In 2008, alcohol no longer became an option for me. After living my teen, college, and early 20-something years as a party girl, I promised myself the second half of my 20’s would be nothing like the first. I committed to a sober lifestyle and I truly have not looked back since. I’ve gotten married, built a fulfilling career, and I’ve had two children, all without celebrating or commiserating with alcohol. The most consistent challenge of living sober for me has been having to feel my feelings at all times. There is no numbing or checking out with a glass of wine or a cocktail. This has worked in my favor during the good times but it can become quite painful during the hard times. With all of the additional pandemic-related stress of the past year, I’ve had to be extra vigilant about combatting and relieving stress.
Here are a few of my alcohol-replacing essentials for immediate stress relief:
Marble Jar Friends
The famous emotions researcher, Brene Brown refers to our most trusted and valuable friends as “marble jar” friends. Marble jar friends are the people in our lives with whom we’ve established mutually trusting and supportive relationships over time. As Brene says, their marble jars are full. Being in a helping profession and a mother of young children, I’m more often the giver rather than the recipient of support. It is essential for me to build and maintain my marble jar friendships so that when I get into a “spot,” I have people that I can be my raw, stressed, and messy self with. In fact, one of the most effective ways that Brene Brown says we build trust in friendships is by asking for help. This Brene Brown video breaks down the anatomy of trust and how to build and identify marble jar relationships. Watching it will be 24 minutes well-spent. https://fb.watch/3066_hBwKe/.
Turn Pain into Power
After I had my second child in 2018, I asked a good friend to introduce me to high-intensity interval training. After the first two weeks, where I was so sore that I could barely walk up and down the stairs or hold my son, I was hooked. It has served as an incredible stress-relieving outlet for me ever since. If I’m feeling stressed, frustrated, sad, or angry, I literally take that pain and energy and I transmute it into power. It’s like alchemy. If hard exercise is not your thing, perhaps another intense physical outlet or limits-pushing adventure will provide a similar release. This concept also works on an emotional and spiritual level. If you are feeling an increase in stress, perhaps it’s time to contact a therapist or healing professional to do some work on the unhealthy behavior, painful relationship, or past trauma that you’ve been holding onto. The pain is temporary but the positive impact of transmuting the pain will be long-lasting.
The last year has zoomed us all in, in many ways. Our daily lives became more about what existed within our own walls and between our own ears than ever before. This provided a unique perspective on what our lives were prior to the pandemic, what they are now, and what we want them to be moving forward. For some, this new perspective increased stress because it prompted change. If the COVID “zoom in” has led to increased stress in any area of your life, through change or other factors, I suggest finding a way to also “zoom out.” Somehow, look at a bigger picture rather than only at your own little cross-section. A great way that I consistently zoom out is through community support groups. Not everyone meets the requirements or has a need to attend the anonymous recovery support groups that I attend. However, there are many other ways to facilitate similar shifts in attitude and outlook. A few examples are spirituality practices, community networking groups, community service, or even something as simple as Googling “shoes and poverty” and looking at the photos. In summary, if your own life and circumstances are leading to stress, find a way to look at someone else’s life and circumstances. There is a saying “if we all put our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”
When you want to run- RUN!!!!
I do not mean finally live out the mom fantasy of impulsively packing a bag and heading south for a solo trip to the Florida Keys. I mean, physically run! I was never a runner, in fact, I despised it but two years ago, when I started getting in shape after my second child, I thought I’d give it a try. As I slowly built strength through my stress-relieving HIIT workouts, running became easier and easier. By the time the pandemic hit, I was able to run the entire length of our huge subdivision several times. When the work stress, home life, pandemic or all of the above have me feeling like I want to run away, I physically run instead. Oftentimes, I run at 8:00pm at night after the kids go to bed, even if I am exhausted. This way, it’s dark and no one can see me struggle through it like an amateur! But in all seriousness, I find the stress relief to be comparable to a steam engine. It slowly lets out the steam while propelling me forward at the same time.
I define a sanctuary as a place where you can go in order to feel peaceful, grounded, and connected. Personally, I have several sanctuaries ranging in glamour and accessibility. My daily, at-home, and accessible sanctuaries are my shower and my closet. Although they are not very fancy, they are private. If I am in one of these two places, I know that am safe to breathe and release stress. Other sanctuaries for me are places in nature like the beach or the park. At least once every few months, I try to carve out two or three hours to rent a paddle board and paddle out alone to the islands off of the inner coastal. As a full-time, working mom it is very difficult to give myself permission to have this time to myself. However, I have found very few greater stress relievers than laying on a paddle board listening to the water splash around your board as the sunlight hits your face. In summary, I encourage you to really consider where your sanctuaries are and then give yourself permission to go there.
Laura Kunz is a Cincinnati, Ohio native who resides in Jupiter, Florida with her husband, Travis and two children, Kennedy (age 6), and Anderson (age 2.5). She’s worked in the behavioral healthcare field since 2009. In 2015, she began working for Futures Recovery Healthcare as the Outreach and Community Liaison. Futures is a residential treatment center in Tequesta, Florida providing detoxification, residential, and aftercare services for families and individuals with substance use and mental health disorders. In her free time, Laura enjoys spending time with family, friends, and neighbors, enjoying their boat on the Jupiter waterways, exercise, cooking, and creative projects.