Making a decision to change
Reducing use tips
Coping with cravings
management for users
Stress management for users
Stress is our physical and psychological reaction to demanding
or threatening situations. Research indicates that accumulated
stress may be associated with both the onset and escalation
of drug use. That is, the more stressful events or environments
experienced, the greater the likelihood of drug problems.
We live with potential stressors 24/7 in the modern world.
Racism, homophobia, ageism and HIV are examples of stressors
that can impact our lives. There are many others.
There are also an infinite variety of ways that people cope
with stress. No one sets out to create dependency on a substance
or a harmful behaviour.
Why does this happen? When we chose to use as a means to
manage stress we build pathways in our brain directly tied
to our reward centre. Tina does this to a much greater extent
than most other substances.
Once there, the pathway will always be there. The more we
reinforce it by using the stronger it becomes, and the more
dominance it will have over other ways we may have previously
learned to manage stress. We create an even more potent reinforcement
if we have associated our use with sex and pleasure. We can
find that our frequency and quantity of use increases. We
can find ourselves using just to avoid the stress we feel
by not using. Our using can become a vicious cycle that consumes
our life, but it doesn’t have to.
The good news is that old pathways of managing stress can
be reactivated and new ones can be built. We may have abandoned
old ways we learned prior to our Tina use, or perhaps we just
don’t use them as often anymore. We can also establish
alternate pathways to the one we created with Tina. The pathways
we chose to travel will be the ones that get stronger.
Managing stress is a skill and can therefore be learned.
It is learned through awareness and practice. There isn’t
much that can equal the near instant gratification and relief
that a hit of Tina can provide. We must not evaluate other,
healthier ways of managing stress by that measure. To be successful,
we need to focus on the long term benefits of calm and peace
that we can achieve through other means of managing stress.
The best place to start is to recognize what we already know.
What things do you do now or used to do in the past, that
you consider to be healthier ways of managing stress that
using? Some of the things other guys identify are exercise,
spend time with pets, journal, talk with someone, cook, have
a shower or bath, spend time in nature, home improvement project,
movie or music, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Think about what you have already practiced in the past and
make a commitment to reinforce that with practice in the future.
You may want to start by focusing on one thing. Take it a
step further and make a commitment to practice this method
several times in the coming week. The more specific and realistic
your commitment is, the more successful you will be. Setting
a healthy reward for completing the goal also provides motivation.
You can involve a good friend who might agree to treat or
pay you if you are successful. There are possibilities for
fun! The same strategies can be applied to additional methods
that you already know. Find out what works best for you and
Build on Success
You can learn new ways of managing stress and add them to
your stress management ‘toolbox.’ What other things
would you like to try and possibly learn? You may find that
some ways work better in some situations than others. Know
that more practice will bring more confidence in your ability
to manage stress in less harmful ways. Know that the healthier
ways of managing stress tend to reinforce one another and
contribute to a positive upward spiral instead of the opposite.
While it’s nice to have options, don’t loose
sight of the initial goal to move away from using as a way
to manage stress. Know that every time you practice an alternative
to using, you are strengthening that pathway instead of the
We’d like to suggest several basic exercises that are
relatively easy for users to do that will help build your
stress management skills faster. While you can spend longer
if you wish, they need not take more than five minutes each.
They do require that you sit still and spend time in active
reflection. The best position is to sit grounded in a chair
with your back straight, legs uncrossed and planted on the
floor so that you feel solid and alert. Close your eyes. Begin
with three long, slow, deep, belly breaths. Now you are ready
for any of the exercises below.
When you feel stress, pause instead of reacting. Evaluate
the stressor (the thing causing the stress). Is it a big stressor
or a small one? Our response should match the size and importance
of the stressor. How would you like to respond to this stressor?
We can only experience what we believe is possible. We tend
to imagine the ‘worst case’ scenario in a stressful
situation. Can you imagine the ‘best case’ scenario
instead? What would that look like? Take a few minutes to
think of concrete thoughts and actions you can take to increase
the probability of a ‘best’ case outcome.
Investigating how we feel physically and emotionally helps
improve our self-awareness in stressful situations. Scan your
body, moving from your toes throughout your entire body all
the way to the top of your head. Take several minutes to do
this, naming each part and major organs while continuing to
breathe deeply. Make note of any unpleasant sensations in
case you want to return to them later. Now, turn your attention
to your emotional state. How you are feeling emotionally right
now? Enhanced self-awareness gained from this exercise can
help you respond in a more authentic way.
Meditation can be really simple. Extending the body scan or
focusing on our breathing can provide a conscious focus that
is accessible for most people. Being still and breathing deeply
for just 5 minutes with your eyes closed will provide relaxation
benefits. Being more relaxed can change your perception of
stressors and enable creative solutions. Meditation is itself
a stress management skill.
TIP: If you interested in learning more about how Tina affects
the brain you may want to check out the Brain
page! There is also other information on this site pertaining
to stress issues including strategies to manage and the ‘fight
or flight’ (FOF) response. You can find these pages
and others by using the search feature on this page.