During the early stages of recovery, the co-dependent relationship between mental health and addiction comes into sharp focus.
Especially to those who were so lost in their addictions, they weren’t sure which was the driving force behind the other.
Being aware and taking care of your mental health is a critical component of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and a large part of true holistic restoration. Caring for the mind, body, and spirit together leads to restorative healing and it is important to nurture each to ensure a greater chance for a successful long-term recovery.
However, maintaining your mental health can be complicated even on the best of days during your recovery.
The fear of relapses as you work to develop healthy coping strategies, rebuilding relationships with loved ones, finding sustainable employment, and the general stigma associated with struggling with substance abuse can leave the most focused and determined person feeling frustrated and anxious.
But what about when you add uncertainty due to the current Covid-19 pandemic on top of everything else? Well, that is like adding a hurricane to a summer thunderstorm because the uncertainty now covers a much wider area of your early recovery, well into the parts of your life that you have little control over.
Feelings of comfort naturally come with the idea of certainty. We like to be in control of all aspects of our lives and when things feel a little chaotic and unpredictable, it can negatively affect our mental health.
As someone in the early stages of recovery, you are already aware of the effect uncertainty can have on your mental well-being. With the outbreak of COVID-19, it can compound these feelings of frustration because it may be making an already challenging recovery seem even more difficult and unmanageable.
Sometimes we don’t always realize it’s even happening, or we wait too long to acknowledge how we are feeling, and the emotions build-up until they completely overwhelm you.
Perhaps you are feeling more edgy than usual, or helpless with confusion, or simply feeling sad.
What’s important is that you become aware that these feelings are occurring so you can work on managing them before they control your actions in a negative way, possibly setting you back in your recovery.
Easier said than done, but there are ways for you to practice self-care that help prevent your emotions from becoming unmanageable.
Here are some daily activities and long-term strategies that will help you focus on caring for your mental health during these uncertain times on your recovery journey.
Keep a Healthy Routine
It may sound like common sense to many: a healthy lifestyle and improved mental health start with a balanced and nutritious diet, regular cardiovascular exercise, and at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Although as simple as this sounds, these can be shocking behavioral changes to what you were accustomed to as you lived a life consumed by addiction. It should make sense then that implementing these basic foundations of good health and wellness will greatly affect your mental health in a positive way, along with helping you establishing routine into your every day.
Start slowly by adding elements of a healthy diet, light exercise, or yoga, and allow yourself a good night’s sleep and you will see the benefits almost immediately. You can then continue to modify the routine at your pace by increasing the exercise over time and continuing to add healthy choices to your diet.
Not surprisingly, regular exercise is truly the key to maintaining other aspects of a healthy routine. It reduces stress, gives you a feeling of accomplishment, boosts your mood with endorphins, promotes healthier sleep, and ultimately leads you to make healthier food choices.
Most importantly, make sure the exercise is something you enjoy to keep you coming back.
Be Mindful In The Present
You may be hearing the word “mindfulness” more than ever during your recovery, but what does being mindful really mean?
Mindfulness is being aware of both your current physical and mental sensations. Noticing the sights, sounds, and other sensory experiences in your present moment. This can be difficult, and even uncomfortable, but acknowledging thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing in the moment gives you a chance to better understand what’s really going on inside you.
Practicing mindfulness allows you to explore thoughts and feelings emotions that you most likely avoided when you were in active addiction, which helps tremendously during your holistic healing.
It challenges you to stay in the present, and not compound anxiety by worrying about future events that may or may not happen or drowning in feelings of guilt and shame about the past.
Stay Connected And Find Inspiring Communities
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s working definition of recovery, healthy human connection is a vital aspect of successful long-term recovery.
There are 3 pillars to healthy human connection: home, purpose, and community.
You can achieve this with family and/or close friends (home or transitional housing), with oneself (a greater sense of life and purpose), and with a community (Church, workplace, recovery group, etc.).
Positive mental health involves relationships that create meaningful connections.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions thrive in solitude, so it’s important to find people and groups that inspire you and will support you in your recovery.
Meaningful connections with positive and caring loved ones or friends can help build a sense of belonging, security, and acceptance. All of which goes a long way in providing certainty and comfort into your life.
Sober living communities are helpful places to find support with caring staff and residents who are walking their recovery journey. Programming and education built around holistic healing can provide guidance, and fellow residents can offer peer support in a safe and structured home.
It can sometimes be difficult to keep a positive outlook during recovery. You can get caught up reflecting on things that happened in the past and feel shame, regret, or sadness.
An effective way to combat this is by learning to express gratitude for something every single day. And there is always something to be thankful for.
You may find that keeping a daily journal where you list at least 2 or 3 things you’re grateful for and record it as part of your daily routine, perhaps before you fall asleep.
And never forget that your recovery is something to feel grateful for, and as you explore gratitude, you’ll find many more things tied to your recovery every single day fo which to celebrate gratitude.
When you feel happy and healthy, it can make the difficult process of recovery a little bit easier. These tips can help increase feelings of well-being, and regardless of what works best for you, you’ll find that experimenting with these strategies can boost your mental health.
JacobsWay provides safe and structured sober living and holistic restoration in transitional homes for men and women. If you or a loved one are struggling on your journey toward a life free from addiction, contact JacobsWay today for information on how we can help.