Self-care is one that is best incorporated into your life slowly and gradually, and add on other practices and routines as you get comfortable with taking care of yourself. In a previous post, we talked about the Prerequisites for Self-Care 101. In the 3 Core Self-Care Steps, we talk about the basic things you can do to incorporate into taking care of yourself. In this post we dive a bit deeper into the practices that can bring you closer to finding peace within yourself.
1. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
A little bit goes a long way. As soon as I tell somebody to practice mindfulness and meditation they tell me reasons why they can’t meditate. “Oh I just can’t sit still, I just can’t quiet my mind, my thoughts are always going, it doesn’t work for me.” Don’t go there. Just listen to what this actually means. Mindfulness and meditation can be a very small part of your day. For those of you who don’t practice any type of breathing exercises and techniques when is the last time you stopped and took three, four, five, six conscious deep breaths while holding the breath in your lung, feeling your lung expand, exhaling all of that air and all the stress and all the toxins and all whatever’s inside your body leaving your stomach empty for a few seconds, and repeating that process? It’s a cleansing breath – when was the last time you stopped to do that? That has nothing to do with “I can’t slow down my mind, I can’t sit there and do nothing, I can’t just be quiet.” It has nothing to do with it. Mindful breathing is the easiest way to tap into what I’m talking about right here. It’s super simple but it’s also easy not to do.
I just get in this flow of watching it crash, hearing it crash, smelling the salt water, and it repeats and it repeats and it repeats and it repeats…
I was telling our program participants this morning for the ones who have a hard time with closing their eyes and all that kind of traditional meditation stuff, the way that for me and I’m an overthinker, I think a lot, I have a hard time sitting still, very hard time sitting still. When I wanted to get going with this and I’ve done this a bunch of times in the past few months because it’s sometimes overwhelming, I go and I stare at the ocean. I sit down at the beach, I stare at the ocean and all I do is watch the repetitive waves crash on the shore and all I do is watch. The waves go up, crash on the shore and I try to listen to the sound of the water crashing and I do this, and thankfully for me the waves usually don’t stop or they’re very frequent so I just get in this flow of watching it crash, hearing it crash, smelling the salt water, and it repeats and it repeats and it repeats and it repeats and before you know it I don’t notice anything around me and before you know it my thoughts get quiet and that’s a meditative state. Didn’t even have to think about my thoughts. The presence in that experience did it for me, so I don’t know what it is for you that you need to implement in your life that helps you practice mindfulness and meditation.
Sometimes going on a walk and just observing everything you see that might be the color yellow or the color red and just being and just noticing it, or walking and just being mindful of every step you take – left, right, left, right – something as simple as that. These are all meditative practices. Most people can’t sit down and close their eyes and meditate for a long time. The ones that do have practiced that to get to that point. They train at it daily to get to that point. A lot of people compare their first day of meditation to the homie over there that’s been doing it for 27 years, like come on. Like the first time you hit a piano key you don’t expect to play like Mozart. If you want to be like that person, meditate every day. I know most people don’t want to be that excessive meditator – we got stuff to do, but the self-care routine is a part of it. Some days you’re going to need a little bit more of it, so find times to unwind.
2. Set Boundaries
Learn what your limits are and when and how to say no. When it comes to addiction and recovery there’s certain things that are very important. For example, the one that I’ll just reiterate – if you set a boundary with somebody make sure that you honor it and hold it because if you don’t they’re just going to push that limit over and over and over again. And then if you’re not going to enforce the boundary don’t set it. Just don’t waste your time.
But when it comes to self-care you have to learn how to say no. Again, go back to the one about time. People say they don’t have enough time. I think that’s more of a boundary issue. I think it’s way more of a boundary issue that they just over exhausted themselves and overexerted and just overstretched themselves to the illusion that I have no time. But if they would have said no to a bunch of stuff the time would have been there. So a lot of people have a hard time saying no and that usually comes from childhood dysfunction. It usually comes from some type of an emotional disruption and they just want to say yes and they want to be approved and they want to people-please and they want to be the nice guy or the nice girl and all that kind of stuff and that’s okay if you want to do that – it’s none of my business. Just know that it’s going to have a cost on your mental health and when you set boundaries for yourself, it’s all on you to identify what those are and then you gotta uphold them and you got to learn how to say No.
The homework assignment that I always give on this one is, learn to say no. So when someone asks you to do something, say no to them, especially if you’re the one that always says yes. And do that to like three different people. And when you say no to the requests don’t explain to them, don’t give them your reasoning why. Don’t qualify it, don’t make sure they’re okay and not upset. Just say no. It’s just an exercise. Later on you can go tell them what you were doing, maybe like a week or two weeks after it so you can actually sit with the feelings. But most people, when they say no they feel guilty and ashamed and embarrassed and like, “Oh they’re gonna think I’m such a bad friend.” If a one-time rejection of someone’s request makes someone else think you’re a bad friend your friendship probably wasn’t anything in the first place, just so you know that. At some point we have to honor ourselves and we can’t just do everything at our own costs of our own mental well-being because a lot of this stuff by the way turns into sickness in the body, my friends.
3. Connect With Others
The opposite of addiction is connection. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people. It could be a small little community like this that we have, it could be a couple of your close friends, family members, it could be a sponsor, it could be a therapist, whatever it is you just got to make sure that you connect. And the more we experience pain as a result of addiction, mental illness, trauma, grief and loss, the more we tend to disconnect. And that’s our natural response for many of you that are in the recovery process you know that’s dangerous. I don’t want to isolate. I’m going to go connect but there’s a lot of people who don’t know that, and they go into isolation, and what happens in isolation? Nothing good grows in the dark. It just tends to manifest in different ways, doubling down on potentially the addiction, doubling down on the mental illness, doubling down on the pain resulting from the trauma, making the grief and loss last forever.
I’ve worked with people that someone in their life passed away like seven or eight or ten years ago and it never goes away. So this is something I’m learning, the pain is going to always be there but they are so they’ve isolated and stopped talking about it for so long that they feel the intensity of it as if it just happened, and that just tells me that they didn’t do the healing process. Now can someone be super emotional about something that happened years ago and just feel the sadness? Absolutely, but I’m talking about to the point that they can’t function in their life, impaired in every level at work, relationships, health, all that kind of stuff because of something that happened there. And when you go back and find out what happened they say they stop talking about it, they fully isolated, they just kind of gave up, they died when they died. So make sure that we connect.
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