The Importance of Self-Care In Recovery
While most treatment centers offer aftercare services, it is important to note that people in recovery are still responsible for their individual well-being. We are ultimately accountable for our own lives, happiness, and sobriety. This is why actively engaging in self-care throughout recovery is critical.
Life has several dimensions – emotional, physical, spiritual, and social. Therefore, each of these areas must be addressed to maintain balance and some sense of control. Although everyone is different, the following steps may serve as a basic guideline for self-care in recovery.
Exercise is critical to recovery because it releases endorphins and relieves stress. That said, you don’t have to kill yourself at the gym or run a marathon – but you have to do something. Even if it’s just an every-other-day brisk walk or bike ride. Moreover, channel the extra energy you have in recovery by being active.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting on a regular sleep pattern is helpful for mood and energy during the day. When we are tired, we are more inclined to think negatively and are more likely to fall into bad habits. Conversely, however, positive thoughts and energy contribute to other aspects of your emotional and physical dimensions.
Eat A Healthy Diet
Diet affects mood as well as physical and mental well-being. Eating a poor diet leads to lethargy and may hinder your ability to exercise and actively engage in your sobriety. People have different ideas about what eating healthy is, but you will know it when you do it. Find a diet that is right for you. Most people, however, find that avoiding high-fat foods and refined sugars is helpful in recovery.
Spiritual and Emotional Self-Care
Learning to love yourself is perhaps the greatest tool in your arsenal. Loving yourself means respecting your personal goals and all the accomplishments that you’ve made up until this point. It means not going backward, but forward. It’s okay not to be perfect, but you have to accept yourself as such and continue trying to be a better person.
Find Ways To Relax
Take time for yourself, whether it’s through meditation, yoga, a hobby, or whatever means you chose. Life doesn’t stop just because you are sober. Take notice of your stress levels and take a time out whenever necessary.
Balance is about pursuing self-care from all angles. We all need to find fulfillment in our social lives, our jobs, and our innermost needs and desires. Don’t neglect important aspects of your life, and don’t let things get too heavy in other areas.
Write Down Your Thoughts And Feelings
There’s something very therapeutic about writing down our emotions – it more or less lets you purge what’s going on in your head on paper – or computer. You don’t have to be a wordsmith – this is for you and you alone. You can look back at what you wrote objectively and don’t have to worry about the judgments or reactions of someone else.
Maintaining a social life, regardless of sobriety status, is essential for the well-being of most people. This may mean heavily relying on a support group, other sober friends or family members. In some cases, this may involve changing social circles to avoid triggers and falling into old habits.
See A Counselor Or Therapist
Most treatment programs include services such as counseling and therapy, but ongoing mental health care is equally important in during aftercare. If you are opposed to seeking professional help, consider leaning on a personal sponsor or a trusted sober friend when you need to talk.
Self-care requires setting boundaries and letting others close to you know that you are dedicated to sobriety. Don’t be afraid to do whatever you need to do to protect yourself. Sometimes this may mean you’ll need to avoid certain social situations, but the end result will be well worth the cost.
Spend Time Alone
Maintaining a social life also means that you need to dedicate time to yourself. The thought of this can be scary but is often necessary. Use this time to regroup, and you can come away from the experience confident that you are okay with yourself and your sober status.
Take A Break From Technology
Social media, though sometimes helpful, can also be a source of stress and is, in many ways, fairly unproductive. Take that hour or so each day away from the Internet and cell phone and spend it engaging in a new hobby or activity instead. You’ll feel far more invested in your time and hopefully find a new pastime to enjoy.
In summary, self-care in recovery is not an option, and not an afterthought. It should be your top priority. Your mental, physical, and emotional well-being are central to your sobriety. Don’t ever take yourself for granted.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology