There has been quite a bit written about self care lately, which I for one, am so happy about. We live in such a fast paced world, that it is so easy to get caught up in our jobs, our roles, our duties, keeping up appearances on social media, that we often forget to take the time for ourselves.
Unplugging, reconnecting and just taking some time out should be part of our regular self care routine. Self care in sobriety is essential to avoid the overwhelm, to help us cope with this big change in our lives and to check in and give ourselves a much needed break. However, self care is also something that is so often overlooked and just carrying on regardless can leave us feeling frustrated, deprived and neglected which can lead to us turning to the only thing we know that will take those feelings away – alcohol.
Self medicating with alcohol is not self care, escaping the stresses and worries of the day with a bottle of wine is not self care.
What is self care?
Self care is making time for yourself to do something that makes you feel good, even if that is just for a few minutes. Self care is giving yourself the space to breathe, to check in with your feelings and emotions. Self care is giving your body and your spirit what they need to feel better. Self care is also about showing up and doing what you need to do to stay on track, it is using all the tools you have to keep you from turning back to old unhealthy habits.
As a mum and a mum in sobriety, self care is at the top of my to do list every day, for me self care in sobriety is essential, it is non negotiable and it should be the same for you too.
However, it took me about ten months to understand this and to make my own self care a priority. Why? Because I had genuinely forgotten what it was that made me feel better both physically and mentally. When you are using alcohol to fix all your feelings and you turn to it for everything, when it is no longer an option, you struggle with what to do instead.
I also felt guilty about it making time for myself! I know I am not alone in this either. A big part of the sober Bliss 42 course is dedicated to learning how to incorporate a self care routine into your daily life because so many of you have told me that you have forgotten how to do it or that you don’t know what it looks like and if you do, you still feel guilty about taking time out just for you. This is especially true for us mums because there is so much stuff going on and we have people who depend on us so that we always put ourselves at the bottom of the list. However, if you are not there for yourself first, then you cannot be there for anybody else either which is why you need to learn how to prioritize yourself.
Self care is not indulgent or frivolous but hugely important. If you are running around all day, forgetting to eat, not taking time to sit down for five minutes, not giving your body and spirit what they need then you will end up getting more and more stressed, agitated and anxious. You will do everything half heartedly or with resentment and that does nobody any good – least of all you.
How to care for yourself properly
This might seem like such a basic concept but it can take time to learn and develop a good self care routine especially if you have forgotten what makes you feel better or if you struggle with the very idea of putting yourself first. Self care in sobriety is essential but it can take a bit of getting used to. One thing that I found was I felt that that giving up the alcohol should have been enough to make myself feel better so I didn’t think I needed to do anything else. On top of that I felt that I had to use all the extra time I had suddenly acquired to be more productive, or to cram in as many activities with the kids as I could to make up for all the missed moments due to my drinking. I also thought that being sober was an opportunity to become Supermum and Domestic Goddess all rolled into one, never stopping, always cleaning, cooking, doing…
Turns out it wasn’t! If you try to take on too much to make up for past mistakes or get rid of the guilt then you will experience burnout or be tempted to go back to unhealthy drinking behaviours. What you need to do, must do, is make time for yourself every single day.
My self care essentials
Self care looks different for everybody but the simple message is to do something that makes you feel better every day. It can be a bit of adult colouring in, going to bed early with a book, a relaxing bath in the evening, a spot of crossfit, meditation or cooking. Whatever you enjoy make doing it part of your daily routine. Here are some of the things that I make a priority.
If you have been following the blog or a signed up to the newsletter you will know that I discovered yoga about 9 months into my sobriety. It was always something I had wanted to do but never got round to. Now though I make sure I do 20-30 Minutes of yoga every morning. I do this really early before I contemplate doing anything else. Because it makes me feel so good and is a perfect way to start the day. If I don’t do it then I feel as if I am going about my day on the back foot, so morning yoga is my priority.
Taking regular time out to check in with myself has been important in looking after myself. Even just a few minutes of sitting down away from the computer will help me to understand if I need to eat something, or make a cup of tea. Do I need some fresh air or do I need to take a proper break? Checking in and being mindful of how I am feeling stops me from pushing through regardless, because that never ends well!
Plenty of sleep
As you know, I am a huge fan and great lover of lots of lovely sleep. Even though I get up early now, I still make sure I get enough rest. Sleep is restorative and regenerative. If you don’t get enough of it you will suffer both mentally and physically. I know it is also one of the things that people have trouble with in early sobriety so take naps if you need to and read this post about sober sleep.
Regular time outside is so important to me and even if I don’t have time for a long afternoon walk with the dogs, I make sure I spend at least 20 minutes a day walking in the fresh air. I am lucky because I can ‘walk’ the school run and this early morning dose of outdoor activity gives me a boost of energy which I carry with me throughout the day. I also like to have some time outside in the afternoon to blast away the cobwebs and help me appreciate how lucky I am to be able to do this clear headed and fully present every day.
I do love my tea and taking the time to sit and enjoy a nice cup of tea is one of my joys and self care essentials. I love all types of tea so it doesn’t matter if it’s a refreshing herbal infusion or a proper mug of builders tea with biscuits, the act of purely sitting down and enjoying this moment is something I look forward to and really do need to stop the overwhelm.
The trick to making self care part of your routine and not feel guilty about it is to start slowly. Self care in sobriety is essential and should be something that you take seriously. I know it can be hard to get into this mindset so begin with just 5-10 minutes a day and do something that makes you feel better, whether it be some deep breathing or a jog round the park.
Check in with yourself
Be mindful of your feelings during the day. If you start to feel anxious or stressed or you are having a craving then stop and notice what is going on. Are you thirsty, do you need to eat, do you need a break? Listen to your body and then do something about it.
If you wake up every day with a to do list as long as your arm, then take off what you can and prioritize two or three of your most important tasks. Put yourself on the top of the list before you add anything else.
If, like me you take on too much and feel that only you can do said task, then it’s time to relax and give some jobs to somebody else. Can your kids do the washing or clean the bathroom? Can somebody else cook or do the school run? Our personal circumstances are all different but I am sure you can unload some of your work onto somebody else, even if it’s just in the short term. And, if their work is not up to your high standard then you just have to learn to let go.
Disconnect from social media and the telly for a bit. Go to bed early, play a game, have a bath or just sit in the garden. Give your eyes a break and create some space away from the lives of other people. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t try to live up to perceived expectations. Focus on yourself, what you need and what you love.
If you could do with taking some time out today then take just 10 minutes now and do something that makes you feel better. Do you struggle with making self care a priority? Let me know in the comments below.
If you need a little extra help, then join me in the FREE 7 day sober retreat and learn how to put yourself first every day without feeling guilty about it.