6. Empowering Yourself through Support and Self-Care

Managing stress


We experience stress when we perceive that the demands of a situation exceed our resources. Living with a relative who has alcohol or other substance use problems is highly stressful. Most people in this situation face multiple stressors. It is important to acknowledge the stress you feel and identify the stressors you have been dealing with, in some cases for a long time.

Improving your ability to cope with stress in general, including the stress caused by a loved one’s substance use, is important. Being able to cope with stress in general will give you more resources to deal with the stress resulting from your relationship with someone who has a substance use problem.

There are three main ways to reduce stress.

1. Reduce the stressors

Changing the situation in some way can reduce stressors. For example:

    If a relative has been taking money from you, you can take steps to secure your finances by locking you your wallet or changing bank accounts or passwords.
    If you are experiencing physical health problems, you can seek medical treatment and take steps to deal with the medical problem.


2. Decrease the perception of stress

Changing how the situation or event is perceived can help reduce the perception of stress. For example:

    If you hate your current job but it is not practical to change jobs, you can think about what is positive about the job and what can be done to make it more tolerable at this time. (“My job provides me with an income, structure and the opportunity to learn more skills. I will try to get to know more colleagues as a way to make the job more tolerable. I am looking for another job and believe that I can handle this job for a few more months.”)


3. Increase resources

Increasing your resources either by replacing them or by finding more internal or external resources can help reduce stress. For example:

    Refresh yourself through rest, relaxation and recreation.
    Take care of your health by eating well, sleeping, exercising and getting adequate medical care.
    Find emotional support (e.g., someone to listen), practical support (e.g., child care) or material or financial support (e.g., money for health expenses).
    Develop new skills, such as learning a better way to deal with a child’s temper tantrums.