Self-care is a crucial component of addiction recovery. We at Next Chapter Treatment teach our clients to practice self-care through self-acceptance, enhancing or developing spiritual practices, implementing healthy boundaries, living in moderation and observing mindfulness and balance, improving adequate sleep patterns, healthy eating, and regular exercise. Our comprehensive program of recovery puts a heavy emphasis on developing sufficient self-care practices, recognizing the importance of learning self-love and self-respect.
There are three main elements of self-care – emotional, physical, and spiritual. The most fulfilling recovery will come with a careful balance of all three.
- Learn to love yourself.
Easier said than done, of course – but far from impossible! Learning to love yourself tends to come easier when you are heavily engaged in self-esteem building activities. Participating in things that help you recognize your worth and personal ability will help you to learn to appreciate your many aptitudes and appreciate the fact that you can make a significant, positive impact in the lives of others. Commit to community service, stay involved in your program of recovery, help those who are new to recovery and potentially struggling to stay sober. Affirm your worth on a daily basis. Explore new hobbies, push your limits, and strive to be someone you are proud of.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
The old saying “stick with the winners” has stood the test of time for a reason! Surrounding yourself with positive men and women who are taking care of themselves, helping others, and participating in life to the best of their ability will help push you to be the best version of yourself. Bad company corrupts good character – befriend those who have your best interest at heart, and want to see you succeed.
- Take it easy.
Be easy on yourself, and take a breather when you need to. Try to remember that everything happens for a reason, and as long as you consistently put your best foot forward the rest will fall into place. It is important that you stay tuned-in to your own emotional needs – when you are exhausted, take a few hours to relax and nap. Read a book or catch up on some Netflix every once in awhile, and consider the fact that you are human. It is all too easy for alcoholics and addicts to adopt a harshly black-or-white attitude, disallowing themselves the rest and relaxation they need to stay centered and grounded. Do your best to maintain a balance. You can take a day off to rest and recuperate every once in awhile without falling into isolative and detrimental behavioral patterns!
- Talk to someone when you need to.
Speaking up when you are in emotional pain is absolutely essential to maintained sobriety. All too often, we struggle silently and independently, worried that discussing our personal problems will only burden or inconvenience someone else. In truth, the best way to help someone out of their own self-involved crap is to call them up, seeking advice on your own problems! Discussing your own emotional state with others will inevitably help and you. If you feel uncomfortable discussing your personal problems with a close friend, or raising your hand at an AA meeting, set up an appointment with a licensed therapist. Just make sure you speak to someone!
- Set healthy boundaries.
Setting healthy boundaries is crucial to maintaining healthy relationships and personal emotional well-being. If an individual is continuously crossing your personal boundaries, it may be necessary to temporarily remove them from your life (or permanently remove them, depending on the pre-existing relationship). Do not compromise your own emotional health to protect the feelings of others – there are ways in which to respectfully and firmly set boundaries. And remember – there is nothing wrong with saying ‘no’! Know your own limits, and pay careful attention to your own emotional state.
- Meditate regularly.
Meditation can be as simple as reading a page from the Daily Reflection book and considering how it applies to your own life. Just like prayer, there is no ‘right way’ to meditate – spirituality is a personal journey, and you must seek and find what works for you. Some individuals may spend hours in silent meditation, attempting to clear their minds of all thought, while others may listen to music while taking a short seaside walk. Explore different forms of meditation and find what benefits you the most. You will likely find that allotting even several minutes to meditation per day will help to keep you grounded and spiritually fit.
- Find balance in your life.
We alcoholics tend to take things to extremes, and this may make finding balance somewhat difficult. Take an honest look at how much time you are devoting to work, to your program, and to your own self-exploration and personal development. What do you do for fun? How frequently do you allow yourself a day off, devoted solely to your own spiritual development? Take time to explore the world around you. Spend some time alone if you find that you spend most of your time with other people, or spend some more time with others if you find that you are frequently alone. Have fun. Allow time for both work and play. There is no reason as to why you can’t have it all!
- Explore your relationship with a higher power.
Developing a relationship with a power greater than yourself can be as simple as spending more time in nature, or exploring different venues of worship (if organized religion is something you’d like to look into). Just like prayer and meditation, there is no right way to seek a connection with a higher power. Explore. Ask questions. Spend some time alone. And try not to be too hard on yourself if you don’t feel ‘enlightened’ or ‘awakened’ right away. Developing a sense of spiritual connectedness is a lifelong journey, one that constantly changes and evolves.
- Spend time in nature.
Many find that they feel most spiritually tuned-in when they are in nature. If spirituality is something you seem to struggle with, take a solo hike through the forest, or go kayaking along a lush river. Spend time at the ocean, or drive out to the desert and explore a bit. Not only does spending time in nature help to bolster spirituality, but physical exercise will help you to feel better emotionally and mentally. Get out there and see the world!
- Stay involved in the program.
There is no question that staying actively involved in a 12-step program of addiction recovery will help you to further develop your spirituality. The main goal of every 12-step program (aside from putting an end to life-threatening chemical abuse, of course), is helping individuals to establish a spiritual connection. Developing a vital sense of interconnectedness and security in the face of adversity is a cornerstone of lasting recovery. Work the steps with a sponsor and begin sponsoring others as soon as you have finished them. There are decades of proof confirming that this formula works.
- Eat well.
Adequate nutrition was probably last on your priority list while you were active in your addiction. Take this time to nourish your body – eat consciously and eat well. Make sure you are incorporating enough fruits and vegetables into your daily diet. Eat as much as you need in order to get yourself back to a healthy weight. Take vitamins daily, too – years of active substance abuse has likely depleted your body of many vital nutrients. Get back into the habit of taking care of yourself!
- Exercise regularly.
Physical exercise helps to work negative and uncomfortable emotions through the body. It has been repeatedly proven that those who exercise for 30 minutes or more between 4 and 5 times per week have an easier time regulating their emotional and mental health. Of course, engaging in regular physical activity also promotes bodily well-being. Keep yourself strong and healthy while blowing off steam and working through stress – sounds like a win-win to me! And if the gym isn’t really your cup of tea, try organizing a weekly sober softball game or beach volleyball tournament. There are innumerable ways to exercise while having fun in recovery!
- Get enough sleep each night.
Between 7 and 8 hours is standard and healthy. It is not uncommon for those new to sobriety to experience some difficulty when trying to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. Natural supplements such as Melatonin may help regulate sleep patterns – but often, a hot mug of chamomile tea before bedtime is enough to do the trick! If you wake up early in the morning and live a full day, you will soon find that falling asleep comes naturally. One of the many gifts of recovery!
- Look good – feel good.
Personal hygienic practices were probably somewhat neglected while you were out there using. If you find that you are having a hard time motivating yourself to get outside and face the day, simply take a shower, put on some clothes you feel good in, and give your hair a quick comb. Putting in the effort to look good will often help you feel better, and motivate you to step outside and conquer your daily goals. Plus, practicing hygiene is important to bettering your overall physical health.
- Get a physical.
Chances are, years of chemical dependency did quite a number on your body. While reversing the damage is usually as simple as significantly altering your daily routine, you will want to visit a medical doctor just in case. Make an appointment for a physical, and make sure that everything is still in working order. Get your teeth checked. Keeping up on your physical health takes more than exercising regularly and doing your best to eat right. Make you sure are professionally checked at least once a year!
Practice the following guidelines for comprehensive self-care, and your journey of addiction recovery will undeniably be all that much richer. For more information on practicing self-care, or on our specific program of addiction recovery, please contact us at Next Chapter Treatment today.