Stress Management

Anyone who has become involved with addiction will be no stranger to stress. Addiction is stressful almost by definition. 

The person with the addiction and the people relating closely to them will experience a great deal of stress – or strictly speaking, distress – in one way or another.

As indicated, addiction is inherently stressful from a psycho-emotional perspective because at its centre is the futile struggle to control the uncontrollable. On top of that is piled the stress placed directly on the body and brain by a variety of ingested chemicals and/or behaviors.

People who relate closely to colleagues, friends, and loved ones suffering from addiction will have a similar experience of stress because of the persistent collateral harm but also, in many cases, due to the way in which they relate to that person. So often the struggle to control the uncontrollable is played out in these relationships; the person standing in for the substance or behavior.

Harmful stress results from an unbalanced interplay between stressors and the capacity to cope with them. The stressors can be thought of as the demands placed upon the system and its resources, and the capacity is the degree of fitness that the system has to cope with those demands without breaking down.

The quantity and quality of demands must be considered. As demands increase and/or intensify, the capacity to deal with them can reduce, especially if fitness is neglected or abused.

If fitness decreases, the valence or weight of charge of the demands inevitably increases. This is why stress management requires attention to both sides of the scale. Reduce the quantity and intensity of the demands while increasing the fitness and therefore the capacity to cope with them.

Improving fitness requires a holistic approach that encompasses the well-being of the body, mind, and spirit. Demands include what is asked of you by others or by circumstances. They also include what you ask of yourself, which may be conscious and recognized or unconscious and perhaps with origin in early life.

Recovery from addiction involves working, preferably with support, on achieving a manageable balance between fitness and demands that begins with an honest personal reassessment of both.

The Serenity Prayer often recited by those who participate in the anonymous 12-Step fellowships may not have been written as such, but it is a naturally compelling stress management aid. The word God can be used or not as preferred.

(God) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Its quiet recital can help in all manner of futile and debilitating struggles.

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