Practicing self-care is a very important part of any health routine and is vital when developing a recovery plan. It’s also one of the key steps in helping prevent a return to substance use. Self-care remains one of the most overlooked steps taken during and after recovery from addiction.1 Discover some simple ways self-care supports health and how you can practice it in your life.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care involves having a plan of action to meet mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs.5 The activities of self-care are performed with the purpose of improving  mood, relieving stress, and knowing that when you take care of yourself, you are better able take care of others.

Self-care involves having a routine that you actively stick to. Any self-care plan should also include things that you no longer want to do because you know certain activities have a negative effect on your health.

Addiction and Recovery in America

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 20.7 million people over the age of 12 needed treatment for a substance use disorder in 2017. In other words, 7.6%, or 1 in 13 people, suffered from addiction to substances in that year alone. 2 The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) notes that 10% of all American adults report that they are in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse issues. 3

The recovery process helps people lead healthier and more independent lives. A support plan for recovery from substance abuse should consider:

Health: Making healthy choices for physical and emotional well-being.

Home: Living in a safe, stable place.

Purpose: Living a meaningful, independent life.

Community: Finding a supportive relationships and social networks.4

Making Self-Care a Priority

When healing from a substance use disorder, it can often be difficult to feel love for yourself. The disease of addiction is a form of self-abuse, though you may not be aware of the negative feelings. With a self-care plan in place, you can learn to love the person you are, increase self-esteem, and continue to grow strong in body and mind.

Loving yourself by sticking to a self-care plan doesn’t mean you are being self-centered or selfish. Instead, taking care of yourself gives you the power to better care for and love others.

Physical Self-Care Strategies

Staying physically healthy and strong is one of the main goals of a self-care plan in recovery. The following activities and habits can be included as part of a healthy self-care routine.

This can be as simple as taking a walk or going for a bike ride. You can also take up a sport for fun or join a gym to use the machines or take part in an exercise class. Whatever you do to move your body,  exercise massively helps to improve mood and relieve stress.

Getting a good night’s sleep improves mood and gives you a more positive outlook on life. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule supports getting the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. If you feel you need a break during the day, a 20-minute nap can help you feel refreshed.

Keep up good habits in recovery by being mindful about the foods you eat. A healthy meal plan keeps body and mind healthy. A good, nutritious diet has an uplifting effect on mood and will keep your body fit, too.

Your body is made up of about 60% water.6 Drink lots of water during the day to replace what’s naturally lost. Water boosts the immune system, prevents headaches, and helps with digestion and circulation.

Staying clean is an important part of any daily health routine. This includes showering with soap and water at least every other day or more, shampooing your hair at least twice a week, keeping nails trimmed and clean, and brushing your teeth twice a day. Keeping the body clean helps prevent sickness and keeps skin healthy.

Mental Health Self-Care Strategies

Mental health is just as important as physical well being. After recovery from substance abuse, it’s normal to feel a bit strange. The brain may still be healing and completing its return to working in a healthy way.

Keeping in touch with friends and family who are positive and make you feel good can do wonders for your mental and emotional health. Even meeting with others once or twice a month can keep you connected with people.

Note the positive moments in your life each day or week by writing them down in a journal. Even noticing the smallest good thing about a particular day counts and starts to change the way you experience daily life.

Fill your days with activities you enjoy. This will build new enjoyable routines without the need for drugs or alcohol to make you feel good. Enjoying relaxing hobbies or taking in a movie with a friend can relieve stress and add happiness to your life.

Money is often a huge weight on the mind that can cause a lot of anxiety. If you have a plan for managing finances, it’s easier to understand where your money is being spent and not have to worrying about cash flow.

Keep a daily diary of what you spend your money and why. Do you make impulse buys when you feel stressed? Are you buying stuff to make yourself feel better? This will empower you know and understand your spending as well as focus your money on things you really need.

Put aside some time each day to meditate or pray. Even 10 minutes of silent meditation can recharge your spirit. Even if you aren’t a spiritual person, a chunk of quiet time for yourself will go a long way towards giving you some peace of mind.

Doing something creative gets you out of your own thoughts while also relieving stress and anxiety. If you don’t already have a creative activity you enjoy, try something new. This can be anything, like writing poetry, knitting a sweater, or painting with watercolors.

You’ll want to set some healthy boundaries in your relationships with others. Be sure your family, partner, and friends know what’s acceptable behavior and language for you. State your boundaries clearly, using “I” language: “I feel disrespected when you comment on my body weight.” This is setting up others to respect your needs as you move through some of life’s challenges.

It may take time to learn how to practice self-care after a recovery journey. After a while of addressing your own needs on a regular basis, these healthy habits for the mind, body, and soul can support a healthier way to live.

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