If I was able to cue a certain candy commercial to help drive home the point of giving yourself a break, I would. Whether you are in early recovery or long-term recovery, one thing that should remain constant is the ability to step away and exhale. It’s important to give yourself a break, and there are an infinite amount of ways to do so. Let’s start a conversation about what it looks like to truly practice self-care.
Let’s first discover what it means to give yourself a break. Does it mean taking five or ten minutes just to breathe? Is it taking a night to spend time with loved ones? Is it having a genuinely fun experience? I could keep going, but the short answer is all of the above. Practicing self-care refills your mind, body, and soul. We are all familiar with the quote “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” The metaphor I like best is one that I heard from motivation speaker Tony Robbins, who spoke about airplane safety. Robbins offers this piece of advice: “Put your oxygen mask on before helping others put their mask on.”
Sure, we can have help and guidance along the way, but the best advice I can give in this situation is to try to reconnect with certain hobbies and activities that brought you joy before active use. For example, early on in my recovery I got back in touch with playing hockey. I grew up playing and forgot how amazing it felt to get back out on the ice. Similarly, because recovery is a new chapter, try new things that are exciting or relaxing. As far as trying something new, I can unapologetically admit that I go for pedicures once a month. Yes, I play hockey and lacrosse. Yes, I have no shame in getting clear nail polish and having the smoothest feet on and off the ice and field.
When I was first getting sober, it was hard for me to be patient and wait for that next step forward or next goal to accomplish. What I soon realized was I needed to cut myself some slack. Sure, at 60 days sober I was not employed, and that would eat at me because I started working at a young age and I did not know what it was like to not have a job. But when I stepped outside my own head, I realized I was doing a ton of work. I was working on myself by attending outpatient groups, therapy, meetings – the whole nine yards. I didn’t realize that I was still working even though I wasn’t receiving a paycheck.
It wasn’t until I went mini golfing with some sober friends that I realized how happy I truly was. Side note – I am extremely competitive, so you better believe I won that round of mini golf, which contributed to my happiness. But mini-golfing with friends was me giving myself a break. Stepping away from my structured day-to-day routine for two hours with some good people made me reflect. I learned a lot of things that day that I may not have if I didn’t take those two hours. I still remember hearing the rushing water of the Hudson River, the warmth of the sun, the refreshing breeze; I was completely present in that moment. If we continuously plan and look toward future moments, we might miss the beautiful moments in the present.
Taking a break means practicing self-care. Early on in my recovery, one technique I utilized was keeping a journal. I recorded my achievements, my dreams, and things I could improve on. Sometimes I just used it to release my frustration and it was a really big help. But try to step outside of your comfort zone. This mentality helped me realize that listening to Niccolo Paganini helped with my anxiety or stepping into nature let me detach from my routine and find peace. Self-care is the difference between going through the motions and living life. Self-care can make your laugh more contagious than the common cold. I believe that when we are in active use, we are trying to fill a void, but in recovery, we fill that void with self-love.