How to Deal With Stress in a Healthy Way

Drug abuse often stems from misguided attempts to manage stress. Many people turn to alcohol or drugs to unwind and relax after a stressful day, or to cover up painful memories and emotions that cause us to feel stressed and out of balance. But there are healthier ways to keep your stress level in check.

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious, and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines. But maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that leads to deadline stress.

To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:


1. Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?

2. Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”).

3. Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?

Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.

Unhealthy ways of coping with stress:


Smoking, Drinking too much, overeating or undereating, zoning out for hours in front of the tv or computer, withdrawing from friends and family, using pills or drugs to relax, sleeping too much, procrastinating, filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems, taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence.)

Healthy ways of coping with stress:


Exercising, meditating, or practicing breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques. Reading, practicing a hobby, going to a movie, or talking on the phone are good examples of distracting activities. Distracting activities can often help alleviate strong urges.

– Carmen Littlejohn, Psychotherapist