I’m always talking about how amazing recovery is, well, because it is. But that doesn’t mean that everyday life stops happening, that stress never bothers us, or that tragedies never happen. Some people believe the misconception that sobriety will make your life perfect, but nobody has a perfect life. Sobriety doesn’t prevent life from happening, although it makes our quality of life much better. How can you deal with these everyday stresses that will occur? Here are some tips to keep you grounded while in recovery and living a life you can be proud of.
Have a Schedule
If you were like me when drinking, your schedule was all out of whack. In fact, my schedule mostly revolved around drinking and partying and everything else was an afterthought. The beauty of recovery is that I can thoughtfully plan out my schedule and helps me become prepared for life and for whatever might happen along the way. Having a schedule that includes sufficient time for exercise, recovery practices, work, alone time, and sleep is incredibly important for dealing with stress. It makes me feel secure in taking on my week and it forces me to find time for all of the essential components. Knowing you have it all in your schedule should reduce your stress.
Find an Activity to Help You Relieve Stress
Once we get sober, we find we have a lot of extra time and sometimes, money, to use now that we don’t spend it drinking. I urge you to find an activity, or activities, to help you relieve stress. When alcohol is removed as a “stress reliever,” I use quotes because it doesn’t ever actually relieve stress, you’ll need to find a healthy outlet for stress. My favorite way to do this is through exercise. Exercise releases natural endorphins and lets you take out the stress you have built up. Personally I prefer CrossFit, yoga, and soccer, not necessarily in that order. Find what works for you and exercise, and stress relief, won’t be a chore.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Again, eating is not something we generally think about in depth when we’re in active addiction. I could barely force myself to eat one or two meals a day, and it didn’t matter what they were. Now that I’m in recovery I’m beginning to understand and learn about the connection between stress and food. I’ve caught myself using sweets and sugar as a stress reliever. Recovery has shown me I really need to be mindful of a balanced diet and watch that I am eating enough and in a healthy way. If I miss meals or eat fast food every day, it affects my mind and body. Running around on an empty stomach makes me stressed and it isn’t good for my recovery.
I’m not sure if I’m making up for years of staying up all night drinking, but sleep has become extremely imperative to my recovery and even more so, to keeping my stress levels at a minimum. If I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, I will not perform at my optimal levels. If I end up getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep it affects everything. Stress becomes unmanageable, it’s hard for me to concentrate, and I make poor food choices. Sleep is the time when your body recharges and gets ready to take on the next day. I never thought it was that important until I got sober. With a good night of rest, you’ll be ready to take on the world.
What do I mean by pause? I mean that you should slow down and reflect on your day. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be at the end of the day, but it just means you should take a time or two throughout your day to sit down quietly and pause. This can take the form of meditation, prayer, or just sitting quietly. I never liked quiet time when I was drinking. It made my skin crawl, but today I can’t survive without it. I feel more ready to deal with life when I take the time to sit, breathe, and reflect. Life can get busy, so when we slow down and take some time to think about what’s happening and be still, it makes stress more manageable.
Have a Support System
When times get rough, it’s essential that we have someone to talk to about it. A support system can be a recovery group, a sponsor, family, friends, a partner, or a therapist. It can be anyone who you trust to call and talk to when the going gets tough. And it will get tough. Be prepared by having those phone numbers ready to call when you need them and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If there is one thing I’ve learned in recovery, it’s that we shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. Help is available and we should take advantage of it whenever we can.
Yes, life still happens, but that doesn’t mean you can’t survive it and thrive in it. Sobriety teaches us new coping mechanisms that work much better than the drinking and using we tried for years. Stress doesn’t have to be our worst enemy. It can just be a part of life; something that comes up, is dealt with, and soon leaves us. That’s what happens when we put recovery first.