Experts recommend three healthy meals a day and eight hours of sleep at night.

Make Time for Exercise

Just 15-20 minutes a day of physical activity can go a long way toward reducing stress. This is because the endorphins, or “feel good” chemicals, released from the brain can help us feel more relaxed and happy. Take a lap or two around the neighborhood, do some jumping jacks, ride a bike, or join a local gym to help relieve chronic stress.

When Stress and Addiction Become a Co-occurring Disorder

The phrase “co-occurring disorder” is how medical professionals refer to more than one mental or physical health condition occurring at the same time in a person. Stress is one of the most common co-occurring disorders associated with substance abuse. Others may be diagnosed with anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or clinical depression alongside addiction. Those with existing mental health disorders are more likely to develop a substance addiction, though this is not guaranteed. It’s also common for prolonged substance use to trigger or cause mental health conditions.

If an individual is experiencing a co-occurring disorder, it’s recommended that they seek treatment from a facility that specializes in that condition. This way, both disorders can be treated together rather than separately. This is the most effective way of treating co-occurring disorders.

Manage Stress and Substance Abuse With Enlightened Solutions

Enlightened Solutions is a treatment facility specializing in holistic practices for a “whole-person” approach to health. Whether a person is dealing with high levels of stress, substance abuse, or both, our treatment programs can help. We offer inpatient detox, outpatient programs, 12-Step programs, individual and family therapy, and more to address and treat both conditions at once. We are also passionate about incorporating healthy life choices, such as clean eating and exercise, to promote both physical and mental health.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse and stress, you are not alone. Many people turn to substances as a means of coping with uncomfortable situations, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Enlightened Solutions is uniquely equipped to help you deal with both addiction and stress. Through a variety of therapies, inpatient and outpatient treatment, an emphasis on holistic care, and healthy eating, we can address your mental and physical health to support your overall wellness. Our facility has helped many people recover from addiction, develop healthier coping mechanisms for stress, and achieve long-lasting sobriety. To learn more about the services we offer, please call us today at (833) 801-LIVE.