Categories
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 Feelings Mental Health Self-Care Stress

Art: A Healthy Outlet for Difficult Emotions

Art is a wonderful outlet for your difficult emotions like stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration. You don’t have to be Basquiat or Banksy, Ruth Bernhard, or Diane Arbus, Steinbeck or Tolstoy; you just have to be yourself. One definition of art is: “works produced by human, creative skill and imagination.” In other words, your options are limitless.

 

Earlier this week, I wrote about self-regulation and self-care.  Finding your artistic outlet is a wonderful way to self-regulate.  So, what will it be?

 

  • Are you inclined to write? Start a journal. Or write a short story or poem.
  • Is painting your thing? Maybe start with a skeleton of an idea (a feeling, smell, site, or sound) and let your paintbrush or fingers lead the way.
  • Maybe music is your emotional salve. Play for the sake or playing, or sing for the sake of singing.
  • Perhaps photography moves you. Make a random list of things (pirate, horseshoe, laughter, etc.) and go on a photo adventure to find those things.

 

All of these artistic endeavors create space within. Allowing yourself to be creative is a great way to get out of your head and into your heart. Creating art is a magnificent, non-verbal way of processing feelings that can otherwise be too big.

Susan the Art Lady guides and encourages our kids to get into their “art brain,” so to speak, and some of the pieces I’ve seen as a result of their creative sessions have been phenomenal. It’s amazing what happens when we let go. It’s inspiring when we can set aside our judgments of others and ourselves and feed that energy into creating something that is uniquely ours.

 

So as we continue this path of self-regulation and self-care, we can add art to our list of resources. There’s something truly wonderful when we access our right brains and relinquish some of our control. There’s infinite healing in paint, in light, in putting pen to paper, and in a coloratura. Art is part of heart, after all.