Self-care has been trending for years. The term ‘self-care’ has taken on a life of its own, covering a plethora of activities from expensive spa trips to guided meditation practices. While the concept of self-care has become somewhat engrained in our culture, the idea can feel completely foreign to people in early recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD).
During active substance use maintaining overall wellness is not usually a top priority. On-going stress, poor diet, and the overall personal neglect that accompany active use perpetuate a multitude of self-destructive habits. Making the decision to enter recovery is the ultimate act of self-care, but learning how to maintain it will be central to your lasting recovery.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care has been defined by the World Health Organization as, “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider”. In other words, self-care is the regular practice of taking care of yourself so that you can be emotionally and physically healthy, help and care for others in your life, do your job, and cope with your daily stressors. Self-care involves anything we do to refuel and recharge our mind, body, and spirit.
Despite the name, self-care is not a selfish practice. Self-care practices should not break the bank or cause you to overextend yourself. Self-care simply asks you to check in with yourself and to take the necessary steps to meet your own needs. This could mean disconnecting from your phone for the evening, taking a long walk, or anything else that helps you feel fulfilled. Acts of self-care can also include things like brushing your teeth, going to therapy, drinking more water, or cleaning the house. Each person has to develop their own self-care habits and routines that support their individual needs.
The Importance of Self-Care in Recovery
One of the greatest gifts of recovery is creating a beautiful life free from the chaos of active substance use. For some of use, this may mean returning to a life we had formerly damaged during our use. For others, this means building a new fulfilling life. With all of the rewards of recovery around us, it can be tempting to throw ourselves headfirst into a hectic, fast-paced life, with little thought given to how we’re going to sustain a healthy recovery. This is where self-care comes into play.
Integrating self-care practices into your daily routine will help you develop the tools and resources necessary to stay ahead of triggers, maintain balance, and take care of your overall wellness, which ultimately allows you more fully enjoy each day. It is important to remember that large acts of self-care such as trips to the spa, massages, or vacations will only happen occasionally. Sustainable acts of self-care that are regularly incorporated into your routine will have a bigger impact.
Tips for Incorporating Self-Care into your Recovery
Incorporating self-care into your recovery should be a simple process. Creating a self-care plan is a great way to get started. Any self-care plan should be completely individualized and designed to meet your unique needs. Focusing on what works for you will help prevent you from feeling stressed or overwhelmed by incorporating self-care into your routine. Here are a few things to consider as you build your self-care plan:
Assess your needs: Write down the different parts of your life and the major activities you take part in each day. These may include work, recovery meetings, family, or other obligations. It will be helpful to outline your daily schedule as well, so you can determine when the best time to schedule self-care.
Identify your stressors: Make note of how and when you experience stress in these areas and begin thinking of ways you might manage that stress.
The demands of your daily life may dictate the forms of self-care that you can easily incorporate into your life. As your life changes, your self-care needs will also shift. So it will be important to re-prioritize as you go. A good self-care plan will include small, simple steps you can take each day to ensure you are getting what you need. In addition to considering the above items, a solid self-care plan in recovery should also include the following elements:
Wellness Activities that Add Value: Incorporate wellness activities that actually help you feel nourished. Everyone’s needs are different, so be honest with yourself about what yours are. These activities could be physical, emotional, or social – or a combination of a few. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, or getting quality sleep are all examples of activities that add value. Many physical wellness activities will also contribute to enhancing your emotional well-being. Developing a mindfulness practice, setting boundaries, or staying connected to your support group are also ways to easily incorporate self-care into your daily routine. Don’t force yourself to include activities that aren’t helping you meet your needs. Remember, what works for one person may not work for the next.
Developing Healthy Habits: Recovery involves creating a life that is not dictated by the use of substances. Develop habits that support both your self-care and your recovery. Establishing a new morning or evening routine is a great way to practice self-care and strengthen your recovery simultaneously. Setting time aside each day to journal, practice gratitude, or reflect on your daily readings will support your personal growth and help you reach your recovery goals.
Prioritize Your Needs: Practicing self-care in recovery means prioritizing your own needs. This means learning to set healthy boundaries that are aligned with your recovery goals. Refraining from overextending yourself, setting boundaries, and saying ‘no’ are all crucial to maintaining self-care practices and your recovery. Taking care of your own needs will enable you to better care for others in your life.
Overall, remember to take it slow and think realistically about what you can do for yourself on a regular basis to deal with the stress and challenges you face in your daily life. If you do find that you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for help. You are not alone and the right support can help you create a strategy for reaching your goals. Greenbriar Treatment Center offers support for individuals at any stage of their recovery journey.
If you or a loved one are looking for help, please reach out today.