Stress Tolerance: Building Resilience in Early Recovery

Stressful situations come and go throughout our lives and it affects each of us differently. Some of us are resilient to higher levels of stress while for others it is more of a challenge. Our innate “fight or flight” response to stress helps protect us from perceived danger whether it be facing our problems head on or avoiding them completely.

At times stress can mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually subdue even the most optimistic person. For those transitioning from addiction treatment to a life in early recovery, adapting to life’s stressors can prove to be very challenging. Whether it’s finding housing, a job, paying bills or working out relational problems, the daily stressors will be there and without the right coping skills the person may be tempted to once again turn to drugs or alcohol.

Some situations may feel dire at times, but understanding where your reactions to stress come from and developing healthy coping mechanisms is the key to building resilience.

The Epigenetics of Stress

What is it exactly? Epigenetics is the heritable changes in gene expression. Through DNA, you can inherit the affects from the experiences your ancestors had while they were going through stressful times.

It isn’t all about genetics. Biological, psychological, and social factors also play a role in development. Genetic relevance to addiction doesn’t mean you’re destined to handle issues exactly as your ancestors did. Instead, you are at a higher risk of having medical or mental health issues from past generations.

The great thing about epigenetics is that these transgenerational genes can be altered by the impact of your own social and environmental experiences. Basically, how you manage stressful situations and build resilience can positively impact you and your family for future generations to come.

Toxic Stress and Childhood Trauma

The toxic stress from childhood trauma often forms a person’s identity and decreases their ability to effectively handle stressful situations. Childhood trauma such as physical or sexual abuse and neglect can have long-term effects on resilience.

In a study by the Centers for Disease Control, the Adverse Childhood Experience study monitored 17,000 adults. Out of those 17,000 adults, 41 percent of women and 34.5 percent of men reported having two or more childhood traumatic experiences.

Children who grew up in toxic environments where abuse and neglect were prevalent are more likely to suffer from anxiety, lack independence and are more prone to addiction as adults. Without the level of resilience needed to cope with stress in a healthy way, drinking and taking drugs becomes an attractive “flight response” to stress.

Building Stress Tolerance

Your social environment plays a key role in how you manage stress. If you’re continually in a chaotic environment, and are surrounded by negativity you’ll experience distress. Distress is the bad stress that influences poor decision-making, unhealthy behaviors, declining health, and poor mental and emotional health.

Yet, if you’re in a supportive and nurturing environment, then you’ll experience eustress. Eustress is the good stress that motivates you to do the work, such as:

  • Creating a good relationship with yourself
  • Attending groups
  • Seeing a therapist
  • Communicating with a sponsor
  • Working the 12 steps
  • Performing well on the job
  • Going back to school
  • Setting priorities for yourself
  • Ending the negative self-talk
  • Avoiding perfectionism
  • Praising yourself
  • Meditating and staying present

Becoming a Better You

Eustress is the type of stress that challenges you to strive to be better and achieve your goals. As you continue to practice the above, you’ll learn the best ways for you to cope with stress and build your resilience over time. Like anything of great value, increasing stress tolerance is a practice. Lasting recovery involves a routine practice of self-love, self-care, and resilience.

Transformations Treatment Center is a nationally accredited detox, inpatient, partial hospitalization, outpatient, and continuing care facility. We also offer a transitional living program to help those who have relapsed get back on track with their recovery. To learn more about our facility and programs, call our admissions team today at 800-270-4315.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Response and Updates for Clients, Families, and Referents Read More