Now more than ever, stress is something that everyone can relate to. Most of us go through stress like a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Some people live in a more consistent state of stress - maybe because of the job they hold or their family situation. Ultimately, there can be many reasons why we all experience stress and it is something that affects all of us.
For someone who is in recovery, stress can be a very triggering thing. There may have a time when one would turn to alcohol or drugs as a means to cope with stress. Once you are in recovery, it is important to find other outlets and means of dealing with the varying stressors of life. Whether someone who struggles with addiction or not, stress can have negative impacts on our bodies and our minds. It is important to understand the effects stress can have on our overall health in order to comprehend why it’s important to deal with in healthy ways rather than simply live with it - or, worst case, look to unhealthy outlets in an attempt to help relieve these stresses.
Stress hormones are what are triggered in stressful situations, from traffic jams to scary movies. These triggers are what sends signals to our “fight or flight” response. This response was designed to help protect your body in the event of an emergency, preparing you to react quickly. In short-term situations, stress can actually be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond. However, if these signals are triggered day after day, it can weaken your response and your overall health.
Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include:
Over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign infections. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and the common cold.
Your Central Nervous System (CNS) is what is in charge of triggering your “fight or flight” response. Our senses send signals to the amygdala, which sends a signal to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, which communicates with the nervous system, then releases stress hormones into the body. The adrenal glands then pump epinephrine, a stress hormone through
the bloodstream. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs. When the perceived fear is gone, the hypothalamus should tell all systems to go back to normal.
If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor doesn’t go away, the response will continue. Living with chronic low-level stress is much like running a motor that is idling for too long. After a while, this contributes to health problems associated with chronic stress. Persistent surges of epinephrine can increase blood pressure and raise the risk of heart attack or stroke. Elevated levels of cortisol, aka chronic stress, is also a factor in behaviors like overeating or not eating enough.
Ultimately, it is important to be able to recognize when you are under stress and take a moment to better understand what the triggers may be for you. Sometimes it can even be beneficial to seek help from a therapist to assist you in dealing with your stress and understanding these possible triggers. If life in sobriety is too difficult on your own, reach out to Windmill Wellness Ranch today and we can help figure out the best path for you to ensure you are able to stay on track in recovery.