Four paths to failure: tired, angry, hungry, loaded

exhausted man, tired and huffy, yoga and recovery

Recovery is a long journey with many, many ups and downs. Mental and emotional resilience are fundamental to our longterm well being and recovery. A major piece of building our best life is building good habits, such as, taking care of our body, heart & mind, creating and supporting healthy relationships, and acting in alignment with our values. There are certain conditions that can set the stage for failure in this journey: feeling tired, angry, hungry, or loaded (under the influence of substances). In this blog post, we’ll explore how yoga can be a powerful tool in addressing these conditions and supporting recovery.

1. Tiredness

Being tired can weakens our resolve to make good choices. When you’re sleep-deprived, your cognitive function is impaired, leading to poorer decision-making and judgment. Your brain’s ability to assess situations and consider the consequences of your actions is reduced, making it more challenging to choose wisely.

Lack of sleep can also lead to increased emotional reactivity, resulting in irritability and mood swings. This emotional instability can cloud your judgment and make you less likely to choose wisely especially if the healthy choice is harder. Being reactive and irritable also may take a toll on our relationships though alienating or fighting with our loved ones. Also, being tired can deplete your willpower, making it more difficult to resist temptations or stick to your goals. When your energy is low, it’s easier to give in to short-term gratifications, like unhealthy snacks or skipping a workout, rather than making choices that align with your long-term well-being.

Fatigue can also increase impulsivity, leading to hasty decisions without fully considering the consequences. You’re more likely to act on impulse rather than thoughtfully weighing your options. Furthermore, tiredness can sap your motivation to pursue activities that require effort, even if they are beneficial in the long run. When you’re exhausted, the lure of easy but less healthy choices can become much stronger.

Yoga supports you in reducing fatigue in a couple of ways, one of which may be surprising. Moving, stretching, and breathing in yoga has a direct connection to getting more restful sleep. This can be in terms of falling asleep when you go to bed or staying asleep through the night. Few things in life are better than a good night’s sleep and waking fully refreshed. A more subtle way yoga supports being rested is by connecting you to how you are physically feeling. This is called interoception, the ability to tune into how you feel inside your body. Many of us are disconnected from our body, especially if you have experienced trauma in life. As we gain insight into how we feel, we can make choices that support our well being.

2. Anger

Anger can make it hard for us to form good habits. When we’re angry, we focus on what’s bothering us and forget about our bigger goals, like being healthier. This can lead to quick, unplanned choices that go against our plans to be better. For example, if we’re mad, we might skip exercise or eat junk food, or do other things that just numb us or turn our mind away from our own well being.

If we stay angry for a long time, it can make things even harder. Being angry a lot can stress us out and make our bodies react in ways that make it tough to stick to good habits. We might want to eat more unhealthy food, have trouble sleeping, and not feel like exercising. The more often we get angry, the harder it is to keep up with our good habits. Eventually being angry can become our baseline state where everything we do has an undercurrent of anger. If we get to this state, it’s corrosive to every aspect of our life.

To deal with anger and still keep up with our good habits, we need to find ways to calm down. Doing things like paying attention to our thoughts, taking deep breaths, or being active can help us feel less angry and more balanced. When we can handle our anger better, we can make better choices and stick to our goals of having good habits.

Yoga teaches us to observe our emotions without getting swept away by them. Breathing techniques like pranayama can help calm the mind and reduce feelings of anger. Asanas (yoga poses) that open the heart, such as backbends, can also release pent-up emotions and foster a sense of inner peace.

3. Hunger

Allowing ourselves to become too hungry can lead to the development of unhealthy habits, and can signal that we are either not in touch with our body’s sensations or that we are ignoring what we know to be best for us.

When we’re very hungry, our bodies crave quick energy sources, often leading to the consumption of high-calorie, high-sugar, or high-fat foods. These choices provide immediate satisfaction and energy but are detrimental in the long run. Over time, repeatedly reaching for unhealthy snacks or meals when hungry can become a habit, making it more challenging to choose nutritious options. Furthermore, extreme hunger can impair our judgment and self-control, making it easier to overeat or indulge in foods that don’t align with our health goals.

Additionally, being overly hungry can disrupt our eating patterns, leading to irregular meal times and potentially causing us to skip meals. This inconsistency can further exacerbate unhealthy eating habits, as our bodies become accustomed to sporadic nourishment. To prevent this, it’s important to listen to our bodies’ hunger cues and eat regular, balanced meals and snacks. By doing so, we can maintain stable energy levels, make healthier food choices, and avoid the pitfalls of becoming too hungry, which can derail our efforts to establish and maintain good habits.

Yoga can help address these deeper hungers by fostering a sense of contentment and fulfillment. Mindful eating practices, which can be part of a yoga lifestyle, encourage a more conscious relationship with food. Additionally, certain yoga poses and sequences can aid digestion and reduce physical cravings.

4. Intoxication

Obviously, in terms of recovery, getting drunk or high is a big deal. The “loaded” state, or being under the influence of substances, is the most direct threat to recovery. Often getting loaded will be the last step after a series of destructive mindsets or behaviors. Regular yoga practice can increases self-awareness and self-control, helping individuals recognize triggers and downward spirals to relapse.

So what do we do now?

Recovery from substance abuse is a complex process that involves managing physical, emotional, and mental challenges. Yoga offers a holistic approach to address these challenges, promoting overall well-being and resilience. By incorporating yoga into your recovery journey, you can create a strong foundation for lasting change and a healthier, happier life. If you are not doing yoga right now, try to add a 10 minute practice to your day which focuses on calming and clearing the mind more than ‘working out’. If you already have a practice, ask yourself honestly if your practice is supporting your recovery by encouraging self-care, peace of mind, and healthy boundaries.

Remember, recovery is a personal journey, and it’s important to find the practices that work best for you. With patience and dedication, yoga can be a valuable friend in overcoming the four conditions for failure and achieving lasting recovery.

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