Change from a moment of life to another can get tricky sometimes. We have things that we know how to deal, and we have to let it go to give an opportunity for us to regain control on our journey. When we are talking about recovery, life and new ways to live get trickier. Most of us do not know where to start and whom we can ask for help. Sure, a therapist will be the first thing you will be thinking about, but how we can keep going when our therapist is not around? Here couple real-life coping skills that can help you to go through life. To be more precisely five copings skills:
1- First thing is being present – the importance of mindfulness when we are trying to start a new life cycle is not to let our heads fixated in the past wrongdoing to ourselves and others, or the future; As cliché as it is, we cannot change the past, but if we do not be present here-and-now, how can we guarantee our future. One way is to take couple minutes of your day, try to find a guided meditation and let your mind to rest; “What do you mean? My thoughts are over the place right now!” Well, while you are seated in a quiet place, imagine you are in a cinema, and your thoughts are all on the screen. Look at them without making an effort to change or do anything. At this moment watch at them, do not judge them, just let you and your thoughts are. Take this mental break. It helps to have a stress ball, barefoot feet touching the grass of a park, feet submerged in lukewarm water or even a cold one (no judgment here) or even a pet that you can touch while resting your mind or background music (preferably with no lyrics helps).
2 – Social support – human, is a social being creature, ‘cough,’ most of the time. Let’s be real, if we could deal with everything by ourselves, we would not have a problem, or we would have born from a plant. We need someone to be our external brain (and sometimes heart) to balance us. If you do not have anyone in your life right now, time to try meeting new people, preferably one that understands recovery somehow even they haven’t been in recovery themselves. Support meetings (in person or virtual does not matter), go to events that people are happily such as parks on a sunny day, go walk with your dog or a cat, a bird, a lizard (remember not judgment here), for sure people will approach, take risk saying hi to people. Although human contact can be tiresome for few people, our nature is to seek connection.
3 – Being honest with yourself and others – When people find themselves in their cycle of use, they often find themselves hiding their behaviors from other people. Maybe this hiding behavior is born out of a desire to appear healthier than they are; perhaps the hiding is a response to shame, as the person does not want their loved ones to see that they are struggling. Regardless of the reason, speak up! Be honest with yourself—you deserve to feel however, you are feeling at this moment. The best that you can do is share how you are feeling, specifically what your needs are. Not only can you potentially problem solve your needs, but you are also creating an accountability partner by sharing yourself with another. The difficulty with white lies and small hiding behaviors/omission of feeling is that, often, larger lies and greater hiding is needed to keep old lies hidden. Pretty soon, you can be faced with a slippery slope. Keeping your sobriety does not need to be more of an uphill battle than it already is!
4 – Change your attitude towards problems that arise – Perhaps you and your therapist has briefly gone over reframing thoughts. If not, good news! We will do a crash course/brief review right now. Often, events in our lives follow a similar pattern:
- A situation arises (i.e., Someone cuts us off in traffic)
- Thoughts arrive about the situation (i.e., ‘this person is a terrible human;’ ‘I’m not safe out here.”
- Feelings are tied to thoughts (i.e., anger, fear, panic, hate, insecure, etc.)
- Behaviors rise out of thoughts and feelings (i.e., more aggressive driving, refusing to drive, over-vigilant driving, etc.)
- Consequences (Often, the consequences of actions end up reinforcing the thoughts about the situation or beliefs about the self—i.e., the world is out to get me, I can’t take care of myself, etc.).
However, if instead, the thoughts that followed this example situation were more hopeful/optimistic, such as, “thank goodness I have good enough reaction time to avoid an accident,” the feelings and behaviors would likely shift from anger and fear to empowerment and relief. By doing this simple exercise, people can become more resilient and better equipped to handle the problems that life throws at them.
5 – Practice gratitude – Availability heuristic refers to a mental shortcut that people can find themselves in whereupon their beliefs are strengthened if they have readily available examples. For example, if I begin to constantly look for problems in my family, friends, and life in general, then I am much more likely to see more problems than I did before. In fact, I may come to a conclusion that problems are everywhere and that there is no avoiding it! Conversely, by practicing the expression of gratitude, being thankful for what it is in my life, I will automatically begin noticing more things that are going well. By engaging in this simple exercise, even as small as writing down five things that you are grateful for in a journal before going to bed, it can markedly increase the extent to which you experience positive, hopeful emotions about the world around you.