Managing Stress for Healthy Well-Being

Stress is a universal problem. Research shows that stress can cause premature aging and lower the body’s immune system responses. Inability to self-regulate emotional and physical responses to feeling stressed out can lead to substance abuse and eventually addictions of various kinds. According to researcher, academian, and author, Dr. Stephen Sideroff, stress also comes into play after an addiction is already in progress, significantly raising the probability of relapse. In appropriate doses, however, stress can help with focus, coping with high-pressure situations and reacting to “real” threats.

In a recent talk at the Rancho Mirage Network Luncheon, Dr. Sideroff asserted that our current human stress responses are “mismatched” to our evolutionary state. For example, the “fight or flight” response has little place in the way we currently live our lives. The adrenaline rush caused by this particular nervous system response leads us to want to run away or take up aggressive behaviors in situations where that is simply unwarranted. It’s also dangerous to our emotional, mental, and physical health. When fight or flight is triggered too often, we live a life of stress, anxiety and potentially other problems. However, getting ourselves into a well-regulated state helps us to judge when these extreme responses are useful and even necessary.

Besides the problem of the evolutionary mismatch, there is also the problem of “freezing” into certain patterns we develop in childhood. Dr. Sideroff’s research demonstrates that patterns are often created in childhood and may contain inappropriate emotional, physical, and mental responses that carry forward into adulthood. These patterns calcify early in life and are mostly unconscious, meaning that we generally do not know that they exist or what kind of impact they have on us. We also have a tendency to recreate these patterns throughout our lives even though they may be damaging to us in various ways.

Although we face some major evolutionary and developmental issues just being part of the human race, there are ways we can change our patterns and align with our current environment. This is a part of what Dr. Sideroff calls “optimal management of personal energy.” Once we’ve achieved a certain level of mastery in this self-regulation process, everything else we want to accomplish tends to become easier.

At the luncheon, Dr. Sideroff stated with certainty, “there is no substitute for practicing relaxation daily.” Many therapists in addiction treatment have embraced relaxation techniques as a part of their therapeutic style. Silent meditation and progressive relaxation are examples of popular techniques, but of course, there are many other ways to relax. You may just need to recall what method you’ve used successfully in the past or go through a trial and error process to find out what gives you the greatest feeling of healthy relaxation. And then… practice it daily!

While reduction of stress is a great thing and leads to a life of greater awareness, Dr. Sideroff says that repressed emotions naturally begin to reveal themselves as stress goes down. Not having to deal with an overkill response to a situation that could have been handled with more calm and ease creates opportunities for an individual to deal with real issues that have been lurking under the surface for a long time. This results in deeper and longer term healing.

The journey of self-regulation is long and can be difficult, but it is well worth the effort. Therapists and counselors at Advanced Therapeutic Services (ATS) are equipped to help you understand the essentials of stress management. ATS is an Addiction & Dual Diagnosis Treatment Provider in Rancho Mirage, CA and can be reached at (760) 322-1777.

Watch Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D presenting on “The Path: Mastering the Nine Pillars of Resilience and Success.” Visit Dr. Sideroff’s website at

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