How to Avoid Overwhelm in Sobriety – What to do when it gets too much

How to Avoid Overwhelm in Sobriety.

I need a break. I need a day off and I sense that you do too.

Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s the fact that the kids are on holiday but there is a lot of talk at the moment about the need to take a step back, have some time out, rest and recharge our batteries. Taking a day or even just an afternoon off is hugely important for our mental health, and, I would say even more important in sobriety. Sometimes it all gets a bit too much, working full time, running a business, looking after kids and navigating recovery. Sometimes we need a break to avoid overwhelm in sobriety.

When we remove alcohol from our lives, there comes a point when we are suddenly faced with a sense of overwhelm. On the one hand we feel amazing, there is lots of energy, we sleep better and we feel that we can do anything. Our self confidence soars and we experience a feeling of wanting, needing even, to do as much as we possibly can with all of our extra time, energy, focus and passion.

Perhaps we’re trying to make up for past mistakes, maybe we want to put right any wrongs that we’ve done or maybe we just want to get stuff done and take care of all the little things that we never got round to doing like fixing the leaky tap, sorting out our finances, learning a new skill or doing that craft project with the kids that we’ve been promising them. So we do it, we do it all and then all of a sudden we find we just can’t face it anymore. Welcome to overwhelm in sobriety.

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I have been experiencing this too lately. The kids are on summer holidays and there seems to be endless hours to fill, things to do, places to go and people to see. But somehow I just can’t be bothered with it at the moment. Then of course, with that feeling comes the guilt. I no longer drink, I have lots of energy, I sleep six hours solid a night so therefore I should be raring to go. Even on days off I end up running myself ragged, often with nothing to show for it, so have to spend time planning what I will do on my next day off!

we also need to be able to step of the treadmill, take a break and not feel guilty 

The thing is we’re not superhuman, we’re not robots, we’re not invincible and just because we’re sober and we enjoy all the benefits that come with it, we also need to be able to step of the treadmill, take a break and not feel guilty about it. After all, everybody has days when all we want to do is hide under a blanket, or do nothing except take our kids to the beach and forget about the chores. However, the reality is that we usually just get up, get on with it and soldier on. Mostly it’s all fine, but there comes a point when we do need to stop.

Signs you’re ready for a break

You just feel so exhausted, from the effort of running around and doing stuff, yet you never seem to get anywhere (hello bottomless washing basket!)

Even though you’re tired, you find that you can’t sleep at the moment. You toss and turn at night worrying about all the things you should do the next day.

You can’t focus on anything properly. Maybe you’re distracted at work (it has taken me three days to write this by the way) you can’t concentrate on anything, and you forget important things (like your nephew’s birthday  – also me!)

You might feel especially triggered when usually you wouldn’t be. In the past you used to turn to old familiar drinking behaviours to just plough on and although you won’t perhaps you remember the time when wine would put an end to all the worry and stress, maybe you just want some headspace but don’t know what to do for the best.

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All this worry and overwhelm has you feeling anxious about your sobriety, about your strength, about everything you need to do and just about life in general. You might seem like you have it all together but you’re all over the place inside.

Perhaps you’re just feeling down in general, maybe you are starting to romanticize the drinking days and feel sad, or you just feel a little bit joyless for no particular reason.

If any of this sounds like you at the moment then like me, you need a day off. You need to check in with yourself. I wrote about self care in sobriety and how to make self care part of your daily routine in this post which you should read if you haven’t already. But if you are experiencing serious overwhelm in sobriety than a whole day just for you when you do nothing is what you need.

The benefits of a do nothing day

Having a day where there is nothing on your to do list lets you relax and check in with yourself. You have the opportunity to listen to your body and practice proper self care. When we are mindful and are able to focus on nothing but ourselves we can look after ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t normally.

Taking time out lets us see that things are getting on top of us, it gives us the opportunity to work out why and think about what we can do to make life a little bit easier

You will immediately feel better on your do nothing day. Spending time indulging yourself and doing things you love will lift your spirits. It’s like a mini holiday and there is nothing like a holiday to relieve stress.

The benefits of taking this time out last longer than the day itself.  When you are properly rested and rejuvenated you go back to life with renewed energy and a much more positive attitude.


How to have a do nothing day

Well, there are really no rules here, otherwise it wouldn’t be a do nothing day! The only thing you need to do is choose a day when you can realistically allow yourself to take a proper break, when there is no school run, no work, no appointments or nothing pressing.

Choose your day, get your diary and get rid of everything that is not necessary. If there are things like washing or cleaning or cooking then you can plan these in advance to be done or just give the list to someone else!

The idea is to take it easy and focus on yourself so don’t set your alarm, turn off your phone, hide the laptop, and do something different.

It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it nourishes your soul and your body. If you want to watch a film at 11am, do it. if you want to make biscuits with the kids and eat them straight from the oven, do it. Remember to focus on what you need. Go outside, or stay in your pyjamas, meet with friends or stay in bed with a book, use the day for exercise or not. It is totally up to you. Do what you want whenever you want and if you don’t want to do something then don’t do it!

I plan to have my day on Sunday. If you haven’t scheduled such a day for yourself then go and do it now. You will feel free, rejuvenated, rested and cared for.

Do you have do nothing days or do you need one at the moment? Let me know in the comments below.

1000 1000 Gayle


Hi, I’m Gayle. Mum, teacher, author and sobriety coach. A lover of words, tea and trees, my gift is helping you to quit drinking in a way that feels good so you can return to yourself and find your own Sober Bliss.

Written by: Gayle

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