It’s OK to seek the assistance and the support of a mental health counselor.
Robert Shermer, MS, LPC and Maurice Pearl MSW, LMSW, CCDP-D
Heartland Center for Behavioral Change
Have you ever been walking down a sidewalk and jump in terror thinking you’ve come across a snake but in reality, it was a stick? That response was your fight or flight system shooting the hormones cortisol and adrenaline into your muscles preparing you to either run or fight. The body normally returns to a *homeostasis when stress or a potential threat like the “snake” is gone, but if that stress is constant, then the body could start to react with negative physical or mental responses.
If stress is always or often present, the increased adrenaline will keep the heart rate and heart pressure at an elevated state. The increased cortisol amounts can affect the immune system causing various health and mental problems such as heart disease, weight gain, anxiety and depression to name just a few.
Now let’s take a look at stress and alcohol and drug use specifically. Let’s say you’ve been worried about a meeting all week. The day finally arrives and your presentation doesn’t go well. You decide you need to go have a few drinks after work to deal with such a stressful week. Does it make you feel better? Does it relieve some of your stress? Yes, it does, but only in the very short term, and at what cost? Thus the problem begins, looking for immediate short term fixes to make us feel better or cope with long term and everyday stress.
So how does a person manage or cope with stress in a healthy way free from the use of mind-altering substances?
- Learn and practice ways to take care of yourself physically, by eating healthy, getting adequate amounts of sleep and regular exercise.
- Develop small manageable goals to focus on to avoid from getting overwhelmed.
- Talk with others and develop healthy support systems to discuss and share problems with.
- Avoiding the use of alcohol and drugs. They may seem to provide some relief, but will increase problems with stress in the long run.
It has been said that the definition of neurosis is ruminating about the past (depression) and worrying about the future (anxiety). If we as a society can focus on the present more, and develop and practice healthy ways to cope we might not have the level of stress we currently are experiencing. So take that walk to clear your mind of the stressor(s) of the day…just be mindful of the sticks!
Faith-based organizations are always a valuable resource that often goes under-utilized. Contact your local church, synagogue or other faith-based organization for counseling services or support. Most jobs often provide access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Contact your HR director for more information. •
*Homeostasis, from the Greek words for “same” and “steady,” refers to any process that living things use to actively maintain fairly stable conditions necessary for survival.