As the New Year approaches, many of us make resolutions for the coming months. One of the most common goals is to lose weight. Maybe you want to stop smoking, drinking, or overspending. Many people vow to use more will power, join a supportive anonymous group or go for counseling to overcome a long time issue, yet although they stop one addiction they may turn to something else for a "feel good". (Don't know how to start? Get a head start by checking out my books: How to Stop Playing the Weighting Game or Desserts Is Stressed Spelled Backwards)
A neighbor of mine was very successful in AA and had been sober for over 10 years, yet he couldn't stop overeating and was 40 pounds overweight! He had stopped drowning his sorrows with booze but put himself into a sugar high instead. Switching from one substance or behavior to another is often referred to as "changing deck chairs on the Titanic."
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When I was doing research for my book about compulsive spending, Born to Spend, I visited Debtors Anonymous meetings. In each DA group I attended, I noticed that the majority of members also belonged to Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous. If you have decided to control your intake of sugar, say no to smoking, stay away from gambling, or tear up your credit cards and pay only cash for your purchases, you will have to learn to recognize and eliminate the major stresses in your life that I call Super Stress. Super Stress results when you feel completely helpless about a situation or relationship in your life, past or present. The more powerless you feel, the stronger the urge will be to self medicate your misery.
If you stop one compulsion, you will most likely turn to something else for soothing when the going gets tough. Focusing on only one addictive craving may not lead to successful abstinence. If you are allergic to strawberries and break out in a rash when you eat them, just applying lotion will not make the rash disappear permanently. You have to treat the origin of the rash to get total relief. That means you get allergy treatments.
Here's a quick way to get to the heart of your Super Stress and deal with it effectively. Ask yourself these 4 questions whenever you want to break your New Year's Resolution.
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how strong is my craving for whatever I am trying to stop having or doing (Let's say it is #8)?
- What in my life right now is upsetting me at an #8?
- What am I telling myself about this problem or situation that makes me feel powerless?
- What can I do about it?
If you can't figure out what is going on that is upsetting you or you are having trouble deciding what action is necessary for you to take to relieve the stress, try this simple relaxation technique that I refer to as the "Oy vey Method." "Oy vey" is a Yiddish expression for "Woe is me!" Here are the simple steps:
- Find a quiet comfortable place to sit down where you won’t be disturbed.
- Put one hand over your forehead and use the other hand to cup the back of your head just above your neck.
- Think of who or what is so stressful in your life that you feel totally powerless.
- Surrender to your frustration, resentment or fear over this problem while saying or thinking, "Woe is me", "I give up", or something else similar.
- As you sit this way, become aware of your thoughts and sensations without trying to control them or fight them.
- Stay in this position until you have decided what to do about your problem. You may come up with a solution that involves taking action. Or perhaps you will realize that you can shift your thinking from "She is driving me crazy" to "Why am I surprised that she acts this way? She is an addict and that is what they do."
Start now to be in charge of what's driving you to eat, drink, spend, gamble, smoke, or dull your emotional pain in ways that harm you. You can make next year one of your best ever!
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