Following a break up, or any other major loss, have you noticed a change in your behavior; things like eating or drinking more? These can become distractions you use to avoid grief. The activities you use to “take your mind off of it” are what we call STERBs. What is a STERB? STERB stands for Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviors. They are activities you use to distract yourself from painful feelings that follow a major loss. We’ve all heard the stereotype about what women do after a break up: they eat ice cream, go shopping or find someone new to date. Those activities are short-term energy relieving behaviors. Most STERB’s are not harmful in themselves. Let's use shopping as an example. There’s nothing wrong with shopping. But if shopping is used to avoid feelings not only do you avoid dealing with your emotions, but also you could end up with financial problems. It gets worse when shopping no longer gives you relief and stops working.
Trying to distract from grief
What are common STERBs?
- Excessive exercise
- Video games
- Playing on the Internet
- Keeping Busy
How do STERBs work and why do we use them?
STERBs are activities that create the illusion that they are helping you recover from loss. They distract your attention from sad or painful feelings. And they work! – but only SHORT TERM Eventually they stop working. After I broke up with my first serious boyfriend I was devastated. I would stay up all night playing poker then sleep all day. I was exhausted. The time came when poker stopped working. It no longer distracted me from the fact that my heart was broken. I thought if I stopped to think about the break up I’d start crying and never be able to stop. I took the actions of The Grief Recovery Method. Now I can gamble or stay up if I choose to, but I chose to do so for fun, not because I’m trying to avoid heartache.
What’s wrong with using STERBs?
They only work short-term. There is a difference between short-term and long-term relief. Incomplete grief has a negative effect on your capacity for happiness. The Grief Recovery Handbook 20th Anniversary expanded Edition uses a great analogy: “…If your yard is full of weeds, you can cut the weeds to give some short-term relief, but they will grow back. Or you can pull the weeds and eliminate the problem.” Ask yourself; do you want short-term or long-term relief? If you want long-term relief please look into a Grief Recovery Method Support Group near you. Learn more about it here!
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