The Dangers of Excessive Stress in a Professional Environment

The Dangers of Excessive Stress in a Professional Environment

By Lakeview Health
Lakeview Health
Published: April 4, 2018

Professional occupations often demand high levels of responsibility, accountability, and performance that separate them from other occupations. Physicians, pilots, attorneys, and various other professionals typically hold a license or official accreditation to practice in their field. They may own a business or be a member of their company’s executive team. Doctors are famous for working incredibly long hours. On top of the grueling schedule, doctors frequently hold their patients’ lives in their hands—an incredibly stressful responsibility. The workload for lawyers doesn’t look a whole lot better, and their clients’ futures may also depend on their performance. Airline pilots are responsible for the safety of their passengers on long flights.

What each of these professions — and many more besides — has in common is the fact that their practitioners are routinely under massive amounts of stress. In addition to leading to a broad range of adverse health outcomes, high stress levels can be directly correlated to higher incidences of alcohol and substance abuse.

If you or someone you care about is handling workplace stress and struggling with alcohol or substance use, Lakeview Health can help. Reach out to our expert, compassionate staff online or call us at 866.704.7692 to learn more.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Sadly, alcohol and drug abuse among healthcare professionals is a common method for handling the pressures of high expectations and work-related stress, or simply to help their brains wind down and get some relief at the end of a long day. The correlation between intense stress and substance abuse is well established—the more intense the stress, the greater the temptation to self-medicate the resulting emotional pain. Should maladaptive coping skills lead to a substance use disorder, professionals, in particular, are inclined to believe for too long that they can continue to function normally despite their substance abuse.

Scientists across the healthcare space have prominently endorsed the concept of the “high-functioning” addict. The high functioning alcoholic played by Denzel Washington in the movie Flight comes to mind. Despite drinking and using cocaine, the pilot, Whip Whitaker, is able to land a plane in an emergency, saving all the passengers. Whitaker tricks himself into believing that he is in control of his drinking and drugging, but substance use while “high-functioning” is only the initial phase of the disease of addiction. The addict lives on borrowed time with potentially disastrous consequences. Since they don’t recognize the problem, they will not seek help early enough.

Checking Stress Without Substance Abuse

If you are working in a demanding and stressful environment, there are several methods you can use to reduce your stress that do not involve substance use. Among these are:

  • Taking regular breaks during your workday, especially if it exceeds ten hours. Contrary to what many people believe, taking breaks at work may actually boost performance.Counter stress with meditation or a mindfulness session at work.
  • Counter stress with mindfulness. This may mean organizing a meditation or breathing session with colleagues or simply taking a moment before the work day begins to reflect on the things that you are grateful for.
  • Exercise in almost any form can function as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your endorphins and your immune system. Many companies now offer yoga sessions or similar exercises during the workday to support the mental health of their staff.

Many of these stress-reducing methods are also important coping skills in recovery from addiction because reducing stress decreases the probability of relapse.

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment for Professionals

The inpatient drug and alcohol rehab for professionals at Lakeview Health is an addiction recovery program designed specifically for professionals—such as doctors, commercial airline pilots, lawyers, and executives of all industries—who need addiction treatment. Like the inpatient rehab program at Lakeview, the professional program occupies the level of care between our medical detox and residential substance abuse treatment programs and serves patients with substance use disorders, co-occurring mental health disorders, and a history of trauma or posttraumatic stress. Going through rehab with professional peers allows patients to share openly in a non-judgmental environment, accept personal responsibility without defensiveness, and develop the tools for personal growth and self-awareness needed for successful recovery, sobriety, and—ultimately—a safe return to work.

To learn more about how Lakeview Health can help you overcome the stress associated with addiction reach out to us online today or call 866.704.7692.