Life, especially in these turbulent times, can be a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. You can plan for the best for your family, your relationships, and your work, but life often has a way of not following your plans. For most, these periods of difficulty and trial can be demanding, but not insurmountable.
For those who suffer from depression and anxiety, however, these challenges can seem overwhelming and potentially devastating. Substance abuse becomes a real possibility as these people seek a way to cope with their hurting through self-medicating. And the link between mental health issues and substance abuse, once it’s developed and nurtured, can make recovery even more challenging if one aspect is left untreated.
When someone has both a drug or alcohol addiction and a mental illness such as depression and anxiety, it is referred to as a co-occurring disorder. This can confuse the treatment opportunities because identifying what is driving the other can be complicated. However, if either mental health or addiction is left untreated, lasting recovery from substance abuse and a life free from mental illness can be extremely difficult to achieve.
Why does having a mental health issue like depression or anxiety drive people to develop addiction issues?
When people are suffering from the emotional pain of mental illness, a seemingly easy way to cope is through self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. This is a short-term “feel-good” for unmanageable negative feelings, while ignoring the underlying mental illness that is causing these feelings. As the substance abuse continues and becomes compulsive, it enhances a cycle that is nearly impossible to break. In fact, through increased substance abuse, the symptoms of the mental illness aren’t really relieved but merely covered up while they worsen in the long term.
Fortunately, there are drug addiction treatment programs and transitional living homes for the early stages of recovery that offer programming and education specifically designed to address and treat co-occurring disorders together.
What if there was a way to better manage depression and anxiety as a daily part of your life’s routine that when put into practice, could minimize the chances of addiction (or a relapse) altogether?
Managing your feelings and handling everyday challenges is an important part of maintaining your overall well-being, but in some cases, it can be preventative in developing substance abuse or relapse issues in the future.
Here are SIX things you can do every single day to boost and strengthen your mental health:
1. Start your day with a routine that focuses on positivity and gratitude.
Having a morning routine is beneficial, but ensuring you're starting your day on a positive note as part of this routine is important. Showing gratitude, whether it's towards yourself or something/someone else can vastly improve your mental health and emotional well-being and start your day in a thankful mindset. Stay off social media, meditate, and give yourself (or someone else) a compliment as you start your day.
2. Stay mindful in the present.
It can be so easy to get mentally frustrated thinking of questions like, "What if this bad thing happens?" "Why me?" "What should I do next?" "What if that doesn't work?"
These questions can distract you from enjoying life in the present, the here and now with the people around you. Being disengaged negatively affects you and those who are with you.
Rather than thinking about what isn't actually happening right now, focus on what is happening. Your friend is hilarious. Your food tastes wonderful. This song is great and makes me happy. This movie or TV show is binge-worthy.
Whether it's a sound, smell, taste, or sight, focusing on how you’re experiencing physical sensations can quiet your busy, worried mind and help plant you firmly in the present moment.
3. Make time for physical activity.
Exercising regularly is an important part of improving physical health, but did you know exercise also benefits your brain by supporting cognitive function, improving your mood, and reducing stress and anxiety?
Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, which relieve stress. Exercise also stimulates the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, all of which helps to regulate your mood and sense of well-being. In addition, exercise helps balance the adrenaline levels in your body, which plays a role in reducing stress.
Even if it's just walking 20 minutes a day, physical activity can help you better cope with stress and improve your overall mental health. It's also a great way to feel a sense of accomplishment.
4. Eat healthily. For your brain.
Eating well-balanced meals full of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein can help improve your mood and promote better cognitive function thanks to them being rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Avoid processed foods, which can be high in refined sugars and saturated fats. Although, rewarding yourself with the occasional sweet treat is certainly beneficial to your mental health as well as long as you don’t overdo it.
5. Be Social.
As we exit the social distancing requirements of the pandemic, and more places are opening up fully, it is becoming easier to not allow yourself to become socially isolated.
Humans are social creatures, and both the quality and quantity of our social relationships impact our mental health. Socializing with people who are right for you and positively influence you can lead to building your trust in others, and also receiving trust from others. This improves your emotional well-being and builds positive self-worth, happiness, and self-esteem.
6. Take your sleep seriously.
Burning the midnight oil and a lack of sleep, as well as low-quality sleep, can have an enormous impact on how you feel the next day. It can make you more irritable, and reduce your ability to concentrate on staying mindful in the present the following day.
Much like your positive morning routine, it's important to make sure you establish a relaxing and unwinding bedtime routine that starts with avoiding staring at any devices and ends with getting 7-8 hours of sleep every single night. Try listening to quiet music or reading to relax and wind down and you'll set yourself up for sleep success.
Putting into practice these tips for improving your mental health will go a long way in improving your quality of life. However, if you start to feel overwhelmed by stress, sadness, or negative feelings, don’t ever be ashamed to admit that you’re struggling and ask a friend or loved one for help. Talking to someone about your feelings can help you process your emotions and may help reduce some of the hurt you're feeling.
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.