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Across the U.S., more of us are stressed than ever before. The annual Stress in America survey found that 67% of U.S. adults “have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic.” Yet it’s young people, especially Generation Z, who are the most vulnerable to the persistent stress and trauma caused by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, young people are increasingly turning to illicit substances to counter the effects of pandemic-related stress. Research indicates that the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 can lead to substance abuse, and overdose deaths are on the rise nationwide. The 2020 holiday season, coupled with social distancing mandates and continued isolation, has only served to compound the issue.

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Stress and Substance Abuse: The Cyclical Effect

Despite the inherent links between stress and COVID, it’s important to remember that stress isn’t always a fleeting emotion or seasonal condition: stress is a common symptom of various mental health conditions, from childhood trauma to anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). And the unfortunate reality is LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience negative mental health conditions than their cisgender peers, at a rate of more than two-to-one.

To relieve the pain brought on by stress, whether caused by a temporary event like COVID or an underlying mental health condition, people seek relief by any means necessary. For some, help comes in the form of counseling, talk therapy, or meditation; other young people take a less traditional (and more dangerous) route, in the form of mind-altering substances. Stress and addiction oftentimes go hand in hand — fueling each other in a dangerous cycle.

Within the LGBTQ community, evidence of the stress/addiction cycle is rampant. For starters, substance misuse and substance use disorders (SUDs) are much more common among sexual minorities than those who identify as heterosexual. In a 2018 study, sexual minority adults 18 and older reported higher use of marijuana, alcohol, and opioids than the overall adult population.

woman in black leather jacket wearing white framed eyeglasses covering her face Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Knowing the Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety

But what emotions or feelings are those who misuse illicit substances trying to suppress? In terms of stress, you may have noticed certain behavior patterns in yourself and/or loved ones, and they’re usually not pretty. Negative behaviors related to stress may include unexpected mood swings and frequent angry outbursts, as well as physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, and chest pain.

Yet there are other, less obvious symptoms of stress that you should look out for. Stress can also cause problems with your ability to listen and effectively communicate. In stressful conditions, you may find yourself excessively thirsty, or that your motor functions are impaired. Shaky hands, overthinking, and the tendency to hesitate can make you a danger behind the wheel when you’re stressed out.

But no matter if your stress is rooted in temporary conditions like COVID or a serious mental health disorder, it doesn’t have to rule your life.

view of two persons' hands reaching for each other Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash

How to Safely Manage Underlying Conditions

We all respond to stress in different ways. As such, effective treatment methods can vary significantly between individuals and individual mental health conditions. If you’re experiencing prolonged bouts of depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible, and avoid the trap of self-medication, which is frequently a precursor to full-blown addiction.

And in regards to symptom relief, keep in mind that the timetable may also be extremely varied, especially in cases of deep-rooted trauma or abuse. Horrific events such as child abuse are likely to have long-term effects on one’s mental and physical health, potentially triggering substance abuse and other forms of risky behavior. Indeed, childhood trauma can impact individual behavior and emotion regulation well into adulthood.

Swapping out negative behaviors, from sexual risk-taking to drug and alcohol dependency, in favor of positive coping skills, may thus be an uphill battle for victims of childhood trauma, as well as those living with a mental health disorder. Patience is a key element of overcoming stress and addiction and should be used mindfully, in conjunction with proven treatment methods such as counseling and substance abuse support groups.

Key Takeaway

If you find yourself overwhelmed by stress, whatever its source, avoid the temptation of alcohol and drugs, and don’t be afraid to reach out to your community for support and guidance.

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Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?

For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:

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Without any surprise, one of the most commonly determined goals for this year is to be happier. It doesn’t matter what you secretly want, such as to lose a couple of pounds, build up your muscles or find the love of your life – the ultimate goal of every single one of us is the same – to be happy.

After all, anything that we want from life, we want so that it could bring us happiness. But happiness will not come to whomever, as every person needs to work hard and think long about all the things that make them happy and actually earn that happiness. The end of every year is the perfect time to start thinking about that, to reflect on the previous year, see the negative points that you never want to repeat again and then see what the aspects you need to focus on more are. Take a look at some of the ideas that will help you become a happier gay man in the next year.

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You might think that the moment you tie the knot with the same-sex partner, your concerns end (since we did have to go too far and endure too much for this to be legal), but this is only just the beginning.

First of all, congratulations on getting married, we do all wish you a lifetime of happiness. But, you might not have really thought about all the things that you are supposed to think about before tying the knot. Apart from the place where you will be living and the number of kids you want to have, you will have to think about finances and budgeting in general. Being married is not an easy, nor a cheap exercise, and living with someone has plenty of other expenses that you might not have taken into account. But, in order for this to go as painlessly as possible, take a look at some of the best budgeting tips for the two of you:

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