November 1st is National Stress Awareness Day. Unfortunately, stress causes endless problems for many individuals. That includes the development of substance use disorder (SUD) and various other mental health conditions. Stress also makes it difficult for people to function at work or fulfill other responsibilities within their personal lives. That said, how can people practively manage their stress? What are some stress management skills that can help before it leads to mental illness?
Continue reading to learn more about the ways stress can lead to mental illness and what you can do to prevent it. Bringing awareness to the mental health implications unmanaged stress can cause is critical, especially for stress awareness day. Holistic and healthy approaches can help you start managing stress at work and in your personal life. Moreover, if you are already struggling with your mental health or SUD, contact West Coast Recovery Centers today.
Recognizing When You Are Stressed
Everyone experiences stress at some point in their lives. Whether you work an exceptionally strenuous job or have a marriage on the rocks, stress is a natural response to these life challenges. While stress can be good — as it can increase alertness and motivation while also boosting job performance in some individuals — it can also cause anxiety, frustration, and worry.
Some signs that may indicate you are experiencing a high level of stress include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Low self-esteem
- Impaired memory and decision-making skills
- Constant anxiety worrying
- Extreme moodiness or irritability
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, body aches, nausea, or high blood pressure
Recognizing signs of stress may be challenging if you typically handle it well. Different people manage stress in varying ways, some better than others. However, the risk of developing mental or physical conditions increases when ordinary day-to-day stress becomes chronic. Furthermore, what causes these intense feelings of chronic worry and anxiety? Is it simply how our brain naturally responds to stress?
How Does the Brain Respond to Stress?
Stress occurs in response to challenging stimuli as the brain processes these stimuli as potentially harmful. This happens in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotions, making decisions, and processing fear. When this part of the brain senses danger, it signals the hypothalamus, which releases hormones to help control the body in these dangerous situations.
The body has a natural process for dealing with distressing situations. However, over time, persistent and otherwise chronic stress can harmfully impact your brain. As mentioned, this may lead to a mental or physical health condition, but it can also cause the development of an addiction. Why is that?
Stress, Mental Illness, and Addiction
Experiencing high levels of stress can make you more susceptible to developing anxiety, depression, or any number of other mental health conditions. These can often be managed through therapy, medication, and healthy coping skills. When people do not have access to these, they may turn to substance use to help them cope with the complex emotions surrounding their mental illness.
In addition to becoming more vulnerable to addiction when experiencing unmanaged stress, other mental health conditions you may develop include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (SUD)
- Mood disorders
- Panic disorder
Learning stress management skills can help you prevent the development of these and other mental health conditions. And one way to learn stress management skills is through mindfulness.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Management Skills
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is beneficial whether you are in recovery or looking to prevent the development of SUD. Mindfulness is one of many stress management skills you can begin experimenting with. It helps you refocus on the present moment when you are exceptionally stressed and overwhelmed. We often implement mindfulness-based techniques into our programs at West Coast Recovery Centers, but these techniques can help you manage stress on your own, too.
Other stress management skills you can utilize to prevent mental health concerns include:
- Maintaining a positive attitude and practicing daily gratitude
- Learning to accept situations you can not control
- Practicing self-care, which includes eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking breaks when you are stressed
- Creating a regular day-to-day routine for yourself
- Avoiding substance use and taking care of your party
- Scheduling time during your day to unwind and participate in activities you enjoy
- Making time for hobbies and other interests
- Talking to friends, family, and loved ones about distressing situations
- Learning to say no when your limits are being tested
- Seeking professional help from a therapist, mental health professional, or doctor when your stress is becoming too much to manage alone
How Can Stress Management Skills Prevent Mental Health Disorders?
Stress management skills can prevent mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and SUD. This is because they help you handle stressful situations, maintain mental well-being, and avoid turning to harmful coping techniques like substance use. Moreover, they offer a proactive way to get ahead of your stress and prevent the development of mental conditions if chronic stress goes unmanaged.
Want to learn more about the connection between stress and mental health? Speak with a doctor, mental health professional, or counselor to learn more about stress management skills like these today.
Everyone experiences stress in their day-to-day lives within their work or personal relationships. While some can manage stress better than others, untreated chronic stress can lead to the development of mental and physical health conditions, including disorders like anxiety, depression, and addiction. Learning healthy stress management skills is the best way to prevent stress from leading to mental illness is learning and implementing healthy stress management skills. These techniques can help you cope with day-to-day life challenges and stop further complications with your overall well-being. If you are already struggling with your mental health or addiction because of stress and require help, call West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509 for treatment today.