Recovering from addiction isn’t just about abstinence. If you only try to white-knuckle your recovery you won’t make it very long. A strong recovery is about creating a life you want to live and self-care is the foundation of a better life. Self-care comprises all the things that help you stay in a good place mentally, physically, and spiritually. While some people may think it’s selfish to prioritize self-care, in reality, everyone in your life will benefit when you are healthier and happier. Self-care is also the canary in the coal mine. One of the earliest signs of a possible relapse is when someone starts neglecting self-care. A care manager can help you notice poor self-care early on so you can make changes before your recovery starts to falter. The following are some of the most important ways to practice self-care in addiction recovery.
One of the best ways to improve your physical and mental health is to get plenty of quality sleep every night. Sleep isn’t just downtime; it’s a complex process in which your brain rids itself of waste, consolidates memories, and recharges, among other things. It’s also a time when your body heals from injuries and illnesses. Lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of anxiety and depression, both of which often overlap with substance use disorders and make recovery more difficult. Sleep deprivation impairs concentration, willpower, foresight, emotional regulation, and working memory, all of which are crucial for making healthy decisions and managing your mood. One study of more than 1000 adults found that people who reported a history of insomnia were four times more likely to develop major depression. Another study of more than 1000 teens found that insomnia preceded anxiety disorders 27 percent of the time and preceded depression 69 percent of the time. Getting enough sleep is crucial to maintain mental health in recovery.
Eating healthy in recovery is crucial for a number of reasons. Many people enter recovery in poor health and undernourished. Addiction often causes people to eat too little, to eat convenient sugary foods, or to absorb nutrients poorly, leading to malnutrition. Substance use can also damage your health, leading to increased risk for various problems including cardiovascular disease and cancers. A healthy diet can help correct these problems by giving your body what it needs to heal. More and more studies are also finding that what you eat affects your mental health. One analysis of 41 studies found that people who followed a strict Mediterranean diet rich in whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, vegetables, and fish, with very little red meat, processed food or alcohol, had a 33 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with depression.
As with sleep, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. New studies appear all the time showing that exercise has many benefits for your mental health, including better mood, less anxiety, improved focus and memory, and better sleep at night. Exercise promotes the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which actually causes your brain cells to grow, especially in the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with emotional memory. Regular exercise is also good for your body. It reduces feelings of pain and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly reversing some of the damage caused by alcohol, cocaine, and other substances.
It’s important to remember that recovery doesn’t end when treatment ends. You have to keep putting in the work to keep yourself on track. Make sure you keep all your appointments, whether they are with after-care services, your recovery care manager, your doctor, your therapist, or your 12-step group. A strong recovery requires new skills, habits, and even new ways of looking at the world and making those stick takes a lot of practice and regular reminders. Every time you keep an appointment, you’re reaffirming your commitment to recovery and you’re also reminding yourself of what you learned during treatment. We have to do things many times before they become easy and that includes learning to deal with cravings, stress, and difficult emotions. Even if you feel like your therapist or your 12-step group has told you the same thing 100 times, you’re still getting something out of it.
It can be hard to take time to relax because it can feel like you’re doing nothing or that your just indulging. However, practicing relaxation is actually a vital skill for recovery. For one, it hits the reset button on your stress. Instead of accumulating constantly, you have little break every day during which you can unwind. Second, practicing relaxation allows you to learn to relax in stressful situations, whether those are interpersonal conflicts, cravings, or bad moods. Improving the connection between your mind and body and learning to let go of tension can keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
In addition to taking time to relax, practice other stress management techniques as well. Stress is a problem for most people in recovery, who are used to coping with drugs or alcohol. Healthier ways to manage stress include many of the items on this list. There are other techniques as well, such as managing your schedule, sticking to your priorities, and learning to say no when you don’t have time for something or it doesn’t fit with your priorities. Since much of our stress comes from interpersonal conflict, improving your communication skills can dramatically reduce the stress in your life.
Having a strong sober network is one of the best predictors of success in addiction recovery. Your network can provide moral support, advice, and accountability. Having several friends and relatives we’re close to, can confide in, and rely on reduces our feelings of stress and increases our resources for dealing with problems.
Recovery is the beginning of a new life. Hired Power and our team of dynamic experienced recovery professionals are here to guide you every step of the way. Call us today for information on our recovery services: 714-559-3919
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