Some amount of stress can have positive effects by giving you more motivation to complete work and enhancing your problem-solving abilities. But chronic, prolonged stress can be overwhelming, leading to burnout.
Chronic stress can adversely affect your physical and mental health, causing issues like anxiety, insomnia, body aches, high blood pressure and a compromised immune system. Doctors warn that stress can contribute to the development of severe illnesses such as heart disease and depression. Still, many Americans don’t take the necessary steps to control stress and improve their quality of life.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” plays a role in your body’s fight-or-flight response. In stressful situations, your body releases cortisol to help you react quickly. When the stress trigger is no longer present, your body should return to its baseline levels within 20 to 60 minutes. However, if you are chronically stressed, your body may constantly pump out higher-than-average amounts of cortisol, which can adversely affect your well-being.
Health problems associated with high cortisol levels include digestive issues, weight gain, suppressed immune function, increased blood sugar, heart disease, mood disorders and substance abuse.
4 Ways to Address Chronic Stress
You can reduce your cortisol levels and your risk of developing severe health issues by taking steps to manage chronic stress.
1. Take a Mental Health Day From Work
If you feel anxious or burned out, your resulting irritability can have a ripple effect on your colleagues. And if you get too overwhelmed to focus on your tasks, your work quality and motivation will start to suffer. You might miss critical due dates that impact others who count on you, causing workplace trust and morale issues. Taking a day off work to relax and recharge can benefit you and your co-workers. If you have a supportive work environment, feel free to set a positive example by telling colleagues you’re taking a day solely to focus on your mental health.
2. Learn How to Say No
“No” is a tiny word that can have a powerful impact on your stress levels. When you already feel anxious and overcommitted, turning down non-essential projects and requests can be part of your strategy for setting healthy boundaries. Refrain from accepting any additional commitments until you feel your stress is under control.
3. Improve Your Sleep Quality
Chronic stress can cause insomnia, anxiety dreams and a lack of quality, restful sleep. To improve your sleep hygiene, experts recommend having a consistent bedtime and eliminating distractions such as TVs from your bedroom. Begin winding down an hour or two before you go to bed with soothing activities like meditating, drinking a warm cup of herbal tea or doing some gentle yoga stretches or progressive muscle relaxation. If you tend to lie awake and worry, write down your concerns in a journal well before bedtime and work on quieting your thoughts before lights out. After you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you’ll be in a better mindset for solving problems and addressing stressful issues.
4. Seek Additional Help
If you continue to feel overwhelmed, hopeless or fatigued, consult with a trained mental health professional such as a therapist. Through therapy, you can develop effective stress-management strategies and make behavioral changes to help improve your overall health.
Contact Our Accredited California Rehab
Small quantities of drugs and alcohol can provide short-lived stress relief by altering the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. However, long-term substance abuse causes chronically elevated cortisol, which leads to a condition called neurotoxicity. Symptoms include impaired memory, decision-making skills, attention and learning.
If you have a substance use disorder, you may assume quitting cold turkey will help you heal from neurotoxicity, chronic stress and other health problems. But transitioning from frequent drug and alcohol use to complete abstinence can cause a dramatic spike in cortisol levels, among other withdrawal symptoms. Medically managed detox at Pillars Recovery is the safest way to quit abusing alcohol and drugs. Once you are stable, you can immediately move into primary treatment to uncover the root causes of your addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Pillars Recovery is here to help you with every facet of your healing journey. Start by reaching out to us today.