Stress management for the addict in recovery
Stress. We all live with it. And it sucks.
I don’t need to tell you all the many ways that stress takes your energy. You already know. So, if you’re ready to address the frontier of your mind, and how it CREATES stress in your life…what can you do?
Here, I’ll review my personal experience working with stress in a session with Dr. Bob Wright, The Stress Relief Doctor, who is an Executive Stress Management Wellness Coach. Then, we invite your questions about stress and managing it in recovery at the end.
How does stress management help in addiction recovery?
Stress management helps us on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. Physically, effective stress management methods generate an elevated relaxation response which can:
- boost creativity
- increase a calm and centered state
- increase mental clarity
- increase physical flexibility
- increase stamina
- lower blood pressure
- lower your cortisol secretions
- reduce anxiety
- reduce insomnia
- reduce pain
Each of these effects can then help you become more efficient and effective. When you incorporate some basic tools into your everyday routines you can boost your performance and decrease anxiety. Doesn’t having fewer arguments and less conflict with others sound good, too?
Q: So, how does it work?
A: Well, there are no shortcuts. You’ll need to learn the methods.
What do they look like?
Dr. Bob’s stress managment methods
Basically, during my personal session with Dr. Bob I participated in guided mental imagery exercises. Before each practice, Dr. Bob asked me to share with him a set of quantitative self-reporting measures on key indexes. He asked me, “At this moment, what is your sense of well-being?” The scale we used was a 0 to 10,
0 = 100% well-being
10 = 100% suffering
My initial index:
- Stress 7
- Anxiety 8
- Chronic Pain 5
- Mental Clarity 8
- Well-being 7
What was amazing was that AFTER just the first 15 minute Open Focus exercise, my self-reporting scores went down and each index point related to stress was CUT IN HALF! Yes, that’s right. In fact, over a short one hour period with Dr. Bob, using various methods, my stress, anxiety and chronic pain was about 70% less than when I started. And my mental clarity and feelings of well being also improved greatly—See below.
My final index:
- Stress 3
- Anxiety 3
- Chronic Pain 1
- Mental Clarity 5
- Well-being 2
What methods does Dr. Bob use? Here, I’ll outline a little of what he shared with me.
Exercise #1: Open Focus Exercise
Based upon the work of biofeedback pioneer Dr. Les Fehmi of the Princeton Biofeedback Center and the practice of neurofeedback, Dr. Fehmi noticed that the state in which he got the best relaxation results with clients was a state he called “Open Focus.” Open Focus is similar to meditation but about ten times easier. If you’re interested in the theory behind this and want to learn more, Dr. Fehmi wrote a book about Open Focus called The Open Focus Brain.
Dr. Bob has been a certified Open Focus Trainer for over 10 years and gets amazing stress relief results with individual clients and groups. In this exercise, he asked me a series of questions. I was not to respond with words, but to allow my body and mind to do whatever it wanted—gently bringing my attention back to the question without resisting it. I closed my eyes— when you close your eyes you generate alpha brain waves—the same type of relaxed brainwave activity you get when you’re day dreaming or musing about something pleasant—and we started.
Dr. Bob asked me to allow myself to be fully immersed into the experience. Once I did that, by letting go…I immediately felt relief. Relief that there is a way out of compulsive thinking! My initial feeling experience of my stress being peeled away was delightful! As a right handed person who engages in left side thinking, allowing the monkey mind to slow down was absolute pleasure. I can only relate the experience to past experiences…Open Focus was a little like meditation, hypnotherapy, and guided imagery combined.
Exercise #2: Shifting the Locus of Control
Before the second exercise, Dr. Bob explained that recent research studies confirmed the idea that whenever you increase your sense of control of a situation, your stress level goes down. To broaden my locus of control perspective, Dr. Bob asked me this question: “Would it be OK if life got easier?”
Of course, you would think that everyone would want their life to be easier including me but sometimes we learn things as children (or as adults) that operate to make our lives more difficult than it has to be. For example, as a child, your parents, teachers or older siblings may have told you things like:
“Life is hard.”
“There’s no time for fun.”
“The only things worth having in life is when things are hard.”
“All relationships are difficult; men and women are opposite and can never get along.”
“Forget about finding and doing work you love, just focus on finding a job where you can pay the bills and forget about being happy.”
“You can’t have both money and love, you have to choose between them”
As Dr. Bob explained, when you have beliefs or values which are in conflict with your real desires this can cause your habitual stress levels to soar as you bump up against these beliefs and values—when you try to change your behavior—and they are often unconscious so you may not always be aware of them—how they can unwittingly sabotage your best efforts. Dr. Bob explained that by using a Gestalt technique and “parts” work, he would help me shift my locus of control in my favor to allow me more conscious awareness of my inner “parts” that were not congruent.
During this exercise, we continued some of the basic tools and scripts used before. The goal, however, was to get back in control of my feelings and to direct conscious thought to body and mind patterns. I did experience results right away. It really helps to have the ability to focus and concentrate, and I believe that meditation practice can and does complement the methods Dr. Bob uses to make them more potent.
Exercise #3 : Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) Shrink Down Exercise
Beforehand, Dr. Bob explained that feeling states, arguments, or situations that causes emotional pain can keep us from living freely. This method addresses how the mind works … in ways that you might not be aware of. In effect, you take strong feelings and minimize them. This helps you to become more easily detached, ultimately dissociated from the feeling state. The method is called Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP).
While disassociation may not be desirable for all, I need to work on feelings of anger and resentment. Sound familiar? So, if you can think of a situation of conflict with someone and REMOVE the fear and anger…why wouldn’t you? This method can help you with that.
Exercise #4: Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) Brain Pattern Interrupts
Dr. Bob explained that this exercise was qualitative work that helps shift thought patterns from negative to positive. You take a painful memory and move fast with guided direction so that you can measure the progress. What you’re really doing in this exercise is shifting perspective.
Exercise #5: Elevator
Going to a happy place can help restore peace. That’s what this last exercise helped me do. You drop down into an imaginary world on an elevator and then return feeling refreshed.
Working with Dr. Bob on stress management
Working with Dr. Bob on stress management left me feeling calmer, more relaxed and the best part was I now had some new tools I could use to easily reduce my daily anxiety and keep it at bay!
Looking for qualitative and quantitative results on stress reduction? Dr. Bob can help! After just one session with him, I can see that regular practice of these methods can get you where you want to be. Not only that, he has many, many more tools in his toolkit and will customize a stress reduction program just for you.