Stress is a normal, everyday part of our lives. Stressors come at us from every direction. Work, home, and traffic pile up the stressors in our day-to-day lives. How we deal with all that incoming stress is different in each person.
Some are capable of handling stress by relieving the pressures in healthy ways. Exercise, play, talking, and prayer are some of the healthy ways of offsetting the compiling weight of daily stress. However, some are more vulnerable to addiction and handling stress in an incorrect manner.
Eating, drinking, and smoking are three of the most common unhealthy ways of dealing with stress. How do you know when any of these behaviors have gone from normal to unhealthy? How do you know when seeking help is the next step you should take?
Eating is a necessity in our normal, everyday lives. Our bodies function on the fuel we put into them. Take away our fuel and we run out of gas pretty quickly. Stress eating is a different kind of eating behavior. When eating for stress relief, hunger is not the motivator. The motivator is a deep need to fill a void that only exists emotionally. This is why stress eaters make unhealthy decisions, eating what is available and in unhealthy amounts. Stress eaters reach for what is near, and eat to fill that powerful need.
The damages can include weight gain to obesity, high blood pressure, stomach and esophageal issues. Eating to relieve stress begins to put an incredible amount of stress on your body. Uninhibited, it can lead to death.
Drinking alcohol is not necessarily a bad thing. Alcohol in small amounts has been shown to be helpful for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. How much is no longer a small amount? How much is too much? It has been stated that if drinking alcohol is to relieve stress, any is too much.
If alcohol consumption is impacting lives, relationships, or jobs, then alcohol use is a problem. The vicious circle of drinking, stress, drinking, and more stress related to the drinking compiles to a point of collapse. Loss of freedoms, loss of relationships, and loss of income will all result if alcohol use goes out of control.
Tobacco use and stress are tightly wound together. As stress increases, frequency of tobacco use increases. Nicotine performs a cruel trick: It creates a situation where the user only feels normal when under its influence, and must return again and again to get some temporary relief. But tobacco users are never in a state of true normalcy. They alternate, all day long, between being drugged with nicotine and feeling varying degrees of deprivation until they smoke again.
Smoking and chewing tobacco have proven relationships with cancer. Choosing to use other methods of nicotine delivery can help curb some of the direct risks, but bring about risks of their own.
Each of these three unhealthy methods of stress relief bring about their own consequences. The best way to avoid being drawn into the abusive cycle is to find healthy outlets for the daily stress we all face.