How to overcome stress and addiction

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.

man lighting his cigarette Photo by kychan on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less