2021 has been a tricky year. Some say a little better than 2020, but I disagree.
Last year, the shock of the pandemic was life-altering as we scrambled to adjust to the strange ways we were living and working. But we were being fuelled by adrenaline and there seemed to be a novelty in it all, plus we believed there was an end date in sight. Fast forward a year and we feel like we are reliving it all over again, we are frustrated and exhausted with lockdown fatigue, feeling apprehensive about our futures and the world we live in.
It is no surprise that Australians and particularly Aussie women are turning to alcohol to self-soothe their inner distress and demons. The rug has been pulled out from underneath us. And we all want to numb ourselves a little bit, don’t we?
But how much numbing is healthy? At the start of the pandemic, there was an 86% increase in alcohol sales, and a third of Aussies were drinking way more to cope with the stress and anxiety they were feeling.
We know in our hearts that drinking is often doing more damage than good, but for a lot of us, it is not that easy to stop!
Women, particularly those high performers who love to work hard, train hard and play hard are sometimes more susceptible to using alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress than their more relaxed counterparts. Is a way to treat ourselves after a week of stress but often waking the next day feeling embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated and unsure of how you again ended up facing another weekend with a terrible hangover.
What on earth happened?? I had such a full and productive week and felt so proud of myself, why did I go and ruin it by having a huge night? Why would I drink so heavily after all of the efforts I have been putting into my nutrition and exercise? Sound familiar…?
Welcome ladies, to the POST PARTY BEAT UP.
It is a mental hell of criticism, self-doubt and repetition. We ask ourselves again and again…Why am I still doing this to myself?
Well, I am here to tell you there are many reasons you are caught in this cycle, but one that may not have occurred to you is that THIS voice is holding you back. The MEAN inner critic is actually doing you more harm than you realise.
When I started my journey toward a life without alcohol I used to do exactly this. I would berate myself, beat myself up intensely, shame, belittle and crush myself even deeper into my alcohol-induced depression and anxiety.
If only I knew back then that I was actually making my cycle of negative behaviours worse. If only I realised that the best thing for me to do after a relapse was to flood myself with self-compassion, not self-loathing I could have saved myself some anguish and also sped up my process of behaviour-change.
It wasn’t until I got my drinking in check that I truly discovered the importance and power of self-compassion. Self-compassion has been one of the tools that I have called upon the most during my sobriety and healing journey; one that I wished I had learned to use properly a long time ago. Self-compassion is one of the foundation tools that we recognise and teach at Thrivalist.
What is self-compassion?
Kristin Neff, Ph.D., widely recognised as one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, defines self-compassion as: Mindful awareness of oneself, which involves treating oneself kindly and understanding oneself during difficult and challenging times by realising that such experiences are common amongst all humans. She states that self-compassion is a multi-faceted construct with mindfulness, self-kindness, and common humanity as factors that promote self-compassion. Mindfulness is the present-focused awareness of one’s own reactions to life events. Self-kindness involves having understanding and providing self-care to oneself when experiencing difficulty. And common humanity suggests that all humans, including oneself, experience hardships, difficulties, and negative emotions.
Essentially, self-compassion is being kind and understanding to yourself when confronted with personal failings. So rather than judging and criticising ourselves for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means that we shower ourselves with the same feeling of compassion and love that we would shower one of our best friends, our children or any person we cared for and loved.
What is the link between self-compassion & overcoming our drinking problems?
There are over 3000 studies that prove that self-compassion makes us strong, resilient, more confident, motivated and can even improve our physical health. If we can make self-compassion stick, create a habit out of being self-compassionate not only in times where we really need it, but also proactively on a consistent daily basis, we build up our self-confidence and increase our motivation levels towards becoming the person we want to be or stopping the behaviours or habits that are no longer serving us.
We begin to want to succeed because we care about ourselves. We are motivating ourselves through a sense of love, by holding ourselves in a tender, supportive way, committing to our personal healing, growth and successes. Finally enabling us to stick to our healthy drinking goals, long-term.
On the flip side, the antithesis of self-compassion is self-loathing, shaming and over-criticising ourselves. We know that these types of behaviours fuel the spiral of anxiety, depression and of course alcohol use, which pushes us deeper and deeper down into the alcohol trap.
Neff states “When we exercise self-compassion when we fail, we are more likely to pick ourselves up and keep trying, it gives us more grit.”
How can we become or be more self-compassionate as of today and support ourselves through this difficult journey?
- Ask yourself those two simple questions “what do I feel?” and “what do I need?”. You need to be able to soothe yourself in the moment. When life is stressful, happy, exhausting…. do you need a break, a hug, your inner voice to say “babe you’re killing it.” This is where self-love really begins.
- Intentionally commit to prioritising yourself and your needs. Make sure each day you take time to do things that align with your values and lift you up every day – exercise, meditation, singing, taking a moment to pause and listen to your inner voice.
- Practice showering yourself with the same feeling of compassion you feel for someone you love unconditionally.
- Build-in time at the end of each day to reflect on the things you’ve done that day that made you feel proud; do this by celebrating and rewarding yourself regularly throughout the day – it’s not about one big dopamine kick at the end of the day, it needs to be around lots of little healthy boosts of self-love.
Lucy Quick is a Life & Sobriety Coach who works with busy, over-stressed women helping them to live their most vibrant, healthy and rewarding lives. Lucy understands how tough the journey is to self love, especially when it comes to drinking. She herself has transformed her life from “party girl” to a “self-love queen” and wants to help you do the same. You can follow her on Instagram here @_LucyQuick. She is also the CEO & Co-Founder of Thrivalist where she and business partner Jen Clements support women from all over the world to change their relationship to alcohol in an empowered way. You can join the free Thrivalist Facebook Community here.