There are days in our lives when nothing ever seems to go right. Days when we feel that there is just so much wrong that the next bad thing to happen is sure to push us over the edge. That is what stress feels like. It also happens to be part of every waking moment.
Stress is a motivating force in life. It motivates people to move, react, cope, and do anything else needed to survive. It becomes bad when a person fails to handle it properly, as it could wear a person down completely. This is important to know because stress affects every single facet of human life. Even worse, it could aggravate certain situations in life, such as addiction. This is why rehabilitation also focuses on stress management in recovery.
What Causes Stress?
Perhaps the better question would be “What DOESN’T cause stress?” because every waking moment could come with one form of stress or another. Different people perceive and react to stress differently, as what could be stressful for one could not be the same as with others.
To know what causes stress better, one must first understand the triggers that initiate the onset of stress. Most people find that their greatest source of stress is usually the workplace, and this is completely understandable. Others, however, also find that life at home to be particularly stressful, and this is true if a member of the household happens to be someone with a substance abuse issue.
The most common triggers could be classified into groups that most aptly describe them:
Physical Stress Sources
- Bad Day at Work
- Traffic and Reckless Drivers
- Intolerable Weather
- Accidents and Untoward Events
- Chronic or Sudden Illness
Mental Stress Sources
- Deep-seated Fears and Anxieties
- Worries Over Finances
- Confusion and Depression
- Bad or Painful Memories
- Addiction and Dependency
Emotional Stress Sources
- Fidelity Issues with the Spouse or Partner
- Bullying at School or the Workplace
- Loss of a Friend or Loved One
- Personal Insecurities and Failures
- Family Issues
The Impact of Stress on Physical, Mental, and Emotional Well-Being
Unmanaged stress is known to be quite disruptive and destructive to the physical well-being of a person. What makes this an even bigger problem is that the effects of unmanaged stress are subtle at best, and only pronounced after some time. Unlike a physical illness, the symptoms of stress do not immediately manifest, but when it does, the effects are already at an alarming level.
Some of the more common physical impacts of stress include:
- Migraines and Headaches
- Profuse Sweating
- Appetite Loss
- Loss of Libido
- Stomach Issues, including IBS or constipation
- Weight Loss or Obesity
Some of the more common mental impacts of stress include:
- Chronic Anxiety
- Memory Loss
- Inability to Focus
- Compromised Decision-making Skills
Some of the more common emotional impacts of stress include:
- Short Temper and Irritability
- Uncharacteristic Sadness or Pessimism
- General Disinterest in Life
- Mood Swings
- Irrational and Unexplainable Fears
What Happens When Stress is Left Unmanaged?
There are a number of dire circumstances that are often blamed on a person’s inability to cope with stress. It could range from the person’s body succumbing to severe conditions as the stress works inward, or outwardly in the form of lashing out at anyone and everyone. This is why health experts are constantly trying to figure out ways to help people cope with stress, before it leads to such consequences.
Most people diagnosed with a heart condition are particularly vulnerable to stress. These people are usually advised to take a sedative whenever they feel that they are exposed to too much stress, as it might trigger a heart attack. There are also instances where people who have no history of heart disease suddenly succumb to a heart attack, brought on by long-term stress that they were never able to vent or manage.
Similar to a heart attack, a stroke is quite possible for people who are not able to handle stress properly. A stroke could be due to a number of things, such as blood clots forming and being brought to the heart or brain where it causes damage, or even through ruptured blood vessels in the brain.
Due to the fact that stress elevates the heart rate, increases blood pressure drastically, and increases the levels of fat and sugar in the blood, it is largely blamed for strokes or aneurysms.
Stress eating and loss of appetite are also largely blamed on unmanaged stress levels. Many who experience stress indulge in “stress eating,” where they binge on food to achieve some sense of relief from the stress. In other cases, the stress causes them to lose interest in eating anything. Unless this is dealt with, obesity or malnutrition is sure to occur within just a short time.
A common misconception about stress relief is that indulging in substances such as alcohol or drugs would make it all go away. The fact is that stress will always be present for as long as the person is alive. To think that substances would make it stop is to literally jump in head first into addiction.
The short relief that one feels from indulging in substances is habit-forming, and it doesn’t take long for it to become a full-blown dependency issue. Stress even makes kicking the habit difficult, which is why managing stress in recovery is part of every rehabilitation program.
There are instances where stress is so great that the person simply gives up on trying to manage it. It could be in the form of a breakdown where they simply give and want to just curl up and withdraw from the world, or in the form of wanting everything to end permanently.
It is not uncommon to find antacids in most households today. One of the more immediate manifestations of high-level stress is a stomach ache. It could be from acid reflux, gastritis, or an irritated colon. There have even been instances where some stomach cancer cases were blamed on unmanaged stress.
Severe mental disorders are also largely blamed on unmanaged stress as well. There are actually many who could not handle the mental burden of stress and simply went “postal,” doing things no one really thought they would or could do. This is why so many are often shocked to hear of individuals who were known to be quiet, unremarkable people suddenly doing heinous things.
How Stress Makes the Difference between a Relapse and Recovery
Rehabilitation from any kind of addiction is one of the most stressful things that a person could ever go through. It is often described as having an important part of the body removed unnecessarily. To make it all worse, withdrawal makes the person feel sicker than they have ever been in their life.
A good-sized portion of any rehabilitation program is in helping the patient deal with the stress of trying to kick whatever unhealthy habit they had. Apart from the further stress of the patient’s body wanting to stop the rehab, there is also the matter of their willpower dropping all the way down to zero.
Without the will to continue with the program, the success rate of the therapy could be anywhere from slim to none. This is why it is important to keep the patient motivated and focused on the goal of recovery, otherwise a relapse is almost a certainty.
Let Chapters Recovery Help You Deal with the Stress of Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation is not about speed or repetition. It’s about consistency and motivation. Those who are motivated maintain the will to recover fully. That is why we here at Chapters Recovery make a point to recognize and deal with signs of stress in rehab, so that it does not get in the way of a patient’s journey to getting better and sober.
We deal with stress and addiction in our programs, and it helps in a big way too. It equips our patients with what they need to know to move forward from their dependency, even when therapy is already done.