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Coping with Stress in Recovery

Chapter 7: Coping with Stress in Recovery

Section 3: SEA's Tools for Recovery Lifestyle 
Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous -

The SEA's Program of Recovery
By James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Coping with Stress in Recovery

How can people cope with stress in healthy positive ways while in recovery from low self‑esteem?

People can cope with stress while in recovery in a variety of positive ways, such as these. Write down which positive coping strategies you can and are willing to use in your recovery efforts.


Exercise: aerobic exercise, walking, swimming, dancing


Stress‑reduction Activities: stretching, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing, self‑hypnosis, yoga


Mental Relaxation Techniques: meditation, centering, clearing mind, imagination, visual imagery


Spirituality: prayer, worship, letting go and letting God, valuing, commitment, one day at a time


Recreational Diversions: music, hobbies, movies, theater, reading, cards, sewing


Interpersonal Relationship Enhancement: affirmation, networking, assertiveness, setting limits, creating supportive structures, expressions of love, affection, and concern


Problem Solving: time management, brainstorming, priority setting, rational thinking, thought stopping, re‑labeling, organizing, and planning


Family Life Skills: esteem building, conflict resolution, togetherness, support, positive reinforcement


Intellectual Practices: learning new concepts, learning new behavior patterns and attitudes, developing new insights, making subjective data objective, creating new generalizations and rules based on a reasonable analysis of data


Sense of Humor: putting things into perspective, lightening up, reducing the intensity, having fun, joking, clowning around, being a little kid again

What are some negative ways in which people cope with stress?

People cope with stress in a variety of negative ways, such as these. Write down which of the following behaviors you have used prior to recovery.


Impulsive Behavior: acting before thinking about consequences, binging, continually getting into trouble


Compulsive Behavior: addictive‑like behavior that gets out of control and results in overindulging, alcoholism, workaholism, drug abuse, excessive eating, smoking, shopping, sex, gambling


Obsessive Behavior: meticulous‑like behavior that you find the need to repeat over and over again, picky picky, neat freak, overly organized, rigid thinking, inflexible


Vindictive Behavior: seeking revenge for real or imagined hurts or offenses, conniving, stubborn


Blaming Behavior: laying the blame for problems on others, fault finding, overly critical


Worrying: anxious, tense, keeping problem in constant focus, not being able to let go of it, mulling over the problem in your mind


Anger: having temper tantrums, ventilating hostility, using sarcasm, cynicism, screaming


Withdrawn Behavior: denial of problem, passivity in face of stress, pulling away, isolation


Depressed Behavior: weepy or tearful, blue, despairing, guilty, downcast, lethargic


Physical Illness: real or psychosomatic illnesses, headaches, back pain, muscle tension, gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, diabetes. There are many illnesses related to stress, some terminal.

What are the benefits of coping with stress in a healthy way while in recovery?

When you cope with stress while in recovery in a healthy, positive way, you can experience:

  • A sense of accomplishment.
  • Enhancement of self‑esteem.
  • Improved interpersonal relationships.
  • Improved physical health.
  • A clear mind.
  • Less anxiety.
  • A feeling of being in control of your life.
  • A sense of being centered, focused, and "on target'' in life.
  • Peace and harmony, a sense of good will for and from others.
  • A reduction of the emotional cues that lead to impulsive or compulsive habits.
  • A sense of mastery over your life's obstacles.


While in recovery, how can you know when you are adequately coping with the stress in your life?

You will know when you can:

  • Monitor your body's physical response to stress and learn to return to a relaxed state after the stressor has been confronted.
  • Learn to "let go'' of the stressors giving each one less and less power.
  • Relax and calmly problem solve a stressor or crisis event.
  • Measure the level of mastery or control you are able to maintain in your life.
  • Look at your success in maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships.
  • Review how stable your relationships are with your spouse, family members, or the significant others in your life.
  • Maintain a healthy level of productivity at work, which results in a sense of satisfaction and little or no anxiety.
  • Enjoy your current recovery lifestyle without undue worry.

NOTE:  For more information on handling stress, look at the chapters, Stress Reduction and Preventing Burnout in Tools for Personal Growth by James J. Messina, Ph.D.