It’s tougher than I thought it would be to narrow down the very long list of Safe Coping Strategies to just one for a weekly post. (If you want to know more about Safe Coping Strategies, you can check out my first post here.) I think the reason the list is so long, however, is that there are so very many ways we can take care of ourselves. So many right choices we can make when sometimes it feels like we only want to make wrong choices. And such a long list of options means everyone can find something that relates to them, and that will help them.
This Monday, I’ve chosen to speak about this Safe Coping Strategy:
Take good care of your body. Healthy eating, exercise, etc.
I know, this one seems to go without saying, right? Do right by your body, and it will do right by you. And chemical dependency can really harm your body.
But, I had a moment this past week where it was very clear and very obvious to me how much worse I feel when I abuse my body, more than just with alcohol. I mean with junk food and lack of exercise and protecting my skin from the sun, and the whole gamut. I noticed also how much better I feel when I’m really, truly taking care of myself physically.
In recovery and therapy and groups of all kinds, aside from specifically not using your substance of choice, the focus of everything seems to be on a person’s mind. Getting to the bottom of why we used. Getting in touch with feelings that our using had allowed us to ignore. And changing our thinking to avoid using and relapse. And that is all very, very important stuff to consider.
But, when you’re in recovery, it is also your body that is recovering. You have put it through the ringer for a long time, and while you may not have sustained any life-threatening illness or injury, your body is still damaged, and must be repaired.
In my rehab program, a healthy eating regimen and exercise routine were a very central part of the recovery program. Being active, and putting the best foods into our bodies. The importance of that was spoken about daily. When I arrived in rehab, I’d been drinking heavily for months on end, and often I’d go entire days without eating. When I did eat, it was very unhealthy food. And it showed. After only a few days of eating regularly and eating well and exercising even just a few minutes a day, I could see a difference in myself physically. I began to “pink up” again. And I had more energy. And the better I ate, the more my cravings for junk food diminished.
Back at home, keeping up with this routine was up to me. And for the most part, I did. Of course, I am not perfect, and I skipped workouts and indulged in junk food. But, I felt it immediately. It affected my energy levels throughout the day, it affected my appearance and it even affected the way I was sleeping.
Those kinds of things being out of sync can affect your mood. Our mind and our body are not separate. They are part of one another, and they work together to keep things regulated. So, if you’re not kind to your body, your mind notices. And we all know that when our mind isn’t in the right place, that’s when we’re most at risk for using.
That’s why I chose to write about this sort of mundane, no-brainer Safe Coping Strategy. Because I see the benefits directly and immediately when I use this strategy. And it really is a way of coping if you view it as taking care of your body so that your mind will also feel taken care of. All systems working together to achieve your sobriety and success.
Try this week to eat well, and get some exercise (even if that’s just 10 or 15 minutes of walking in the morning), and see how it makes you feel. Chances are it will invigorate you and bring you some peace of mind.