Self-care: it’s not all bubble baths. Developing a healthy routine is one of the cornerstones of early recovery. However, what’s not discussed is how to do this - it takes work to set up, find out what works for you, and integrate it into your life.
It’s hard to take care of yourself fully when life has restructured itself around the demands of a substance use disorder. Building back those habits takes time, but the earlier you start focusing on self-care, the sooner you’ll see its rewards.
A good self-care routine sets the foundation for a stable, sober lifestyle, as well as health outcomes in general. This doesn’t just mean eating and sleeping well (although your physical health is very important). Self-care means that you stay in touch with how you’re feeling mentally, bodily, emotionally, and socially, and take positive action to care for yourself. We all have different needs, so this will mean different things to each of us. Still, there are some helpful strategies for finding what works for you and staying on track.
If you’ve spent any time at all researching ways to support your recovery, you’ve heard about mindfulness. This is backed by strong evidence - research shows that it fortifies recovery and is a brilliant tool to keep addiction at bay.
The core of this mindfulness is building and maintaining a sense of awareness of how you feel in the present moment. In the early days of recovery, attention to negative feelings and emotions lets us know where and how to introduce more care.
Balance Your Health Priorities
Mental, emotional, social, and physical self-care are all equal players when it comes to your well-being as a whole. If you feel that one particular set of needs require special attention, that is an excellent place to start.
At the same time, remember that all four benefit from conscious care. For example, even if you want to start doing things that heal your relationship with friends, routines like therapy and meditation will be a fantastic ancillary.
Take Time For Yourself
We’re social creatures, and early recovery is a vulnerable time when we sometimes seek out a lot of external care, even distraction, from others. While support from our peers is an invaluable part of self-care, you also need to stand alone and learn who you really are.
Addiction can cloud our inner worlds, but spending some time alone can get you back in touch with the positive aspects of life. How you choose to do this is up to you - it could be time spent doing creative projects, exploring the wonders of nature, or picking up where you left off with an old hobby.
Connect With Supportive Others
Alone time doesn’t mean complete isolation! Family and friends who support your recovery will want to see you and be a part of your new journey into sobriety - opening up to these people can help you process what you’re going through and grow closer to your loved ones. Few things make us feel more cared for.
When it comes to connecting over the topic of recovery itself, there’s no better audience than others in the same situation. Take full advantage of 12-step meetings by attending each session and actively sharing and listening. These groups have helped hundreds of thousands maintain recovery, and they also offer the chance to forge new friendships with others in the group.
Establish and Maintain Healthy Boundaries
Like the rest of your routine, setting boundaries is your responsibility! Bearing this in mind, sometimes friends and loved ones can be resistant when we start setting new expectations. Ultimately though, if someone cares about you, they’ll do whatever they can to keep you safe.
Learning to set and stand by your own healthy boundaries is key to the recovery journey and long-term emotional self-care. This might mean:
- Learning to say no, clearly and respectfully, when you need to.
- Figuring out the places and situations that might endanger your recovery and self-care and avoiding them.
- Keeping people who don’t value your recovery or respect your boundaries at arm’s length, and whenever possible, avoiding them completely.
If you’re stuck in the cycle of addiction and struggling with finding recovery, professional treatment is your best option. This will give you the space, time, and support you need to develop a healthy, long-lasting routine that will help you stay on an even keel.
Remember, the payoff is always worth it! Caring for your health is a virtuous cycle: when you feel good, you’re mentally stronger and more motivated to make healthy choices.