When in recovery, we are challenged to engage in healthy and proactive methods of coping with life stressors. Tools can be learned to aid in the stress management process. However, stress is a part of life that is inevitable, whether it be positive stress or negative stress. Stress causes people to feel emotional and physical tension, but has differing forms.
The positive form of stress is called eustress. Eustress is defined as a normal to moderate type of psychological stress that is accompanied by positive feelings. This is the type of stress most of us wish we were experiencing regularly. This feeling can occur when watching a scary movie, riding on a roller coaster, traveling, and getting ready to meet with friends. It usually is accompanied by feelings of excitement, satisfaction, and fulfillment.
The negative and most challenging form of stress is known as distress. Distress is defined as a state of stress that causes extreme anxiety, psychological and/or physical pain, and sorrow. Distress differs from eustress, due to the presence of intense anxiety and worry. This feeling occurs when our basic needs are not being met while trying to complete our day-to-day tasks, self-care, daily living activities, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. When this occurs, an individual is most likely to slide out of their proactive recovery routine and fall into their early warning sign behaviors and mental health symptoms. A way to begin to pull yourself out of distress, and back into a recovery mindset is to recognize your early warning signs and H.A.L.T.
H.A.L.T. is an acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These are typically felt when in a state of stress, and can affect each person.
Hunger occurs when a person experiences a need for food, which can be accompanied by physical signs, such as stomach growling or headaches. When we are in a state of hunger, we can become more easily distressed, as well as fatigued. Maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet, as well as listening to your body’s signal for hunger, can be helpful in managing stress. Our bodies can work more efficiently and think clearly when this basic need is being met.
Anger is a strong emotion that everyone is capable of experiencing. When our basic needs aren’t being met, we become more susceptible to experiencing anger. Anger is defined as a feeling of annoyance that can be accompanied by hostility. Unlike most other emotions, anger is a secondary emotion, meaning that it is caused by another emotion. When in a state of stress, anxiety, and depression are likely to occur, and then anger can come. Taking a moment to pause, and assess if your anger is due to stress, can assist you in meeting your needs.
When in a state of stress, it can be easy to fall into isolation. Engaging with others, whether it be romantically or platonically can be challenging when experiencing distress. However, feelings of loneliness can add to the distress. When experiencing high stress, connection with supportive people can be proactive and rejuvenating, whether it be calling a friend, spending time with family, or having a casual conversation with a coworker or neighbor.
Oftentimes, when experiencing stress, a critical part of our physical and mental health often becomes altered or irregular; sleep. Sleep is essential for healthy brain activity, balancing emotions, mental clarity, and much more. When an individual experiences tiredness, their body is signaling that they are in need to sleep and rest. High states of stress and distress can lead to lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep. When experiencing stress, it is important to continue to maintain a healthy sleep routine, to meet this important mind and body need.
H.A.L.T. is one of many ways to assist yourself in meeting your basic needs, especially when experiencing stress while in any form of recovery. The next time you notice feeling stressed, ask yourself “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?” to maintain your recovery mindset and continue to achieve your goals.
If you would like to learn further coping mechanisms for daily stressors or anxiety, call Texas Harmony Counseling at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.