Self-care is the practice of proactively managing your mental and physical health. While there are many different ways to practice self-care, everyone should discover the strategies that enable them to feel healthy and happy. This is especially true while in recovery from addiction. Self-care is essential while on the path to sobriety because it will help you manage difficult situations or triggers that may cause you to want to turn to substance abuse.
Self-care is one of the most powerful strategies for improving your mental health. It’s common for individuals diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder to also struggle with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, or grief after loss and trauma.
In many cases, addiction can develop as a strategy for coping with these difficult mental health issues. While working toward sobriety, it’s important to address these issues because leaving them untreated could lead to a relapse.
Try these self-care strategies to improve your well-being while working toward recovery:
Many people have nutrient deficiencies after a long period of substance abuse. Alcohol prevents the body from absorbing important vitamins, and drug abuse often fosters an unhealthy diet. Incorporating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your regular diet is a form of self-care that will help your body heal from the damage caused by substance abuse.
A healthy diet will help you feel good physically. A strong and healthy body often leads to better mental health and fewer cravings. Many people find that learning to cook nutritious food can become a relaxing hobby.
Numerous studies have proven exercise to be a powerful tool for managing stress, reducing symptoms of mental illness, and regulating emotion. Exercise helps your body produce more endorphins and dopamine.
During recovery from a substance abuse disorder, your body may struggle to produce dopamine and endorphins on its own because drugs and alcohol train your brain to produce less of these chemicals. This causes some people to experience low moods and energy levels while their bodies adjust to being substance-free. Exercise helps you produce more of these important chemicals, allowing you to feel healthy and energized again.
Sleep can be difficult during recovery because some people become dependent on substances to fall asleep. But it’s important to make getting sleep a priority because sleep plays an essential role in managing stress and regulating emotions. When you don’t get enough sleep, mental illness symptoms can increase, making recovery more difficult.
To make sleep easier, try to be consistent with your sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night, and create a routine before bedtime to signal to your body that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Some people like to take a bath or read a book as a part of their nighttime routine. Avoid using your phone, watching tv, or using any screens during the time leading up to bed because the light from these devices can make it more difficult to sleep.
If you’re not sleeping well even while sticking to a sleep schedule, ask a doctor about supplements that could improve your sleep quality. Melatonin and Magnesium are supplements that help some people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Meditation is a self-care tool that allows you to take a few minutes for yourself each day to de-stress and feel present in your body. Meditation helps many people manage symptoms of mental illness, especially on the path to sobriety.
Meditation is most helpful in improving your ability to be mindful. Mindfulness is important because it helps you recognize triggers that make you want to turn to substances. Once you’re aware of your triggers, you can take steps to avoid them when you need to and develop the ability to cope when you’re unable to avoid a trigger.
To meditate, find a quiet area and sit still, focusing on the physical sensations in your body as you breathe. Practice allowing your thoughts to pass through your mind without judgment. Some people prefer to walk slowly while meditating, instead of sitting still. Use whichever strategy works best for you.
Working with a therapist or a counseling group is an important self-care practice while working toward recovery from addiction. Working with a therapist is an excellent way to build emotional resilience and find ways to manage mental health and the difficult emotions that arise during recovery.
Group counseling will also help you develop resilience and coping techniques while also learning from others who have had experiences similar to your own. Many people also build long-lasting friendships through group therapy.
It’s common for people in addiction recovery to rebuild old hobbies or creative pursuits that were neglected due to substance abuse. Physical hobbies like team sports, outdoor activities, or other exercise are often ignored when a person develops an addiction because the addiction can limit the amount of physical energy you have. Non-physical hobbies can be neglected when struggling with an addiction, as well.
Getting back in touch with former hobbies or building new ones can help you reconnect with yourself, feel a greater sense of fulfillment, and process emotions and stress. Whether it’s woodworking, music, or anything else that brings you joy, making time for it is an important piece of self-care.
While alone time is a piece of self-care, socializing with the people who make you feel supported and loved is also vital. If you already have those types of people in your life, nurture those relationships and let them know you appreciate their support. Nurturing meaningful connections will ensure you have people to turn to during difficult moments.
If you don’t already have solid relationships, work to build them. Reach out to people who are loose connections to see if you can strengthen your relationship. While every acquaintance is unlikely to become a close friend, you never know which people are open to building a closer relationship with you.
You can also find new people to connect with at addiction recovery support groups or in groups for people who share your hobbies. It can take time to build solid relationships, but it’s well worth the time investment.
If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction, you don’t have to go through the entire recovery process alone. There are many addiction treatment options that can support you as you strive for a full recovery and a healthy life. Jackson House is an addiction treatment and recovery center that will help you get the support you need. Reach out to Jackson House to discuss if this could be a good option for you.