The Importance of Self Care in Recovery:
Practical Self Care Tips You Can Start Today
In this blog, we discuss self care in recovery, and provide tangible self care practices that you can put into action. Replacing the use of drugs or alcohol with healthier alternatives can benefit the addict in staying ahead of triggers for potential relapse, and maintaining their sobriety.
Why is Self Care in Recovery Important?
Healthy adults know the importance of taking optimal care of oneself in order to be able to successfully navigate through life’s inevitable ups and down. When addiction takes over, the addict loses the ability to fully take care of themselves. Addiction negatively affects your mood, self-perception, motivation and overall sense of well-being. Self care practices are a cornerstone of long term recovery. When the addict is able to refocus on emotional, spiritual and physical self care activities, maintaining sobriety is easier to navigate.
What is Self Care?
When struggling with addiction, it can easily take over your life, and quickly lead to self-neglect. Activities that are necessary to ensure overall well-being are disregarded. For the addict, adequate sleep, eating habits, personal care (showering/bathing), and lack of exercise are forgotten.
Self care is any deliberate activity that you do to take care of your mental, physical, and/or emotional health. A complete lifestyle change is needed for a healthy rewarding recovery. Self care is not selfish. Learning to love and care for yourself is one of the most challenging things you may ever do, and taking good care of yourself should be an essential part of your new lifestyle in recovery. “First things first” is a slogan used in recovery communities and it essentially means that one must take care of themselves first, before being able to help anyone else.
Here are some ways to practice self care:
#1 Take care of your physical health. Taking care of your physical health is the first thing to consider when implementing new self care practices. This may seem like a no-brainer, however, unfortunately it is not. Stress, poor diet and lack of exercise that inevitably come with addiction perpetuate self-destructive behaviors, including substance abuse as a way to avoid negative emotions.
H.A.L.T. is an acronym used in recovery which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Experiencing hunger and fatigue are two repeat offenders in triggering relapse, or watering down one’s ability to effectively handle negative emotions.
Create new physical self care practices by:
- Getting plenty of rest! We cannot stress the importance of adequate rest. A lack of sleep affects every aspect of your health. When lacking sleep, it is difficult to handle negative emotions or to control one’s mood. Take time to get the proper amount of rest for your body.
- Eating healthy foods. A nutritious diet will help keep your mood stable. Eating healthy food makes you feel good and when you are feeling good, you are not likely to want to use drugs or alcohol. If you are unsure what a healthy diet looks like, there are plenty of online resources to guide you. Your local health food store can also be a great resource in recommending beneficial foods to eat.
- Creating an exercise routine. Exercise has immediate benefits in that it improves energy levels, stabilizes moods and promotes overall health. Not only does regular exercise lower stress, but it’s been proven to be a great way to keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp. You can create an exercise routine by scheduling 30 minutes a few times a week to run, walk, weight lift, do yoga, or find local group exercise classes. There are also thousands of home work out routines for free on YouTube. If you choose a group exercise class, this can be a great way to connect with others who also may be sober or in recovery.
#2 Create supportive, healthy relationships. It is said that connection is the opposite of addiction. As much as connection is important, it’s crucial to have healthy, supportive connections. Before getting sober, relationships can be affected by drug or alcohol use.
Create healthy relationships by:
- Understanding and setting boundaries. Healthy relationships are made by your willingness to understand what relationship boundaries are and how to set them. An entire article could be written about the importance of setting healthy boundaries. Boundaries are necessary to successful long term recovery. All healthy relationships have boundaries within them. Boundaries protect your personal self by setting a clear line between what is “yours to be responsible for” vs. “what is not yours to be responsible for”. When you made the decision to get sober, it can affect existing relationships for the worse. The people you used or drank with may not understand your decision to get sober and as difficult as it is, it might be in your best interest to cut off contact with those you used with. It may be helpful to work with a licensed therapist to help you identify and develop your own personal boundaries.
- Find a licensed therapist to help navigate personal relationships. A licensed therapist is intimately familiar with what healthy connections look like and can help you establish your own personal relationship dynamics, and navigate any conflict that might arise, especially in early recovery. We have licensed therapists on staff at Collective Recovery. Click here for your free benefits review.
- Practice boundaries in a safe environment. Outpatient programs, like the one we have at Collective Recovery, often will provide information on healthy relationship dynamics. Sober living environments also can promote the practice of pre-established boundaries in a safe environment. If you’d like to explore our outpatient programs or sober living, please click here for your free benefits review.
- Create a recovery support system. Attendance of a treatment program for addiction can guide the addict in building meaningful relationships with those in the same group program. The best support systems are with other recovering addicts who are practicing healthy boundaries. There are thousands of recovery support groups for addiction that can be attended virtually that can provide worthwhile connections.
#3 Practice Mindfulness. At Collective Recovery, we believe mindfulness is so important that we have an entire curriculum built in our outpatient treatment program. We have also created an entire article on mindfulness which can be found here. Staying mindful is the art of being present. Mindfulness of your physical body and mental state helps you stay focused on changing negative emotions or addressing physical discomfort before these things lead to relapse. Practicing mindfulness only takes a few minutes a day and can dramatically improve overall well-being.
You can practice mindfulness by:
- Meditating a few moments each day. Meditation does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as focusing on your breath. The breath is always available to you. Taking a few moments to close your eyes and breathe can be extremely helpful in staying in the present moment. There are also plenty of guided meditations that can be found on YouTube for free.
- Journal your feelings. Writing down your feelings helps to organize thoughts and make them digestible. It can help relieve stress and allow you to self reflect. Journaling allows the writer to gain clarity on what’s going on that might be bothersome.
- For more tips on mindfulness, click here to read our blog post on Mindfulness in Recovery.
#4 Learn how to have fun! Life is meant to be enjoyed. Recovery provides endless possibilities to have fun. Finding ways to have fun without drugs or alcohol is essential for successful recovery. Fill your time with enjoyable activities and hobbies to reduce stress and promote fun without drugs or alcohol.
Here are some ways to have fun in recovery:
- Start a new hobby. There’s probably something you have always wanted to do, and now is the time to do it. Whether it is cooking, arts and crafts, speaking a different language, or anything else that seems interesting can bring new joy into your life.
- Take up outdoor physical activities. If you feel like the thrill is gone just because you are sober, think again. Taking up an outdoor activity like hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, or mountain biking can give you a natural high.
- Watch comedies. Laughter is said to be the best medicine. It’s known to boost your mood, lighten your burdens, and inspire hope. Getting a little comedic relief from a movie or your favorite show can remind you that life is not to be taken so seriously. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel good chemical.
Self care is as important as breathing. When we take time to create new, life giving, self care practices, life becomes more manageable. Recovery can bring a flood of emotions that can be dealt with in a healthy manner when we feel good by practicing self care. Great self care can lessen any triggers of relapse. Self care is an important activity to do every day. Doing so will lead toward a better balance in your life, and provide a sense of overall well being.
If you, or a loved one is struggling with addiction, or substance abuse, please contact us today at 1-866-UTAH-HOPE for a free benefits review or click here to submit your request online.