WHY STRESS CAN LEAD TO ADDICTION
What is anxiety and stress and why are these feelings of being overwhelmed connected so strongly to addiction. When we feel stressed and anxious it is normal to try to find a solution, a way to change how we are feeling. Stress and anxiety are uncomfortable feelings that unsettle us, and we search for something outside ourselves to help us to feel better. At the end of the day all we all want is to feel at peace, to feel content and to be loved.
Feeling anxious is a normal part of everyday life, it is a normal response inviting us to take action to remove something that is not quite right in our lives from the smallest annoyance to something we perceive as more worrying. The effect on our body can range from a mild and uneasy feeling through to muscle tension, changes in breathing and inability to do anything as we get ready for flight or fight.
When we have an anxious thought, we dig down into our memory banks and match this feeling up against our life experiences and confirm that yes, we are indeed stressed. Having allowed ourselves to be labelled as stressed we then give ourselves the excuse to search for an illusory satisfaction outside ourselves. Searching for something to use to soothe our feelings, to change how we are experiencing life in this moment, and it is always only in this moment. Whether we reach for ice cream, wine, shopping or any other substance or activity that can, just for a moment, just for this moment make us feel better. It will not solve the problem, but hey, if right now I feel a bit better then let’s just drink this bottle of wine.
Now you are not only stressed, you have also created an additional cloud of worry that you are drinking too much, eating too much, damaging your health, spending too much …………..
“Addiction begins with the hope that something “out there” can instantly fill up the emptiness inside.”
When we look outside ourselves to find relief from stress we are turning in the wrong direction. We have developed the habit of using something external to ourselves to solve our problems, to soothe the anxiety and stresses and it becomes a habit. There is nothing our mind loves better that a habit. The more we use alcohol, drugs or chocolate to make us feel better, the more we are teaching our brain that this is the solution to our problems. Once your mind has learnt that to ease your stress you just need to drink a glass of wine, then you will be pushed into doing that whenever you are stressed, worried or anxious. And that push begins to feel like something you can’t control, it is like a driving force compelling you to do or drink or eat things you don’t want to do.
If we want to change our automatic actions we need to learn how to control our anxiety, we need to learn how to calm ourselves down. Learning how to solve problems calmly without fuss or bother before the issue grows arms and legs and we reach for something external to help calm us down. We need to learn that underneath all the stress we all have the ability to calm ourselves down, to bring ourselves back to peace and tranquillity.
When the ocean of our lives threatens to engulf us, we need to realise that we are the ones that are carrying the weights that are holding us down under the water. These weights are your own thoughts about your life and if you let them go you can float back to the top of the ocean.
Anxiety is our minds way of letting us know that something is wrong, if we ignore this or seek to mask it we will never be able to move on, our mind is telling us that something is wrong and needs to change. It is nature’s warning signal that our life is going in the wrong direction. By using something external to ourselves all we do is mask the problem and it will never disappear.
Using anything to suppress our emotions will never address the underlying problem that caused you to feel anxious or stressed.
Anxiety always occurs in time, whether we are worried about the past, what is happening now or catastrophe thinking, looking to the future and seeing the worst case scenario. With all this anxiety going on, we need to see that being anxious about something is the worst reaction we can have to a situation if we want to solve the problem. Anxiety clouds our thinking and makes it really difficult for us to see clearly and to make the right decision about a way forward.
The major of cause of anxiety is unmet needs, being unhappy in your home life, you job, your social life etc. To remove the anxiety, we need to take action to go to the heart of the problem, if we don’t get to the heart of the problem we will forever be reaching for the addictive part of us to give us some relief. If the anxiety is coming from the past we need to forgive ourselves and learn to let things go. Nothing you do today will change anything that happened in the past.
The level of stress we feel about any situation will be determined by what we think about it. Two people going through the same situations can feel very differently, one person might see it as a challenge that needs to be overcome, and another person see it as yet another problem that they are unable to cope with. Both will bring about a different reality and a different way of dealing with the problem. We have all the ability within ourselves to cope with everything we experience in life. Understanding that it is not the outside circumstances that cause you stress but the inside reality of your mind. We are not designed to live our lives feeling stressed, we are designed to experience peace and well-being.
BREAKING THE CONNECTION BETWEEN STRESS AND ADDICTION
So, in order to break the connection you have made between stress and addiction, you need to stop looking outside yourself for solutions to your anxious feelings and start to connect to your inner wellbeing. You might find a quick and simple way to change how you are feeling in the moment, but if you are looking for long term change then you need to seek what you are looking for inside yourself.
“All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realising you already are what you are looking for.”
The next time you are feeling stressed or anxious stop before reaching out for something to soothe your feelings, and just take a minute to try to understand what exactly you are feeling. Ask yourself these questions:
- What am I feeling in this moment?
- What do I want to feel instead?
Instead of seeking help outside, take the time to allow your mind to calm and give yourself the time and space you need to find the solution inside and return to a place of peace and wellbeing.
“I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.”
We are all seeking to enhance our lives and we can choose to do this in different ways, we can spend our time drinking alcohol and eating unhealthy food or we can spend our time exercising. It is our choice whether we enhance our lives in a healthy or unhealthy way. However, if we don’t make a choice to enhance our lives in a healthy way, the chances are we will use whatever means we can find to change our feelings.