Stress Management in Urge Control by Jonathan Marsh

This lesson is not intended to provide you with a review of stress management. By this time in your life, it will be assumed that you have already been exposed to a ton of information on stress management and have either chosen to implement such strategies or you haven't. Or, you have chosen to implement these strategies but lack the skill/experience to use them efficiently. Either way, specific stress management techniques are beyond the scope of this lesson. What will also be assumed is that the knowledge that you have gained to date will allow you to already see the connection between acting out and increased stress in your life.

The purpose for this lesson is to assist you in developing a plan of action to help you deal with the anxiety/stress that is created with the decision to forego immediate gratification. As you progress down the road to health, there will come times when you are faced with the decision to either submit to a destructive urge or deny it. While we will explore such decisions in depth from within the recovery workshop, here we will identify the three common responses that people exhibit when faced with such urges:

1) The first is to give in to the urge and feel the temporary relief that will be gained. Of course, by now, we know the sacrifices we make in pursuit of that relief, but it is still an option.

2) The second is the option of not acting on those urges, and instead turning to your values and making the decision to act in a way that will actually promote one or more of those values. This healthy action (versus merely making the decision "not to act") will almost always produce immediate feelings of pride, health and personal growth.

3) The third common pattern (closely related to the second) is to make the decision not to act on those urges, and then to deal with the resulting stress and anxiety. This is the purpose of today's lesson: creating a plan to overcome this stress.

Developing Your Own Rudimentary Stress Management Plan

Our goal in creating this plan will be to develop a list of ten or more REALISTIC activities that you would be willing to take part in that last anywhere between five and fifteen minutes. Take some time to consider your interests, your reality...consider the most frequent times when you are struggling with urges, and what resources are usually available to you. When you have developed a list of ten or more things, post them in your recovery thread, or in the Support Forum, for feedback if you like. If there have been one or two that have been exceptionally effective for you, please make note of this.

Personal Example

The following is a list of actions that I used to use when combating those urges:

1. Basketball
2. Writing
3. Taking a walk
4. Listening to music

And that was about it. Of course, because these were not available to me at all times, I continued to struggle with dealing with the stress that came from fighting the urges through pure will.

Distraction is at best,. an effective method for short term behavioral management. Never long-term.

If I was to write out a list at this stage in my life to help overcome those urges, they would be more realistic and in-line with the values that I am developing. It would look something like this (in no particular order):

1. Write a "life lesson" for my children's journal
2. Write a song/poem
3. Prayer/Meditation
4. Play basketball
5. Play a game with family
6. Call a friend
7. Learn something new
8. Do something nice for someone without their knowing it
9. Review my values/goals/priorities list
10. Listen to records (there's something nostalgic about them that soothes me)
11. Go thrift store shopping/garage sales
12. Swing golf clubs or throw a ball against a wall
13. Eat chocolate (never said I was perfect...‹smile›)

You must take the time to create your own list of values-based actions that you can turn to in times of emotional stress. Times when you are not capable of 'thinking straight'. These actions will not produce the same emotional intensity that you would have experienced by making the decision to give in to the urge — and they are not intended to. They are intended to merely supplement your emotions to help ease the conflict that you are experiencing. There will still be leftover stress that you will need to absorb — at least early on in recovery

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