A fantastic way to promote good mental health is to engage in self-care. But self-care isn’t just sheet masks and pedicures, it’s taking care of yourself, mind, body, and spirit. If you have been neglecting yourself you may not even know how to engage in self-care. Keep reading for ways you can foster good mental health while in recovery.
Addiction is tough on our bodies, and if you’re fresh into your recovery a great way to start caring for your body is to do some physical activities with it. It is proven that physical activity, or exercise, is as effective for moderate depression as an anti-depressant medication. But that doesn’t mean you need to hit the weight stacks at your local gym (although that’s also awesome if you do!) it could be as simple as a daily walk or bike ride. Many local recreation centers have drop-in fitness classes available like spin or high-intensity interval training. If you are looking to practice mindfulness full body stretching practices like Tai-chi or Yoga are great ways to keep you focused on your body, breathing, and keeping your mind in the present. Even dancing in your living room to music all by yourself is good for you, and you don’t even need to leave your house! Team sport is also an excellent way to be active, and also build community. If you don’t feel coordinated enough for soccer or slow-pitch you can try pickle ball, curling, cornhole, or even roller derby.
It’s no secret that the food we eat affects our mood, and your brain in recovery will benefit from a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. You may have been eating much less before your treatment program, or not eating foods with enough nutrients. When our brains don’t produce enough neurotransmitters, like dopamine, we can feel irritable and anxious. Eating nutrient-rich foods can help ease your withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings by helping your brain produce dopamine. It can even help prevent you from relapsing! Often people who are recovering from substance abuse have vitamin deficiencies, during your first year of recovery your nutrition needs will be higher than normal and you must feed yourself healthy foods daily.
Food shouldn’t replace drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, so you’ll want to avoid caffeine and refined sugar as much as possible since they also produce highs and lows. A diet for recovery should include:
- Complex carbohydrates, which means plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (50-55% of your daily calories)
- Two to three cups of dairy or other foods rich in calcium such as kale, tofu, or calcium-fortified beverages
- Moderate amounts of protein, either lean meats like fish or tofu (15-20% of your daily calories)
- Healthy fats such as olive oil, canola, flax, and those found in fish, seeds, and nuts (30% of your caloric intake)
It’s also very important to stay hydrated on your road to sobriety. Dehydration affects our cognitive performance and mood, two very important aspects of staying in recovery.
Even after decades of sleep research, the exact reason why we sleep remains unanswered. We do know, however, that sleep affects every system in our body. Many parts of our brain are involved in producing the hormones and chemicals that regulate our sleep, and wakefulness. You may have even heard of REM(rapid eye movement) sleep, and how it is crucial for the brain. And that’s true! REM sleep is essential to your cognitive function, it’s also where you dream. Alcohol and drug use can drastically impact your ability to enter the REM stage of sleep.
Getting enough quality sleep is often a make-or-break for recovery from many illnesses, and it’s even more critical for those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. It may not surprise you to learn that those with co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD are impacted even more by the psychological effects of sleep deprivation. But not to worry, there are things that you can do to improve the quality and duration of your sleep, such as
- Creating a sleep-inducing bedroom by taking away distractions like TV and gaming consoles
- Optimizing your sleep schedule by having a fixed wake-up time, and identifying a target bedtime
- Creating a pre-bed routine that includes disconnecting from tech, and relaxation stretching
- Dimming the lights in your house before bedtime
- Don’t toss and turn, if you haven’t fallen asleep in 20 minutes get up and practice low-light relaxation techniques
- Invest in a quality mattress, and choose sheets and pillows that suit your needs while giving comfort