The most common triggers for substance use are often negative internal states or feelings. Examples of negative feelings include depression, anxiety, stress, and anger among others. Because these triggers are so common, it’s important that people develop coping skills to manage negative feelings in a more healthy way. Today, we are going to concentrate on coping with stress. For the sake of space, we are just going to touch on the very basics of stress management.
Stress is a negative feeling that everyone has to endure at one time or another and without coping skills, stress can get out of control and feel very uncomfortable! The first step for learning to manage stress is to identify triggers of stress in your life. There are two types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress is good stress or stress from something positive in your life. Examples of eustress include having a baby, getting married, starting a new job, and getting promoted. Although these are positive life changes, there is stress associated with them. The second type of stress is called distress. Distress is the type of stress we think about most often and is typically associated with negative events in life. Examples of distress include financial problems, unemployment, having an argument with someone, and involvement in the legal system. What stressors do you have in your life?
Now that you have some ideas of what is triggering your stress, think about your personal signs of stress. How does your body respond to stress? Common bodily responses to stress are muscle tension, headaches, shortness of breath, racing thoughts, heart pounding, dry mouth, cold sweats, feeling hot, and butterflies in the stomach. In our outpatient groups, we often have clients document their stress triggers and signs of stress over a week period so they are more aware of what stressors are in their lives. Recognizing what is stressing you and what your signs of stress are can help you determine when its time to use a skill!
There are numerous strategies to tackle stress. The most basic of these strategies is deep breathing. Deep breathing is a basic technique that helps with relaxation and relieving tension. There are numerous deep breathing exercises available. The following deep breathing exercise is from The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook from Davis, Eshelman, and McKay.
Breathing Awareness and Deep Breathing
(Davis, Eshelman, and McKay; The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, 2nd edition; New Harbringer Publications, 1982.)
Is stress something that you struggle with? If so, try out deep breathing and let us know what you think! For more help with stress, check out our “Self-Help Resources” tab for helpful phone apps!
Corey Campbell is a clinician/trainer with the Human Service Center of Peoria, IL. All thoughts on this blog are representative of only Corey and do not reflect the Human Service Center.