Is wine part of your self-care ritual?
2018 has been the year of self-care. Everywhere we hear about the importance of looking after ourselves, making space for ourselves in the midst of chaos and finding ways to recharge and boost our emotional resources.
Being able to make choices about our personal wellbeing is powerful and can make a huge difference to our quality of life.
It can give us a sense of control and mastery over our lives, which is important when our lives are busy and stressful. There is a growing awareness that our busy lives and multiple commitments (especially for the sandwich generation) have resulted in a generation of people who are stressed, anxious and in desperate need of ‘me’ time, but sadly do not have many options for this.
Alcohol use as self-care
Many use alcohol as a way to unwind and relax after a chaotic, stressful day. On one hand, it is kind of a great self-care tool. It can be physiologically relaxing, has a pleasurable taste and is often consumed when relaxing on the couch with something nice to eat.
On the other hand, it is a somewhat risky self care tool. One that is hard to cap at one or two, largely because it is almost too effective at helping us to unwind. We generally stop at one bubble bath, or one cup of tea a night – but alcohol is a self-care tool that is fairly difficult to shut off, due to its powerful effects on a stressed out brain.
Often, particularly if someone has had a stressful day, they might crave that release. However, at the same time, the release is then followed by a desire to keep the feelings going. Many people also experience this effect with sugar and junk food. The mechanism is similar, but with alcohol it is even more profound, since it is affecting multiple parts of the brain and reward system, as well as switching off the consequential thinking part of our brains.
Making the day after harder
What starts out as a gentle way to recover from a hard day, often becomes something that can make the next day even harder. Someone might find themselves finishing the bottle of wine in the quest to replenish those emotional resources. What follows is poor food choices, poor sleep and lower energy, making it less likely we will have the day we were hoping for.
Many members on Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak app describe this conundrum. The very understandable aim to treat themselves to a drink after a long day (self-care), balanced with the equally important need to look after their health and energy levels. The perennial question: How can I practice self-care in the way that I want, without taking away from my quality of life? I’m trying to relax and recharge after work, but I end up waking up the next day feeling awful and even further away from my wellbeing goals.
Consider the importance of rituals
Many people will describe the pleasure of coming home and pouring a glass of wine and sitting on the couch to relax. Often there are things like sound, smell, taste and even temperature that can inform the ritual and make it something that is repeated. You probably have other rituals that you do daily that have similarly grounding and comforting effects. Whether that is taking a coffee break in the sun, or the process of getting ready to go to bed in the evenings.
Perhaps we can also be a bit critical of the idea of alcohol as a form of self-care
Some questions to ask might be: Is this really helping me to recover from the day? Is this making my life better in the long run? Is this all I need to top up my emotional resources, or are there some other things that will also help?
Rituals often ground us and provide a predictable framework for us to behave. Often this is why people might start to feel relaxed when they get home and have poured a drink, even before they have had a sip. It is not the alcohol itself that is grounding and relaxing – it is the knowledge that they are home and have the next few hours just for them. Many self-care rituals are similar – we benefit both from the activity (listening to our favourite music) as well as the action (knowing that we are doing something for ourselves).
Consider what other kinds of rituals might accompany, or replace alcohol
This might look like creating a new evening ritual of having a shower as soon as you get home, and then going for a walk. Or it might involve pouring that glass of wine, but also pouring a large glass of soda water. It might involve calling a friend or family member for a chat after you put the kids to bed, so that when you get to the couch you are in a good mood. It might involve having that glass of wine, but only after you’ve done a few other things first that have calmed you down and set you up for a good evening.
Often, when we look back on the most difficult or stressful times in our lives, we can see that the rituals that give us a sense of safety and stability have often fallen over. We do need things like this to give our life structure and allow us to feel grounded and safe.
The good news is that if we can find rituals that actually work for us, we are likely to see improvements in our quality of life and wellbeing. If you are finding that alcohol is a big part of your nightly ritual, consider what kinds of small changes you can make to allow room for other things to fill some of those gaps.
Original Article written by Hello Sunday Morning Health Coach Briony and published by Ten Daily
Why yoga and meditation can help change your drinking
One of the aims of a practice like yoga and meditation is to be able to slow down, calm the mind and to feel whatever arises for you.
It is important to have a way to connect back in with yourself, and that may be scary for some people. For those who have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, this may seem extremely difficult, as often people drink in order to numb challenging feelings and to escape whatever is happening in their mind or body. It is also very beneficial to have an outlet that allows you to be an observer of your thoughts and feelings, learning not to get so caught up in them.
Mindfulness / consciousness
Often when someone has been drinking regularly for a substantial period of time, they disconnect from their true selves and what their body is telling them. Yoga and meditation is an effective way to start unpacking this, as well as being a relaxing and calming method to reduce feelings of anxiety, stress or depression.
One of the goals of a yoga or meditation practice is to learn the skill to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings and sensations that arise when you are in a challenging yoga posture. These sensations can also come up through mediation and make it very hard to sit with. Working through these sensations and learning to cope with them through breath and staying in the present moment, allows us to have the ability to cope better with situations in our external lives. For example, when we come face-to-face with something that would usually cause us to drink, like a fight with a partner, we can have the awareness that it might be best for us to leave the situation and have some time alone. We can remove ourselves and sit with whatever feelings come up. That way we learn to work through any anger/hurt/sadness/grief and return to the person with a greater sense of calm and clarity of the situation.
Life is all about relationships; relationships with ourselves, with others, with alcohol etc. Relationships really come down to connection and understanding. There is a close relationship between the mind and the body, and yoga and mediation are a way to weave this together.
Yoga Teacher, Vytas Baskauskas, from California, spoke to Yoga Journal about finding sobriety through the 12 step program and a disciplined yoga practice.
“A lot of people come to AA to get sober, and yet they’re still riddled with physical maladies and imbalances… Yoga was challenging, and it opened my mind and my body. It enlivened places that had been dead for so long, and as I worked my body, I found a refuge, some relief from feeling like a prisoner of my own thoughts. When you’re an addict, you often have a hole in your life, and by filling it with the philosophy of yoga, God—whatever you want to call it—that’s a high too. But it’s a high that won’t kill your relationships, hurt your family, or your body.”
Knowing that you have to wake up at 6am to get to a class is a great way to have an excuse to go to bed early or leave an event early and not have too much to drink. If you are out on a Friday night with friends at a bar and there’s an amazing yoga class on tomorrow at your favourite studio – it can help you tune back into what you really need. You may find that having one more means you won’t get there.
Having an alternative way to relax, helps get you into a healthy routine, as you can take yourself to a yin yoga or meditation class to unwind, instead of meeting someone at a pub. Many people start to crave the feelings that are released after yoga or a mediation practice, and these can help to become your ‘therapy’. This is when change starts to happen if you do the work. No one is saying it will be easy, but forming habits like this gradually changes your lifestyle for the better!
In both of these mindful practices, you are taught to be kind to yourself and to remember to honour your limitations. You learn to find your edge with love and acceptance rather than judgment and discouragement. It doesn’t matter what you look like or whether you are ‘flexible enough’ or ‘strong enough’. No one judges you for being ‘bad’ at yoga or meditation, because there is no competition. It is a self-practice and each day is different and may feel different in your own body.
How do I get into mediation?
The Headspace app is a great place to start if you want to get into a regular practice. It offers free, easy and practical, 10 minute sessions to try, but there are loads of other apps and online videos!. You can also look up meditation classes in your local area if you prefer to go to a space to meditate with others.
How do I get into a yoga practice?
Setting yourself goals for a consistent weekly (if not daily) practice, is something that demonstrates a lot of self-discipline. If you have struggled with keeping at things in the past, a good idea may be to buy a membership to a yoga/meditation studio and that way you know you have paid and that might make you go! There are also thousands of apps and online videos to follow.
This yoga sequence from Yoga Journal was created for people who have or have had a dependency, and it has lovely little illustrations and affirmations for you to focus on in each posture. https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/higher-ground
Just set up the computer somewhere you have space to roll out a mat or a towel and make sure you have uninterrupted time to work on your breath and follow the guide. Namaste
I stopped drinking to love myself all over again
I have been drinking since time immemorial; so much so, I can’t pinpoint an exact time in life where I didn’t indulge in alcohol to get through the day. What I did not realise is that I relied on booze to escape my pain, the kind that has no cure. Although I must admit, it got me far.
Ever since my mother passed away, everything seemed surreal. Considering the fact we had a tough childhood, barely making ends meet, it was our mother that got us through the toughest of times. The sacrifices she had to make, slowly and eventually, sucked the life out of her. I guess it is this guilt that eats me alive, seeing how when I finally stood on my feet, there was little I could do to comfort her as she took her last breath.
Now you know what caused me to lose myself to alcohol, you must understand it did me more harm than good
I could always rely on booze to drown my pain and sorrows, but it never allowed me to recover. By recovery, I refer to a state of happiness. What is even more saddening is I have a caring husband, with two adorable children and yet I feel sorrow. No matter how hard I try, my past seems to haunt me. What I have realised is that alcohol adds fuel to fire, making my life more miserable, although things were not as bad as they seemed.
The biggest drawback of alcohol consumption is that you lose your self-esteem. You pity yourself while your confidence wavers.
The purpose of sharing all this is so that others realise they are not alone. I wish for them to change their ways, for a healthier and prosperous future. Everything may seem well and good in the beginning. Eventually, there will come a time when it will be difficult to function without alcohol.
The affects of an alcohol dependancy
Since I was finding it difficult to deal with my addiction, I thought it necessary to do a bit of homework to find the motivation I needed to get myself sober and stay that way. Believe it or not, it worked! I got over alcohol for good and now I feel a lot more confident, happy and efficient. For this reason, I thought it necessary to share my experience.
The list of problems caused by alcohol can go on and on, with the most prominent of them being lack of happiness, satisfaction, and self-esteem. Even though you may get rid of your drinking habit, your problems will not disappear into thin air. However, it will give you the breathing space you need to think with clarity, thus eradicating the chance of making terrible mistakes that could affect you and your family.
At the same time, you will learn new things about yourself
It will take some time before you reach your true potential where your self-esteem gives you the ability and confidence to build relationships with people that matter.
Eliminating alcohol from my life has done wonders for me. I feel positive, doing whatever it takes to serve as a role model for my family, to show them they can aim high and be happy, instead of punishing themselves for not being the person they want to be. I’ve also put a limit on caffeine consumption and have made significant changes to my eating habits to boost productivity.
As absurd as it may seem, small steps lead to big things, and that is a fact. Also, don’t shy away from seeking professional help. The idea here is to grab whatever opportunity comes your way and make the most of it rather than complain about everything. This requires courage and self-belief, which is not all that difficult to gain.
No matter what problem you are dealing with, just know this, you are not alone. Alcohol never was, and never will be the answer to your problems. If you are willing to take a leap of faith, by taking small steps, you will never find the need to depend on alcohol again.
If you do need support to change, check out Hello Sunday Morning’s behaviour change mobile program Daybreak.
Blog written by Hello Sunday Morning supporter, Jenny.
How to feel content
Daybreak’s health coach talks us through the 10 core needs that we need to meet to feel content.
Can you remember a time in your life when things felt ‘just right’? Perhaps it was a time when you felt you were really getting to where you wanted to be; you felt unstoppable. Or, it was a time when there were a lot of new things happening, and you felt like the world was opening up to you.
It could be that, at that time, you were meeting most of your core needs.
A lot of research into wellbeing and life satisfaction indicates that ‘happiness’ – or, at the very least, to feel content, depends on us having most of our needs met in the different areas of our lives.
What are the 10 core needs to feel content?*
- Close friends
- Group belonging
- Personal growth
- Meaning and purpose
If we invest too much in one area, we risk falling short in others. Spending too much time earning money and working means our social and relational needs are unmet. On the other hand, spending too much time socialising might mean that we fall behind in our personal growth or looking after our health. It is a delicate balance. Importantly, you don’t need all 10 needs met to feel content. We generally aim to meet six or seven of the needs, fully or partially.
When people present to me with symptoms of depression, I often run through an inventory of their unmet needs. Chronically unmet needs can often result in feeling discontent. This, in turn, can cause us to feel empty, lonely, frustrated, anxious, and generally out of sorts. When we feel discontented, we are much more likely to drink more, eat more, and do more ‘self-soothing’ pursuits. These can include online shopping, social media trawling, gambling, or other things which may temporarily lift our moods.
Ironically, these are things that generally cause us to have even less of a chance to meet our needs. They are avoidance behaviours and keep us stuck in the same place.
In my experience, it is often the relational needs that are important. We can sometimes feel lonely if we are not part of something bigger than ourselves, like a social circle. Similarly, if we feel we are not learning and growing, or have a purpose in our lives, we can be left with an unsettling sense of frustration and anxiety. Different needs are also more important at different times in our lives.
Finding ways to resolve your unmet needs is likely to result in a big shift in your mood and outlook. It could be that your alcohol use is a way of managing feelings of discontentment stemming from these unmet needs. In the other direction, your alcohol use might be contributing to unmet needs, since our drinking might be impacting our relationships, energy levels, health, and finances.
How do you start to feel content?
Look back at that time in your life when things felt really good. If you can’t think of a time when that was happening, then think of the closest time to that; a time that you remember as a pretty good period of your life. Then go through the core needs (health, home, money, social, partner, close friends, group belonging, self-care, personal growth, and meaning and purpose).
What were you doing then that was different to what you are doing now?
Often we find that in those really good times, we were either investing our time differently (eg. in our friendships and relationship, rather than work or video games), doing things for our health (eg. involved in regular exercise or sports), or in a period of growth or personal development (eg. studying or learning a new skill or hobby).
The next step is to take an inventory of where you are now and which of these core needs is unmet. How might you be able to bump up that need from unmet to at least partially met?
Examples to feel content
If your health needs are currently unmet, you could take a couple of hours to research some exercise plans, look up healthy recipes online, or go for a long walk to start the process of getting back into shape.
When social needs are unmet, you could send off some texts to old friends, or perhaps search on meetup.com for groups of people who you might have something in common with.
Finally, if your personal growth needs are unmet, you could search online for a short course you can do in your spare time, or look at taking up some hobbies or setting goals for yourself. Do anything that might challenge you or provide you with intellectual stimulation.
Addressing our unmet needs is something that we know works. Remember that time in your life when things felt really good? Often it is a constant work in progress and our circumstances can change, friends can move, life can get on top of us and we can find that our previously met needs are now unmet. All that we need to do is to be aware of this, and notice when that familiar feeling of discontentment comes up. When we can recognise it, then we can start to take action towards addressing those unmet needs and moving back towards contentment.
*10 Core needs based on workshop materials presented by Matthew Berry, a Melbourne psychologist
How to practise self care
What is self care?
Simply put: self care is looking after yourself. But it is sometimes easier said than done. How do you know what constitutes looking after yourself? Do I eat a salad for my physical health, or a cupcake for my mental wellbeing? It is tricky.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation,” said American author Audre Lorde. It’s true that sometimes self care can feel selfish or unnecessary. But there are a lot of health professionals who argue it is an important part of well being.
Self care is not the same thing as pampering yourself or a simple act of treating yourself. In fact, there exist academic journals specialising in the area of self care, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) even has resources relating to it, suggesting that self care is important for all aspects of our health. WHO point out that it is a broad concept but is important for people to establish and maintain health, as well as prevent and deal with illness. Some have split the idea of self care into ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ self care for your psychological and physiological well being.
But really it’s about listening to how you feel and introspecting about what it is that you need in that moment.
Why is self care important?
Self care keeps you healthy
On some level, self care is simply an act in taking good care of yourself. This means eating well, exercising, drinking enough water, practicing good hygiene and getting enough sleep (to name a few). Self care means that you remember to engage in these healthy activities even if you have an urgent deadline or are experiencing a stressful life event.
Self care prevents burnout
Sometimes life gets tough. Hey, life is tough. And our demanding lifestyles often lead us to push ourselves to our limits, hence, burnout. Not only does burnout feel awful, it is actually pretty bad for your health too. So self care is a good way to avoid getting to this point.
Self care reduces negative effects of stress
Stress does all sorts of terrible things to us. Amongst a whole host of other things it can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, hormone issues, the whole lot. So it is particularly important to check off some self care when you are under stress.
Self care is part of the process
Self care is not a reward; it is part of the process. But when you’re busy caught in the mechanics of living, it can be difficult to avoid falling into the trap of believing the opposite. Eating a good meal is great. But it’s not a reward, it is part of the process. So is taking a shower. And going for a run. See, self care isn’t a one-time deal. The best way to practice it is to engage is small self care habits every day.
So, self care is important. We’ve mentioned a few self care activities above but how exactly do you do it?
Self care activities
- Eat well
- Drink water
- Go to see the doctor for regular checkups
- Sleep well
- Minimise stress in your life
- Make time for fun
- Schedule breaks when you work
- Make time for the people you love
- Take time in the day to meditate or take a few deep breaths
- Feed your mind – go to an art gallery or read a good book, whatever suits your fancy
- Check in with your emotions
- Spend time journaling or writing down your thoughts
- Help someone in need, this could be small like carrying someone’s bag or shouting a stranger’s coffee
- Do something purely because it makes you happy
- Unplug from technology for a while
- Create something. Maybe art, or a film
- Spend time on personal admin
- Do some exercise! It could be something fun like Kayaking or a dance class
- Know when and where to set boundaries. Sometimes you have to say no to a request
- Celebrate your wins and accomplishments!
- Express gratitude
- Ask for help when you need it
It’s really up to you. You must first decide what you need to do in order to take care of yourself. It’s important! Say hello to self care!