A bad day at work, a breakup, a car accident, a long stretch of intense and stressful work, serious illness – they all take their toll. Equally important to how you handle life’s stresses in the moment is what you do afterwards. I think of this as my rituals of recovery.
Before I figured out about good-for-me rituals of recovery, the things I used to reach for to feel good weren’t really that good for me…even if they did temporarily make me feel better. Lying around on the couch moping for hours or days on end. Comfort foods – the greasier and more loaded with carbs, the better! Staying up way too late watching TV and neglecting important things like, oh say…sleep. Booze – need I say more? None of it was good for me and none of it really made me feel better. It was more about numbing the stress and pain.
Healthy Rituals of Recovery
Somewhere along the line, I realized that I needed to start taking care of myself better in those moments. Pausing to honor whatever the pain or stress was and then nurturing myself back to feeling good and whole again. Loving myself enough to do it.
Thus began my rituals of recovery. The things I do to take care of myself to heal the pain and release the stress…and not numbing it temporarily with a feel-good-fix.
I don’t always do all of these things when I’m in the midst of recovery. I think of it more as a ‘choose your own adventure’ activity. I ask myself “what do I need in this moment to feel calm and balanced again?” and then I do that. It might just be one thing…or it might be the whole list. It might be doing something for myself every day for a while until I feel recovered.
Here are some of my options:
Deep breathing is one of those simple but powerful tools that is often overlooked. There’s all sorts of physiological reasons why it works. It also gives you something immediate and physical to focus on, taking your mind off of whatever happened…even if just for a few minutes.
Box breathing is a great technique here. Exhale completely before you start. Inhale for a count of 4, letting the air expand your lungs and belly. Hold for a count of 4. Exhale completely for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Repeat for 1-2 minutes. That’s it. Do box breathing as a form of deep breathing anytime, anywhere. If you’re recovering from something bigger, consider deep breathing several times a day as a way of helping your mind and body to recover.
A Cup of Tea
There’s something about the ritual of making a cup of tea that is already soothing before you even take the first sip. The comfortable predictability of filling the kettle with water, waiting for it to boil, pouring it over tea leaves and waiting. A splash of milk, a little honey and from first sip to last somehow the world is a little bit brighter.
I am an extrovert with a capital E! So, talking to get something out of my system is a critical ritual of recovery. Letting off a little steam by talking about whatever’s been going on is a pretty good cure for what ails me. For the introverts out there, journalling can have a similar therapeutic effect.
One of the things that is important here is to make sure that you’re talking to vent or to strategize…and not getting stuck in retelling your story over and over and being a victim of your circumstances. Another important thing? Finding a talking partner you trust. Someone who will listen without gossiping. Someone who will listen without trying to fix it. Someone who can be your confidante.
Walking outdoors is the last of my rituals of recovery. Cortisol, a hormone released in the body during times of stress, hangs out in the system for a long time. Exercise is a very effective method for burning the cortisol out of your system much more quickly. There’s a long list of reasons why being in nature helps you to relax too.
Developing Your Own Rituals of Recovery
If you don’t yet have healthy rituals of recovery, I highly suggest you consider developing your own. It’s better to figure out what to do to take care of yourself when you’re feeling good, rather than trying to figure it out when the sh*t hits the fan. What do you know you can do to take care of yourself as you recover from life’s stresses?
That’s my list, what’s yours?
Share what you do to take care of yourself in your own rituals of recovery in a comment below.
Photo Credit: Michel Pitstra | FreeImages.com