When substance abuse takes over your life, it results in all the important things– your relationships, work, school, and your mental and physical health– taking a backseat. That’s why one of the most freeing aspects of recovery is getting back in the driver’s seat of your own life. However, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the busyness of modern life and forget to take care of yourself. Especially because in the past, we’ve been in the habit of putting our wellbeing last. Using self-care in your addiction recovery can be a great method of prioritizing yourself and your wellbeing.
What is Self Care?
Self-Care is a buzzy term these days and usually makes us think of someone taking a bubble bath or going to the spa. It can be those things, but it’s also so much more.
Self-care is any activity we do, on purpose, to better take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Think of it like recharging your battery. Acts of self-care can reduce anxiety, improve our mood, and is a great way to reconnect with ourselves.
Above all, it’s about giving yourself permission to put yourself first. For addicts, putting themselves first is challenging because in the past they’ve prioritized drugs and alcohol over everything else. But recovery is about putting yourself and your wellbeing first, and self-care is a great tool for the addiction recovery process.
Why Self-Care is Important for Addiction Recovery
Because active addiction is a form of self-abuse and creates negative coping mechanisms for the stresses and challenges of everyday life, it results in self-harm. On the other hand, self-care is about rewiring those coping mechanisms in healthy ways that are kind to our minds and bodies. It is the opposite expression.
Taking the time to prioritize and care for yourself is a way to practice self-love and creates better self worth, self-esteem, and mental wellbeing.
Incorporating Self-Care Into Addiction Recovery Plan
Take Time for Self-Reflection
Firstly, spending a few minutes each day to check in with ourselves can be a very grounding practice that can deeply aid our recovery.
Consider asking yourself: How am I feeling today? Have I learned anything about myself today? What am I grateful for today? Which actions did I take to strengthen my recovery today? Did I learn any new triggers today?
Taking the time to answer ourselves honestly can be a helpful way of staying present in our daily lives. Which leads us to our second Self-Care suggestion…
Keep a Journal
Further to the above on Self-Reflection, taking time to write out our thoughts on paper is a great way to relieve a racing mind, identify triggers, and help us get to know ourselves better. It can be the classic “Dear Diary” or some people like to make bullet lists, keep gratitude journals, write stream-of-consciousness style– really, there’s no wrong way to do it so do whatever feels right.
Learning to set boundaries is a key part of protecting your sobriety, which makes it one of the most important act of self-care you will practice. They can come in many forms: some are physical, like leaving a situation which risks your sobriety, and some are mental or emotional, such as telling someone when something doesn’t feel right.
For example, in the past you may have had a friend or social group who either supported or joined in on your drug and alcohol use. Now, as a newly sober person, one of the most difficult parts of recovery may be realizing that those friendships no longer work in our new lives. In many cases, cutting off contact is necessary to protect our sobriety.
However, boundaries can also be less severe than cutting people off completely. Sometimes it is just about setting emotional boundaries, such as speaking up when someone violates your moral compass or says something that makes you feel bad. And of course, there are physical boundaries such as leaving if you find yourself in a situation where drugs and alcohol are being used.
The most important part about creating healthy boundaries is not feeling bad about setting them. You are in control of your life and wellbeing, and you are responsible for it too.
It’s free, it’s right outside your front door, and studies show that it improves mood, reduces stress, and may fight depression. So get outside and take a walk, a hike, a bike ride, or sit in the park and read a book.
Spending time in nature keeps you active and is great for our mental wellbeing. If you’re feeling low, restless, or struggling with drug cravings, nothing’s stopping you from lacing up your shoes and going out for a run. Furthermore, using meetup groups to get your outdoors time can be a great way to meet friends who fit into your new sober lifestyle. Bonus!
So much of our life is run on auto-pilot. When you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, are you really thinking about brushing your teeth or are you thinking about your to-do list for the day? By always living in the future and worrying about our next task, we never live in the “now”.
That’s where mindfulness comes in. It means being in the present moment, fully aware of where we are and what we’re doing. In other words, not being distracted by what’s next or what’s happening around us.
Living in the “now” is often difficult for those in recovery. Recovery writer Beverly Conyers puts it best: “Most of us in addiction recovery are former escape artists looking to avoid the stress and anxiety that comes with daily life. We’re good at not being there. Being present helps us learn to cope with reality as it actually is—not how we perceive it.” Consequently, mindfulness becomes that much more important. When practiced regularly, it helps us better cope with what comes our way each day.
Next time you’re doing something mundane, try to be in the moment. Putting your shoes on? Think about when you were a kid learning how to tie them– bunny ears, loop-de-loop, etc. Feel the texture of the laces and the sensation of your shoe enveloping your foot.
It might sound silly but mindfulness is a practice. Therefore, taking that extra second to be in the present moment can be very grounding. The more we do it, the more we build our mindfulness muscles and those benefits will spill over into our daily life.
More Self-Care for Addiction Recovery Tips
1. Get lost in a book.
2. Take your lunch break outside. And note how much better you feel afterward.
3. Set your alarm early in order to watch the sunrise.
4. Listen to a bedtime story. Yes, really! Calm, the meditation app, offers Bedtime Stories for Grownups, read by actors like Matthew McConaughey and radio personalities like Laura Sydell of NPR. (Plus, it doesn’t always have to be bedtime since stories are great anytime!)
5. Turn off your phone for an hour and feel the power of some peace and quiet.
6. Go to bed early or sleep in. And don’t feel guilty about it!
7. Test out aromatherapy. They smell great but more importantly, essential oils have proven benefits to our mood and mental health.
8. Make a cup of coffee or tea but instead of drinking it on the fly, sit down and take the time to savor it (hello, mindfulness).
9. Do some doodling! And get a doodle book to keep them all in.
Personal Growth Activities
10. Write a list of the things you like about yourself (and then tape it to the your mirror!).
11. Listen to a guided meditation. Apps like Headspace are great for this and so is Youtube.
12. Know your burn-out signs, then learn to respect them.
13. Close your eyes for 10 seconds and breathe deeply. After that, try doing it for 20 seconds, then 30 and so on.
14. Try Breathwork. There are tons of tutorials online and it is of great help to lots of mental health problems. For example, did you know the practice has been associated with reduction in anxiety and stress in studies?
Productive or Physical Activities
15. Do some meal prep. It works double duty by saving time and it improves your health. In addition to all those, it saves money because you aren’t eating out or wasting food. Bonus!
16. Declutter your closet and donate any unwanted items to charity. You get a double feel-good moment by giving to others in need and having an organized space.
17. Or similarly but less ambitious, clean out just one single drawer. Ahhh the calm feeling of opening a newly organized drawer…
18. Learn a new skill on sites like SkillShare or YouTube, such as painting or bookkeeping.
19. Get a workout in. For example, hold a plank for a few minutes and done! Five minutes, ten minutes, an hour– anything is beneficial.
20. Set a timer for 10 minutes and start cleaning your space. You’d be amazed what you can accomplish in such a short amount of time.
21. Connect with others in recovery. Making friends is certainly a great way to support your recovery since you can relate to each other’s experiences, struggles, and triumphs.
22. Go to church, temple, or any place of worship or spirituality that fits your beliefs and religious views (even just virtually for now!).
23. Similarly, going to a meeting can be a great way to get extra support for your mental health and commitment to sobriety (again with the virtual option being a great choice).
24. Write a review of a business you love and spread some positivity!
And Most Importantly…
25. Lastly, if you are in need of extra support, ask for the help you need (see below).
When Self-Care Isn’t Helping
We hope you’ve found this article on using self-care for addiction recovery support. However, while self-care can be a great practice for your mental health, it is not a magic pill. If you find yourself needing help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Harmony Recovery Group. Our kind and supportive staff are always here for you. Call us anytime at (866) 461-4474.