When I entered into recovery, I had no healthy coping skills. I had been routinely smoking, drinking, and drugging at my problems. All my emotions were smothered with a substance. When I committed to a new way of life, I lost my most effective coping skills; I entered the unknown. In my first year of sobriety, I suffered panic attacks, anxiety attacks, migraines, and often broke out into hives.
My body rebelled against the stress of life.
Over the last (almost) eleven years, I’ve had to find new, healthy coping skills to deal with these stresses. Here are six things I do when I’m feeling anxious, angry, etc.
I bought a bunch of coloring books and crayons. For years I kept them in my desk at work to break out whenever I was feeling angry. Coloring immediately soothes me and I feel better before I’m even done with a picture.
I learned how to quilt about two years ago from a book used to teach children. As my sewing skills were equal to that of a 4th grader, it was perfect. I learned so much from that book. I bought a sewing machine on Craigslist for $45.
I pick someone I know and love and make jewelry for them. This both helps me think of others AND allows me to use the creative side of my brain. I am no great jewelry artisan, but with some beads and a pair of needle-nose pliers, you’d be surprised what can be accomplished.
When I was a little girl, I loved to read. Sometime in that hazy youth (I call them the “fuzzy” years), I lost sight of that. I don’t read highbrow, intellectual books or anything. I read vampire smut and anything with dragons, faeries, or swords. Maybe these books aren’t for you, but there is a genre of literature out there that I’m sure you will love.
I don’t mean I sit with my legs crossed saying, “OOOOOMMMMMMM”. I just sit. STILL. And let the thoughts go by. In the early years of recovery, my thoughts would race so much that I couldn’t quiet my mind for more than a few seconds at a time. Today, I am having a particularly difficult time with some PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms, and I’ve been coping by meditating for five minutes every hour. Now it’s only been two hours since I started doing this, but the results are AMAZING. The first hour my mantra was “I am worthy,” the second hour it was “I am good,” and the next is, “I am lovable”. Those are the 3 things I need to tell myself A LOT to retrain my brain into saying nice things about me.
Whether it’s phone call, a gift, a text message, or helping someone move, I give love. Now, there are very, very few people on this planet that I love. However, everyone on that list knows it because they hear it and see it in my actions consistently. So when I am hurt, or sad, or angry, I let one of these amazing people know how happy I am to have them in my life.
So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or angry and you find that your toolkit is empty, grab one of my tools! Some take more practice than others, so keep it simple. Just start with the crayons and coloring book.
Right now I’m coloring a dinosaur…until it’s time for my next meditation.
What are some coping skills that have worked for you?
This post was submitted by Jessica.