Following a break up, or any other major loss, have you noticed a change in your behavior; things like eating or drinking more? These behaviors become distractions we use to avoid grief and the activities we use to “take our minds off of it” are considered STERBs.
What is a STERB?
STERB stands for Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviors. These are activities we use to distract ourselves from painful feelings that follow a major loss.
Have you heard the stereotype about what women do after a break up? We eat ice cream, go shopping or find someone new to date. These activities are considered short-term energy relieving behaviors.
Although most STERBs are not harmful in themselves, they can become a crutch for how we move forward in life. Let's take shopping as an example. There’s nothing wrong with shopping, but if shopping is used to avoid feelings—to make ourselves feel better—then not only are we avoiding dealing with our emotions, but we may also end up with financial problems. It gets worse when shopping no longer gives us the relief and stops working (this is why it’s called short-term).
What are some common STERBs?
How do STERBs work and why do we use them?
We all have STERBs—activities that create the illusion that they are helping us recover from loss. They distract our attention from sad or painful feelings—and they work – but only for a little while. Eventually they stop working.
In my early teen years I used alcohol to help me “relax” and “have some fun.” Alcohol became a crutch in my life when I wanted to escape from the stress and anxieties of marriage, parenting and work. After completing the Grief Recovery Method program a couple of years ago, I realized that after the alcohol, after the hangover, all my problems are still here—and I learned a different way to cope with life’s circumstances.
What’s wrong with using STERBs?
STERBs only work short-term. Period.
There is a difference between short-term and long-term relief. Short term relief contributes to incomplete grief, which has a negative effect on our capacity for happiness.
The Grief Recovery Institute 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.”
Now’s a good time to ask yourself: do I want short-term or long-term relief?