6 Holistic Self-Care Practices to Manage Your Recovery

I was a high-functioning alcoholic for well over a decade. I’m now 10 months sober, and the thought of picking up a drink ever again makes me want to hurl. 

I didn’t go to rehab. I didn’t attend AA meetings or a 12-Step program. I don’t have a sponsor because I haven’t found the need for one.  

Lots of people will tell you that an alternate way of approaching recovery just won’t work. That might be true for them. But just because a specific method works for one person doesn’t mean it works for another. 

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Holistic Self-Care Practices and Recovery

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there is no “right way” to do sobriety. There is no cookie cutter approach to your needs. Anyone who tells you there is only one way of approaching recovery still has a lot of inner healing work to do, even if they’re adamant they don’t. Trust a sober woman on this one. 

If there’s one thing that’s been paramount to my continued success in sobriety, it’s this: a daily self-care routine. 

I know, it seems ridiculously basic. But stick with me…

When you’re actively using alcohol and/or drugs, holistic self-care practices are one of the first things to fall by the wayside. In the past, I found any plausible excuse to skip exercise so I could sit on my couch, down two bottles of wine, and gorge on unhealthy junk food (I had an unflattering habit of routinely ordering a large Papa John’s pizza with a side order of Cinnapie and devouring it all in one sitting). 

I never prioritized my physical, mental, or spiritual health.

Recovery from addiction is about so much more than just getting sober. It’s about stepping into a new and healthier way of living. The most effective way to do that is to engage in activities that help you maintain a healthy mind, body, and soul.

Holistic Self-Care Practices in Recovery

Holistic self-care is an integral part of my daily routine. And, no, I’m not talking about treating myself to a boujee manicure or pedicure once a month (although, it is an activity that makes me feel good, and the key to thriving in sobriety is always feeling your very best). I’m talking about simple and effective daily activities that can be done in the comfort of your own home. 

Without further ado, here are six holistic self-care practices that I commit to every day to help nourish my recovery, mind, body, and soul: 

Mindful Witnessing

The mind can be two things: a highly powerful tool or a highly powerful weapon. Whether you run it or it runs you is entirely up to you.

If you struggle with anxiety, this simple daily technique can help you take control of your mind once and for all.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: As soon as you wake up in the morning, set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Step 2: Bring yourself to a comfortable seated or resting position.
  • Step 3: Relax your body, and begin gently inhaling and exhaling through your nose to a slow count of 4.
  • Step 4: Observe your breath. Don’t try to control it. Just pay attention.
  • Step 5: Allow your thoughts to come and go. Don’t encourage them, don’t discourage them. No judging. No criticizing. Just neutrally observe. (We’re not trying to silence the mind here. The goal is to get more comfortable becoming the “witness” to the thoughts.)
  • Step 7: Spend no more than 5 minutes writing down what you observed. What was the quality of your breath? Was it fast or slow? Shallow or deep? What thoughts came up? Were they repetitive? Random? How did those thoughts make you feel?
Tip: It’s important to document your observations with mindful witnessing, because it allows you to notice unconscious patterns and track improvements over time.

 

Morning Pages

Daily journaling is one of my favorite quintessential holistic self-care practices to cultivate in recovery. For one, it allows you to get in touch with your feelings and personal needs, two things that are typically ignored in active addiction because alcohol and drugs serve to aid in avoiding emotional and/or physical pain. Additionally, after journaling for a while, you’ll become more self-aware – you begin to notice repetitive thought patterns and negative self-talk, as well as the things that make you truly happy in life.

I’m a big fan of Morning Pages, a creative writing technique derived from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. This is the perfect exercise to follow as soon as you’ve completed five minutes of Mindful Witnessing, as mentioned above.

Here’s how it works: Set a timer for 20 minutes. Your goal is three pages of long-hand, stream of consciousness writing, front to back. If you write three pages in less than 20 minutes, you can either keep going or call it quits for the day. There is no right or wrong way to do this. You’re simply getting in the habit of putting pen to paper, allowing any and all thoughts to flow freely out of your mind.

54321 Method

Feeling anxious? Caught in a downward spiral? The quickest way to gain control is to anchor yourself in the present moment. The 54321 method is one of my favorite holistic self-care grounding techniques because it’s super simple and highly effective.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: Become mindful of your breath by gently inhaling and exhaling through your nose to a slow count of 4. 
  • Step 2: Invite your body back to the present moment. 
  • Step 3: Observe your environment. 
    • What 5 things can you see?
    • What 4 things can you feel / touch?
    • What 3 things can you hear?
    • What 2 things can you smell?
    • What about 1 thing you can taste?

Take your time working through this exercise. There is no need to rush. Just breathe and observe. Notice how you felt before you started the exercise versus afterward. Make a habit of journaling your observations so you can track common themes and patterns over time. 

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EFT Tapping

Emotional freedom technique (EFT) is an alternative self-help treatment for healing pain and emotional distress, combining the Eastern wisdom of meridian points with traditional Western talk therapy. It’s an effective way to activate your own inner healing through bilateral stimulation.

When used daily, EFT helps to reduce the stress, anxiety, and fears that keep you from operating at your highest level.

I personally love it because it’s free, easy, highly-effective, and can be done in the comfort of your own home. (Watch this video from Gala Darling to learn more about tapping and how it can boost your confidence.)

Yin Yoga

In general, a regular exercise routine is incredibly powerful because it’s beneficial for both your body and mind.

But here’s the thing, if you’re newly sober and haven’t worked out in months or even years, the idea of joining a gym or getting back on the Peloton can feel a bit jarring.

What I love most about yin yoga is that it’s ideal for basically any fitness level. The practice is based on ancient Chinese philosophies and Taoist principles related to the flow of energy (qi)  through the different meridians or channels in the body. The goal isn’t to move through postures freely; instead, postures are generally held anywhere between three and five minutes. By stretching and deepening into poses, it allows you to open up any blockages and release the energy to flow freely.

I’m a big fan of Yoga with Kassandra. She has a TON of free yin yoga classes on her YouTube channel, including this 20 minute morning full body stretch and this 38-minute full body yin yoga for beginners.

Meditation

I was paralyzed by my overactive mind for years. I used to say that drinking quelled my anxiety. Obviously, now that I’m sober, I realize that was just a lie I told myself. ⁠No matter how much I drank or how much I tried to curb my stress, the constant intrusive thoughts followed me everywhere – like a constant low vibrational hum that I could not get away from no matter how far I ran. ⁠It came down to one simple thing: I was allowing my mind to run the show.

Here’s my advice: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time. Like learning any new skill, meditation requires regular practice to really reap the benefits. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.

If I could pick only one daily holistic self-care practice for the rest of my life, hands down, meditation would be my answer. It unequivocally changed my life. But I can also understand how it can be highly intimidating if you’re new to this kind of practice. I would know, I gave up on it a couple times before I finally found my groove.

Here’s my advice: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time. Like learning any new skill, meditation requires regular practice to really reap the benefits. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.

Cultivating a consistent daily habit is much more important than worrying about the outcome. So, start small. Focus on improving 1 percent each day. Give it time. Ease off the judgment. Practice patience. Treat yourself with loving kindness. It gets easier. I promise.

If you’re brand new to meditation, here are three apps I recommend to get you started: 

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