It wasn’t very long ago that I would brace myself for each afternoon rush. It began with a hard stop to my workday, after which I’d barrel down the turnpike toward home. I would pick up my children from school, running errands along the way. Then the day’s gear was transferred back inside. I’d let out a big sigh of relief once we were all settled.
Leg 2 of the evening routine would ensue.
Sometimes, I would take time to change out of my work clothes. Other times, I would transition right into dinner prep. Time felt scarce. It wasn’t unusual that I would still be in office attire at 8 or 9 at night.
Dinner preparation was always accompanied by a glass of wine. I needed something to relieve the pressure that had formed in my chest by that time. To take the edge off. Wine helped with that.
Sometimes, I would have another glass with dinner. It always felt like a good idea at the time, but the fuzziness and fatigue that followed would lead to regret.
I was dependent on wine for stress management, as so many of us are. Because it is such a socially accepted practice, I decided that it wasn’t a problem.
But deep down, it was a problem for ME. Needing a drink every night meant that I couldn’t handle my stress, or my life, without it. I struggled to be present. And I struggled with living a life that felt out of alignment.
My drinking dependency was put to the test when my husband created a month-long No Alcohol challenge. (He had been pouring drinks after work, right along with me.) Back then, his challenge seemed audacious and impossible. I remained a spectator, unready to join him, and unwilling to examine my “weakness.”
My reluctance to join was the reason I decided to get curious.
How might the challenge benefit me? What did I like about the idea of not drinking for a month? What would I need to think about myself to not drink?
I joined my husband two weeks into his No Drinking challenge.
Without wine, I felt my stress. It was uncomfortable and telling.
The No Drinking challenge showed me the weight of all I had been carrying, and the toll that the stress was taking on my health.
My stress was the root of my dis-ease. Despite a healthy diet and consistent exercise, my stress and stressful lifestyle were making me sick.
This became the impetus for change in my life.
I chose to work on removing some of the stressors. I arranged a day to work from home and simplified household responsibilities. I learned about mindfulness and thought work, which is still at the heart of what I teach today.
Healing from stress is ongoing, but here are some important lessons I have learned so far:
1. We are all capable of handling more than we realize.
Wine was my way of avoiding emotions that felt too big to feel. The truth is that there is nothing we can’t handle. Intentional living and a sense of purpose is available to us when we choose to feel all feelings, rather than avoiding them.
2. We experience a lot less stress when we are strongly connected to our Inner Knowing.
We are taught to live by cultural norms, but this doesn’t make them best for us. The practice of stillness is instrumental for shifting out of autopilot toward living on purpose.
3. Building new habits and making change can be uncomfortable.
Living with intention isn’t necessarily easier than being on autopilot, but is infinitely more rewarding.
4. We can trust ourselves.
Culturally, we tend to look at what others are doing to determine how we should live our own lives. We search online, see how others have done it, and perhaps poll a number of people. This creates a lot of unnecessary confusion over what action is best or right for us. It’s good to gain perspective from others- but it’s equally easy to fall into the trap of comparision. Ultimately, doing what feels right for you will grow your self-confidence so that you can feel certain of your decisions.
5. Our mind creates our experience.
Understanding this is life-changing. If the lens through which we view the world isn’t serving us, we have the power to change it. Noticing our thinking and beliefs (the thoughts we think repeatedly) is critical for living intentionally.
Now, let’s talk about you. Are you moving through life on autopilot, like I was with the wine?
In what ways are you avoiding your full range of emotions?
What would you like to be different in your life this year?
What are you using to mask your stress and upset? Is it having a nightly glass of wine, like I used to, or scrolling through social media, or eating too much sugar?
What habit are you willing to release in order to return to balance and better health?
About the Author: I am a wellness and life coach who helps ambitious women prioritize their health and well-being. I am a wife and mom of two, and own Homegrown Pilates & Wellness Studio in Yardley, PA.