The truth is, stress is a part of everyday life, and not all of it is bad. Good stress can motivate you to get things done. Bad stress can make you feel utterly helpless, trapped, and not in control.
When is stress good?
Stress is a natural, physiological response to fear and anxiety. It’s the “fight or flight” reaction we feel when faced with conflict.
Good stress motivates you, like when you are faced with a deadline at work or when you are preparing for a competition. This kind of stress is usually short in duration, just long enough to give you the impetus to overcome an obstacle or complete a task.
For example, if you have to give a presentation or speak in front of a group, you might be nervous, even though you are the best person for the job. This is the type of stress that isn’t likely to linger beyond the event.
If a little stress helps you buckle down and meet your deadlines, it’s beneficial. Generally, you will take some time to yourself and relax a little once you’re done.
If, however, you are always scrambling to complete your projects on time despite giving yourself enough time to prepare, you may succumb to exhaustion. Your performance will eventually suffer, and you may not be able to recover quickly. This is when stress becomes harmful.
The dangers of chronic stress
If you have ongoing stress in your life, it not only prevents you from getting things done, it can lead to chronic health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.
This kind of stress can be caused by problems at home, at work, or at school. Money, work, and relationships are often the root of the problem.
In the short-term, stress might cause you to experience stomach or digestive problems, headaches, and loss of libido. You may also become sick more often and more easily. Psychologically, you may have trouble focusing on tasks or remembering things. Your closest relationships will suffer.
Coping with stress
What would our lives be without stress? You’d have no job, no friends, no bills to pay. You certainly wouldn’t be married or have any children.
Is it reasonable to think that we can leverage the good stress to our advantage and learn how to cope with the bad?
Managing stress requires the development of coping mechanisms that can help transform that energy into something more constructive or peaceful, as the case may be.
Here are some tips for managing stress:
Accept what you cannot change and focus instead on the things you can
Don’t forget to breathe. Deep breaths do a lot to calm the mind and body.
Stay active. Go for walks, go to the gym, or sign up for a yoga class.
Practice mindful meditation. Mindfulness is a great way to redirect your thoughts away from stressful events.
Avoid stressful situations when you can. If you find your stress level rising, step away if you can. Getting some distance will help refresh and reset your brain.
If you find yourself struggling with stress, it helps to speak to someone who understands. Reach out today to find out how to get started.
Mindfulness is a meditative practice, a moment-by-moment awareness of what’s happening in our environment and within us in the present moment. By focusing wholly on the present, we avoid obsessing on events in the past or stressing about what might happen in the future.
We all have the ability to be mindful. It doesn’t take great skill or a lot of schooling to master. You can do it anywhere, anytime; at work, at home, or while walking down the street. It does not ask us to change who we are.
Anybody can do it, and there are vast bodies of evidence that suggest that it can help us overcome a lot of issues.
Wherever you go, there you are
Addiction, anxiety, and mental health conditions are things that typically take us away from the present moment. When we are in the throes of one of these disorders, we are consumed with trying to escape the present because it represents discomfort, agitation, and pain.
Paradoxically, by focusing only on the present—on the things you feel within your body and what’s going on around you—it is possible to change how you respond to the discomfort of addiction and mental health issues. Learning how to deal with these feelings can encourage a different way of behaving, too. For example, it may prevent you from reacting impulsively to a stressful situation, helping you trade neutral, non-judgmental thoughts for those that trigger addictive behavior.
This principle is the core of mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an ancient meditation technique that goes back thousands of years. Though it is practiced in many cultures and religions, the type of mindfulness used in addiction and mental health treatment is most closely related to Buddhist practice. In this culture, it is described as “paying attention purposefully, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
In terms of addiction and mental health, the non-judgmental aspect is key as much of the angst we feel is a direct result of a judgment we have made. Thoughts and sensations themselves do not have judgment attached to them. It’s how you decide to respond to those thoughts that create the judgmental aspect.
If you do not respond to those thoughts, if you choose instead just to notice the sensations without any further acknowledgment, you do not pass judgment. Without judgment, there is no need for anxiety, self-deprecating, or harmful thoughts.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Meditation is used by people from cultures all over the world to bring a sense of peace and calm and to improve various aspects of their lives.
There are meditative aspects in many of the things we do every day, from doing the dishes to enjoying your favorite music. In fact, you may already be practicing mindfulness meditation on some level, even if you don’t realize it.
There are many different types of meditation, but mindfulness meditation places a particular focus on the awareness of oneself and the immediate surroundings.
All types of meditation have a few things in common. In any case, the way you approach it is much the same:
Find a quiet, calm environment where you are unlikely to be disturbed
Settle yourself in a comfortable position, usually seated
Relax your body and mind and release stressful thoughts
Use deep breaths to oxygenate your blood
In mindfulness meditation, you are also asked to be fully present and aware of yourself and your surroundings.
You will notice your thoughts, your breath, the temperature of the cool air as it enters your nostrils and the warmth of it as you exhale.
Open your mind to accept thoughts as they come to you.
As thoughts enter your mind, as you feel the sensations on your skin and within your body, you will observe them without judging them. You will accept these thoughts, choosing not to linger on them. Your thoughts are neither good nor bad, right or wrong. They simply are.
During this meditation, you will take inventory of each part of your body and notice how it feels, the sensations as the air passes over it, the pressure of the chair beneath you. You will notice the smells and sounds of what is going on around you and, in many cases, the anxiety and worry that you typically experience will ease.
This is the essence of mindfulness.
Our mind, when left to its own devices, will instantly judge a person or situation as good or bad, fair or unfair, important or unimportant. In many cases, this happens so quickly that our responses are reactive and can sometimes lead us down a dark path.
When we practice mindfulness, we do not allow judgment. We can gain perspective on our thoughts and find the freedom to choose how we proceed.
If the concept of mindfulness meditation is new to you, it might be helpful to start with a guided meditation, like this one:
Mindfulness meditation for mental health conditions and addiction
Though mindfulness may not replace frontline therapies for some of these conditions, it can significantly improve clinical outcomes, reduce symptoms, and help to establish coping behaviors that allow other treatments such as mental health treatment, etc… to work more effectively.
One of the other benefits of mindful meditation is that it doesn’t interfere with other treatments and can actually enhance long-term results. It can be practiced at home, at work, or with your therapist. Once you have learned the techniques, you will be able to apply it to any situation, anytime you need it.
Mindfulness for substance abuse and addiction
In recent years, mindfulness training has been studied extensively as an intervention for addictions and addictive behaviors that include smoking, drinking, and various forms of substance abuse.
The outcomes of these studies show that mindful-based interventions (MBIs) can reduce cravings and substance misuse. Better still, approaches like Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention can also work to prevent relapse in the future. Mindfulness staves off destructive thoughts that have the potential to derail your sobriety.
By focusing on the present moment rather than allowing your mind to obsess over a craving, you will effectively, and immediately deflect your response. Continue to practice, and this could be a sustainable method of achieving your recovery goals.
Getting started with mindful meditation
When learning mindful meditation, you may work with a therapist who can guide you through the process. Whether you pick it up quickly or if it takes some time to feel a level of comfort with the process, the results are immediately noticeable. With patience, perseverance, and commitment, the rewards will come. As you become more comfortable with mindfulness, you can incorporate them into everyday life to reduce stress and help you cope with “slippery” situations.
You can begin practicing mindfulness right away simply by taking notice of where you are, what you are doing, and what’s going on around you. The key is to accept these things without judgment and without becoming overwhelmed. If you need a guide, you can find great guided meditations like the YouTube video above, and there are also great apps and podcasts available.
There’s no need to buy anything, and you don’t need a doctor to show you how. Keep in mind that your mind will wander and attempt to hijack your serenity with judgmental thoughts. When these thoughts arise, just go back to your breath; breathe in, breathe out. Just breathe.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness for addiction and mental health, we would love to help. Reach out today to get started.
Workplace injuries happen everyday, and more often than not, the injured worker will be prescribed an opioid as a way to help ease the pain and lasting issues associated with the immediate injury. Whether the ultimate treatment for the injury involves surgery, physical therapy, or another treatment, medical professionals often turn to opioids like Vicodin or Oxycodone to placate the injured worker’s reported pain.
Risk of Opioid Dependence
As well as they may work to reduce pain levels, the unfortunate truth about opioids is that they are highly addictive, and they have been shown to increase pain sensitivity, called Opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH), which creates a vicious cycle of increased pain, increased dosage, increased tolerance and increased risk of dependence and overdose. Several studies, including one in JAMA, show that as many as one-third of workers who begin using opioids for a workplace injury become addicted to them — which can hinder both the treatment and recovery for the injury, as well as their timetable to return to work and living a productive life.
One report from the CDC found that among adults (non-cancer patients) who received a prescription for opioids, the likelihood of chronic opioid use started after just three days of the medication, and increased with each additional day of medication supplied. The most dramatic increase among these patients was seen after the fifth day of taking opioids, and the highest probability of continued opioid use at 1 and 3 years was seen among patients who were prescribed long-acting opioids like Fentanyl or Morphine.
Increased Time Off Work
The research is strong enough that some medical groups have begun recommending against prescribing opioids for less severe injuries, as developing an addiction after a workplace injury has become a growing concern in industries around the world. Although some medical communities may see opioids as the best (or only) option for getting injured workers back to work — particularly for injuries that can’t be resolved with surgery and will likely linger for an extended period of time — opioid use triples a worker’s time spent on disability, on average.
Considering that the time spent on disability doesn’t even factor in other possible side effects of becoming dependent on opioids, the risks associated with the popular painkillers can make them a dangerous choice for anyone suffering from a workplace injury. Although they may seem necessary for a physician who has “tried everything”, finding an alternative source of pain relief could spare employees, employers, and workers compensation carriers all over the world from the weeks, months, or even years of suffering that opioids can lead to.
There are evidence-based alternative treatments for pain that focus on changing one’s beliefs and removing fear around pain – altering the pain experience. An effective and integrated pain recovery program, like Roots Chronic Pain Recovery, utilizes approaches including mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, EMDR, and art therapy, and integrates yoga, tai chi, physical therapy, family therapy, and other modalities.
“The goal is to get people moving again”, says Dr. Michael Aquino, PT, DPT, “The less people move out of fear of further injury, the more pain they will experience.”
Roots Chronic Pain Recovery has developed a mind-body approach to treat chronic pain and opioid dependency. With personalized treatment and an interdisciplinary team, we can help you regain control of your body – and your life.
From bike trails and yoga on the bluff to farmers markets and kayaking, Long Beach offers a uniquely diverse community where people can thrive while enjoying life to the fullest!
Roots Through Recovery, located in Long Beach, California, offers treatment for those coping with addiction and mental health issues. We embrace the culture of wellness that is at the heart of this city, and create a place for healing the mind, body and spirit.
See for yourself why Long Beach is the ideal place to start or continue your journey of recovery.
Roots Through Recovery opened its doors in January 2017 and in the last four months, the program has grown to include daytime partial hospitalization and morning intensive outpatient to meet the various needs of our clients. There has been a lot of interest in recent weeks for an evening intensive outpatient program for the working professionals in Long Beach and the South Bay.
In response to this growing need, Roots Through Recovery is excited to announce the start of its evening IOP program beginning the week of May 15th!
CALL NOW (562) 473-0827
Much like our daytime programs, the evening IOP program will focus on addressing underlying trauma and mental health needs of community members who are coping with alcohol or drug addiction. Our compassionate and highly trained therapists provide trauma-informed care in small groups and individual therapy.