Being in a relationship with a Sex Addict puts us into an almost constant state of stress. Add in the holidays and we feel as if we’re Mt. St. Helens ready to erupt

Triggers are everywhere. Holiday expectations, visits to and from relatives we may not like or even want to be around, financial worries, keeping up the ‘front’ for friends, relatives and children as well as our internal battles do not make for happy times. Whatever the relationship is with the Sex Addict their stress levels will also be high which only adds to our distress.

Every time we pick up a magazine or newspaper or turn on the TV we are bombarded with ways to lessen our stress. Unfortunately, most of these methods are ineffective, trite or downright silly and will have no effect on our stress levels except to give us a false sense that we are ‘doing something’, therefore we must be in control.

So, how do we manage all this stress? How can we face the next few weeks and keep our sanity?

Well, let’s take a look at the root cause of stress. Most of the time stress is caused by a conflict between what we expect something to be and what it really is. If we expected our relationship to be whole and it is shattered, that causes stress. If we expect our holidays to look like a Norman Rockwell painting and instead it looks like a Picasso–again, stress. If we expect our spouses to be Sir Lancelot when, in reality they look more like a combination of the Joker and Jack the Ripper–well, that makes us really stressed.

Stress really is all in our head. And, our brains do not know the difference between real or imagined stress–the result is always the same whether we are facing an attacker in a dark alley or the conjured up images of a lost, unrealized relationship.

Stress, whether real or perceived (or even remembered) floods our bodies with hormones for fight or flight, and yet there is nowhere to run. So, our bodies take the beating. Our blood pressure rises, acid floods our stomachs, our hearts race and our emotions swing wildly back and forth, not knowing where to stop.

Can we eliminate all the stress out of our lives? Of course not, that would not even be wise. Stress does serve a good purpose. It is the motivator for action. But, when allowed to get out of hand, stress can be debilitating and disabling. What we can do is take control over the things that we can in order to give our bodies a break.

We definitely can control our thoughts. You know, all that ‘stuff’ that constantly swirls around in your head, keeping you awake at night and ruining your days. Here’s what I recommend to help tame the stress dragon.

Make a list of your expectations that are not being met. Take your time, hours if necessary. List them all. Try to remember all those things that you expected out of the relationship with your partner and for the life you always dreamed of. Did you imagine growing old with your partner, calmly watching the grandchildren play? Did imagine an anniversary in Paris? A celebrity style wedding? Lazy weekends spent making love for hours? Retirement spent trotting the globe? Someone who would comfort you when you were sick. Someone to share your deepest thoughts and dreams with? You make your list. Put it all down on paper. Read it. Feel it. Cry over it. But, most importantly, take it out of your brain and put it on the paper.

Now, some may suggest that you burn that paper. I don’t agree with that idea. These were realistic hopes and dreams. They are yours to keep or revise as time goes on. But, they are your dreams. They just can’t happen now, or with the person you had in the picture.

Now the dreams on safely secured on the paper. You can go back to those dreams any time you feel lonely or sad. They can form a framework for your future. These were your expectations.

But, they are not your reality now.

Separating your dreams, and in a sense protecting them, allows you to face the reality that you must in order to find your way back to those dreams. By taking those expectations out of your brain you allow more time and space for the reality of coping. Life is what it is and we can change whatever we don’t like by simply starting the process, one step at a time. We must move forward in order to change. Change will not come by swirling in the whirlpool of regret and broken dreams.

Change will come when we stand strong, fight our battles with courage and integrity and then move forward, clutching our list of dreams close to our hearts and never looking back.

The winter solstice has passed. It is the end of the darkness and the start toward the light.

Much love and light to each and every one of you.

JoAnn