Not a good idea

Usually Stress Management focuses on what to do to prevent stress or to deal with it when it comes. Both of these approaches are very important in developing a strong Stress Management Program. But today, let's look at what not to do in handling stress.

In our world there are many activities or substances available to use as coping behaviors. What distinguishes the healthy or appropriate coping behaviors from the unhealthy? Generally, healthy coping does not lead to more stress or emotion. It channels or burns off energy, changes attitudes causing stress or limits the physical effects of the stress. Unhealthy coping seeks to mask or cover up the unwanted stress or emotion. Most times this can be recognized as an increase in some current behavior.

The unhealthy choices that first come to mind are behaviors or substances that tend to get abused/overused: alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, food, pornography, work, gambling, etc...The problem with most of these is not simply what they are, but further what they're used for and how much are they used. Most anything can be used to cover up or distract us from something we don't want to deal with. Even something intrinsically good or benign, if not used in moderation, can be abused. These all may seem to work for the immediate moment, but in the long run they can lead to more stress over the situation or, worse, another problem often bigger than the first. What can happen is that the amount of whatever unhealthy coping behavior we use ends up being not enough over time. Then we have to use more to get the same “buzz” to be able to distract us. So we use more. Then we feel bad about using more and use more to deal with those bad feelings. It’s easy to see the downward spiral.

Other unhealthy coping is more cognitive or interpersonal. Blaming and denial come to mind here. Again, in the short term these may seem to work, but over time others will notice and probably so will the one doing the blaming and denying. This won't impress oneself and can lead to more bad feelings that have to be dealt with. Therapists see this a lot...a self-dissatisfaction over not acting in a way that one knows to be right or better than what was done. This will not lead to becoming the best version of yourself. Truly, one is really only happy when doing things that reflect the best version of oneself. Finally, when defenses like blaming or denial are used, one learns little, and therefore, changes little. This will be a set-up to go through it all over again, which of course will produce more stress.

Take a moment. Think about how you deal with stress. Do you skip meals or do emotional eating? Do you bury yourself in work to mask or run from issues in your life? Does your alcohol consumption increase during stressful times? Work at looking for better ways to deal with life’s stresses. Talk it over with someone. Try doing some activities or exercising. Read some good material that addresses your issue. Do what will help you in the long run…good Stress Management.