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Adolescence Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Wellness

Emotional Sobriety: 5 Tools For Self-Regulation

Angry Kid (Photo credits: Giphy)

What is Emotional sobriety?

Is it perfection? Is it always feeling good or being happy, or optimistic? And what happens if you don’t meet perfection, or you have a bad day, feel anxious, angry, sad, or gasp, pessimistic?

 

Emotional sobriety is the ability to self-regulate– to self-soothe in times of duress. It is not a call to perfection. For an alcoholic, addict, or one with fragile mental health, learning to self-regulate is a foundational tool for their recovery and something they begin to learn in treatment. Therapists and counselors work tirelessly to encourage clients to begin the process of looking inward, learning to nurture themselves and hold space for the difficulties human beings often face.  Emotional sobriety is something that forms after the first stage of sobriety is attained. With it comes the ability to be present for your emotions and the ultimate goal is to become nonreactive. Sometimes, that may mean sitting with the discomfort of your emotions until they pass, and that isn’t easy.

 

Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D, author of Recovering Spirituality talks about Emotional Sobriety with uncomplicated clarity. In her Psychology Today blog “Stop the Self-Diagnosis,” she says, “Emotional sobriety is less about the quality of the feeling (“good” or “bad”) and more about the general ability to feel one’s feelings. Being restored to sanity isn’t about getting the brass ring—or cash and prizes—or being ‘happy, joyous, and free’ all the time, but it is about being in the present moment, whatever it happens to look like.” You can enjoy the rest of her article here.

 

Here are 5 tools for self-regulation that can help you with attaining Emotional Sobriety:

 

1. Take a time out: Walk away, take 10 breaths or 20 if you’re still heated. Do some work to ground yourself and come back to your body. When we are not regulated, we tend to be outside of our bodies, placing our hands to our bellies, or on the ground or on something solid can help remind us to be present.

 

2. Meditation: I often suggest that one practices what are called the brahma viharas (a Pali word–the language of the Buddha–which means “heavenly abode”): they are often referred to as the heart practices in Buddhist meditation. They include: Metta (lovingkindess), Compassion, Forgiveness, and Sympathetic joy  and Equanimity (the ability to be like a tree in the wind: fluid and non-reactive to the “weather.”).

 

3. Yoga: Yoga can be a workout or it can be what it was meant to be: a moving meditation. Trust me, if you are not breathing, and focused, you will fall over in your tree pose. Yoga will allow you to learn to recognize your reactions to discomfort and respond to them differently.

 

4. Take a walk or go on a hike: Just moving our bodies can help us calm down. A walk around the block can make sometimes get you out of your anger and despair.

 

5. Stop the negative self-talk: This one is tough. We tend to berate ourselves on a regular basis, “ugh, I’m so dumb,” “I’m fat,” “I can’t do this.” I could go on and on. Think about it this way, would you say that to someone you love? I didn’t’ think so.

6. Find and work with a therapist if you need to. A skilled clinician can facilitate a path to self-discovery, healing, and self-care. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a therapist; if anything, it’s mental health insurance. Being human is tough work!

 

I leave you with one of my favorite stories, applicable to Emotional Sobriety and the work it requires to obtain:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

Which wolf are you feeding?

Categories
Adolescence Holidays Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery Self-Care Service Spirituality Teen Activism Wellness

Resolution, Schmesolution: Create a New Year Theme

© 2013 sarit z. rogers — all rights reserved

It’s that time: New Year’s Eve celebrations are upon us! For many, it’s the time of year often met with party plans and resolutions. Parties and resolutions together sound like a juxtaposition and affect some legitimate irony, but nevertheless, they go together for most people every 31st of December. However, if you are in recovery, have clearer eyes and hopefully a wiser mind, things might look a bit different during this time of year.

 

There are several articles offering tips and guidelines for setting up the “perfect” New Year resolutions, 0r embarking on a New Year cleanse, or signing up for a New Year workout plan. The one thing all of these have in common is the idea that you can and will actually commit to changing a bevy of major things just because it’s the New Year. Sadly, many fail or abandon those impassioned resolutions after a few weeks. One article in particular stuck out to me. This article suggests creating a theme for the New Year rather than a resolution. A New Year’s Theme! That is right in line with the New Year Intentions I have suggested in the past. Both of these, a theme or an intention, are something that can easily be created, worked with and maintained throughout the year. Rather than seeking perfection, or a grand, finite accomplishment, a theme or intention allows one to slowly change behaviors and invite the possibility of more long-term, sustainable changes.

 

What might your New Year’s Theme or Intention be for 2014?

 

Kindness: The wonderful quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. You can choose to practice random and not so random acts of kindness throughout the year. Make it a year of being kind when you might otherwise be gruff. Invite some personal curiosity and investigation about what it might be like to respond to difficulty with kindness instead of anger or fear. It’s an interesting one to work with, but everyone can be kind and deserves kindness in return.

 

Mindfulness: Also looked at as keen “awareness,” mindfulness is an astute awareness of reality and the present moment.  It is an acknowledgement that things are just as they are in that moment. If you make mindfulness your New Year theme, perhaps you will begin by investigating the contemplative practices of meditation and yoga. Or perhaps it might mean choosing not to use your cell phone when you are walking around and instead bringing your awareness to your surroundings and becoming more present. It might mean driving without the radio on, or not always having your cell phone nearby. It might mean eating dinner without the television on so you can be more present with your family. Remember, it is not about perfection; this is a practice.

 

Wellness: If you are desirous of changing your health or the way you eat or the amount of activity you engage in, this is a wonderful theme. You might do this by ruling out meat for one day a week, or by eating more greens. You may choose to limit your caffeine, or cut down on your cigarettes or vape pens: eventually you may even quit! You can increase your wellness, that healthy balance of mind, body and spirit, even if you start small. In fact, small changes over a long period of time have a longer lasting effect.

 

Movement: Increase your physicality in 2014. You can start with walking more or riding your bike. If you usually drive to the corner store or to a meeting that’s only a mile away, try riding a bike once a week! The more you do ride your bike or walk, the more it might become a habit. Honestly, there’s no concrete rule about how long habits take to form or break. Instead, look at this as small opportunities for personal change.

 

Service: Make 2014 your year of being of service! Take a commitment at a meeting and keep it for a year. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Volunteer at an animal shelter once a week. Find a cause you believe in and get involved in raising awareness about it. Being of service is the fulcrum of recovery; “We can’t keep it unless we give it away” is one of the most-often repeated sayings relating to being of service. Write it on something you can always see to remind you to get out of yourself and into action.

 

No matter your theme or plan, the New Year is a time of reflection and growth. It is an opportunity to reflect on the past year so we can grow into the new one. May you ring this New Year in with self-care, compassion, kindness, and great joy. We wish you a wonderful New Year celebration and look forward to celebrating and growing with you in 2014.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alcoholism Holidays Mental Health Recovery

End of the Year: Mental Health Care

It’s the end of the year, and for recovering addicts, alcoholics, and those suffering from mental health issues, it can be a frightening time. We place on onslaught of expectations on others and ourselves as we seek perfection and immediate change via resolutions and hyped up promised to ourselves. In many ways, this can be a set up for failure, especially for the addict/alcoholic who has to do everythingallatonce. You know, who else wants to join a gym and work out every day for 3 hours with a trainer 7 days a week while also giving up meat and going vegan? What, that’s not reasonable? Sheesh. Can’t we do everything? The honest answer is no, at least not all at once.

Okay, so the New Year metaphorically represents a time of renewal and an opportunity to commit to personal change.  Recovery teaches us not to place too much pressure on ourselves as we begin to make change. We are encouraged to take baby steps. In the beginning of the recovery process, the foundation we stand upon is tenuous; working steps, getting a sponsor, being of service is part of our construction process. We are building a foundation one action at a time. Mental health recovery requires us to work hard and consistently to broaden the safe, healing ground on which we stand.  Resting on our laurels is simply not an option. Holiday time and end of year shenanigans make recovery work imperative; there is no reprieve.

Before you get overwhelmed with resolutions, how to deal with parties, peer pressures, and goals of perceived perfection: stop. Just stop.  This isn’t an opportunity to beat yourself up or wallow in the what-ifs and I-should-haves, nor is it the opportunity to kick your feet up and rest.  This is the time to take things one minute at a time.

  • Call your sponsor.
  • Take your medication—even if you feel better!!
  • Surround yourself with friends who are supportive of your new path.
  • Make plans that include having safe, sober fun.
  • And don’t forget to have a sober dance party.

This time of year presents the perfect time to be of service and to practice self-care. Our mental health depends on it. Embrace your new self. You are beautiful and enough, just as you are.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery

New Year Intentions

(Image by Christopher Chan via Flickr)

Round two of Holiday Madness is complete, and hopefully, we are on the other side in one piece. Now on the last stretch of the holiday road, we can now let go and get ready to celebrate the coming of the New Year.  For starters, many are ending this decade sober and stronger than they once were, optimistic in their desire for positive personal change in the year to come.  Some may be teetering on the edge of relapse, or may have already ventured down that path.  Hopefully, they make it back to the willing arms of recovery–remember, it just takes the willingness and desire to ask for help!

That said, all of us, sober or otherwise, look upon the burgeoning new year as a summons to better ourselves. We habitually make promises and set intentions to behave differently than we did the year before; we typically do pretty well in keeping those promises in the first month or so, and then, well, complacency begins to set in. The new membership to the gym starts to gather dust or we fall short in our attempts to deepen our spiritual practice, listening less to the call of our hearts and more to the chatter in our heads; at some point, we may even forget why we made these promises and intentions in the first place.

After countless years of failed “resolutions,” and a persistent sense of disappointment,  I decided to begin a new tradition, which is to no longer make promises I can’t keep, but rather, set intentions that allow me to get back up again if I should fall short. Intentions like being more committed to my life, my family, my sobriety, my spirituality. Or intentions to be kinder to myself and spend less time berating myself for things that are banal and insignificant, i.e., not making it to yoga one day or getting frustrated while I’m driving. In the grand scheme of things, one failed yoga class or a frustrated honk of the horn won’t eradicate the initial intentions that were set. Rather, those moments of forgetting allow me to ignite a practice of forgiveness, which allows me to forgive some of those shortcomings as I work so diligently to transform them.  Frankly, the real intention is our effort to change. “Progress not perfection,” right?

As long as we go forth one step, one breath, one day at a time, eventually, all the effort will pay off, leaving us with less dust, and more fervent joy.