In early recovery, willpower is very important to ensure that you are able to resist the cravings. A clear sense of why you want to resist helps, as does a stockpile of distraction and relaxation strategies to enable you to get through those testing moments. It is worth remembering that a physical craving only lasts seconds, the agony comes from what your mind does with that brief moment of craving.
As your recovery deepens, it helps to work on practices that increase your resilience to stress and anxiety, and decrease your dependence on willpower. Here are a few things you can do that help to build resilience and inner strength:
Work your program
Whatever program of recovery you are following, make sure you follow it. For me, this means a commitment to my yoga practice and living my life as closely aligned with yogic principles as possible. I am currently reading Russell Brand’s new book, Recovery: Freedom from our Addictions, which is teaching me about the 12-Step program. I have never done a 12-Step program before, but am seriously thinking about working through it as I can see that it is a powerful program with which to improve life in all sorts of ways.
Spend some time each day reflecting on the day that has passed, what has been good, what could have been better, what lessons you have learned and what you can let go of. This helps to clear your mind of rumination and worry before bed, allowing yourself to get a better night’s sleep.
A regular gratitude practice is proven to be an effective protector against stress and to increase resilience. When you focus on the things that are good in your life, no matter how small, your brain becomes trained to look for the good things and to find solutions to the less good. Gratitude has been shown to increase resilience, reduce stress and improve sleep, physical and mental health, and productivity and focus at work.
Sleep is vital for the effective management of stress, so try to make sure that you get enough. Develop a relaxing nighttime routine that allows you to feel rested and ready for bed, such as journaling and gratitude, gentle exercise, a warm bath, reading from a book, and reduce activities that will prevent you getting good sleep, such as late-night screen time, stimulating TV, high energy exercise.
Good nutrition is very important for everyone, but when you are in recovery, it is really important to allow your body to heal and to give your brain all the resources it needs. The way we eat definitely impacts on how we feel emotionally, so if your diet is poor in nutrients, then your whole being will suffer.
Talk it out
When you keep your worries to yourself, they can become huge, unmanageable monsters that can eat you up, creating shame and more stress and worry then they need to. Sharing your problems with a supportive other, whether that is a friend, caring professional, peer, loved one can ease the burden tremendously. Simply knowing that you have someone you can turn to can reduce the stress of a situation…I have gone to a friend in great agitation many times, to have that agitation reduced the minute I hear the words “sit down, I’ll make you a cup of tea and we can talk about it.” Choose your confidante wisely, don’t start pouring your heart out to the stranger on the bus stop just because she mentioned the weather, but a well-chosen listening ear can transform worries.
This post originally appeared on Balance and Breathe. It has been reprinted with permission.