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Monday, June 1, 2015

Catch Some Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Funny Bed Earlier Tired Owl | Funny Joke Pictures

Its Monday morning.  Are you feeling anxious? Tired? Depressed?

So what's your poison? Alcohol? Drugs? Food? Online gaming?

Everyone these days seems to have a dependence on something.  Not an addiction, per se, but a tendency to 'misuse' either a substance or an activity.

Among my clients it tends to most usually be food or alcohol that is misused. What do I mean? I mean they are used as a coping strategy.  Sure, every one of us will reach for Haagen Daz or Merlot on occasion to release tension, but for some people this becomes a habit.

In psychological terms, we refer to this as an 'avoidant coping strategy' because you are essentially numbing yourself to the distress without directly addressing the source.  Unfortunately, it doesn't tend to work well long-term.

Based on my own experiences, and my observations based on my counselling practice, I have come up with a theory: Most of the time when we are reaching for whatever it is we tend to use as an avoidant coping strategy, what we actually need is sleep.  Yep, sleep. I am not saying sleep is the cure for everything, not at all.  But believe you me, if you are tired or sleep deprived, then your resilience and ability to cope using active, constructive, functional strategies is greatly diminished.  In addition, many mental health issues cause insomnia (anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.).  As a society, research has shown, most of us are chronically tired and sleep-deprived.  This has a significant impact on our physical and mental health.

When I suggest this to clients, many of them admit that they are indeed feeling exhausted and overwhelmed when they start eating/drinking/smoking.  People also tend to use such substances/activities as a reward.  But they are not rewarding themselves with this behaviour, they are usually perpetuating problems.  This reward seeking behaviour tends to be driving by a lack of sense of purpose.  If our lives, ultimately, seems to lack purpose or innate fulfillment, we start to seek it out in other ways.  But, as I tell my clients, true reward is giving ourselves what we truly need, which is rarely alcohol, excess food, or drugs.

So next time you find yourself reaching for something that you know, deep down, is actually self-destructive, ask yourself, "What is it I actually need?"  I can guarantee you it isn't what you are reaching for.  You are worth taking care of.  So get rest, take a vacation, get a massage, go for counselling to address your anxiety/stress/depression/trauma, etc.  Its only when you actively address the underlying issue that you will actually experience relief.

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