Whether you’re brand new to recovery or you’ve been sober for a while, it’s important to find ways to take care of yourself. In the chaos of life, we sometimes forget to pause and do what we need to do for ourselves. The term “self-care” is a bit of a cliché, but we must learn to take care of ourselves if we are to stay clean and sober. Here are a few ways that we practice self-care on a regular basis.
Mindfulness is a valuable tool in recovering from addiction or mental health disorders. Whether you’re coming off benzodiazepines or coming out the other side of a depressive episode, you can bring awareness to what is going on in your experience. Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg says, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.” If we can remind ourselves to be present, we can see what is happening for us right now. Part of this is being mindful of our own needs. If you need more sleep, take a nap. If you are hungry, eat. Sometimes we don’t know what is causing us to feel uneasy, and we just feel crappy. Try really tuning in and seeing what your needs are and what’s going on. One thing we do is set reminders on our cell phone that say simple things like “Take a few mindful breaths” or “Pause and be present.”
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.”
Many recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Refuge Recovery have inventory-taking processes, but we don’t necessarily need to stop there. Sometimes we don’t have time to sit down and do a written inventory, and sometimes we need to do an inventory in a different manner. Try taking a few moments to really check in and take inventory of what’s going on with you. Are you discontented in some way? Is there anger or anxiety present? Perhaps you feel great! Inventories don’t have to be all negative! We can tune into the joys and excitement as well. You may try pausing during your day to check in, or make a routine out of taking a brief inventory before going to sleep.
In recovery, we often try to rush things. We want to feel better, to get the new job, to find the right person to spend time with, etc. And we want it yesterday. A great way to practice self-care is to really make patience a priority. See when you’re leaning into the future and getting away from being where you are. You don’t need to have it all or have it all figured out right now. We all make mistakes, take detours, and don’t meet our goals each and every time. Allow yourself room to grow!
This is one of the best ways we can care for ourselves in our everyday lives. We have the opportunity in every moment to cultivate honesty. We can be honest with ourselves, recognizing where we have caused harm, what we need for ourselves, and how we are feeling. We can also be honest with others. Perhaps it’s with a friend or a loved one, a therapist, a sponsor or mentor, or somebody at a meeting. By practicing honesty, we build esteem. I had a sponsor that often told me that we are as sick as our secrets, and I’ve found this to be true. When we have nothing to hide, we feel more open and free. Being honest with ourselves and others is truly a powerful act of self-care.
For most of us, we didn’t take great care of our bodies in our using. Even if we worked out or tried to eat healthy, we were ingesting drugs or alcohol! Getting sober is a wonderful opportunity to build a new relationship with our bodies. Take care of yourself physically by eating right, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. When we take care of ourselves in this way, it helps us focus, we feel stronger mentally, and builds esteem. We don’t need to obsess about our bodies in order to take care. For some, taking care of the physical body may mean specifically NOT worrying too much about it. For others, it may mean giving the physical body MORE thought. Everyone is different, and we should seek to find a healthy and balanced relationship with our bodies.
Humans are naturally social creatures. Some of us enjoy the company of others more than others, but it is generally a good thing to engage with other people. Take care of yourself by spending some time with healthy people in your life. This is up to you to investigate for yourself, but you may find that spending time with some friends, family, or members of a support group is helpful. Again, it’s not for anyone else to decide who you spend your time with or who is healthy for you. As we stay sober longer, we gain some clarity. We see which relationships are helping us and which are causing us pain. Take care of yourself by engaging with those that encourage you to grow and be healthy.
This may seem hypocritical given the last suggestion, but it’s all about balance! Even if you identify as an “extrovert” and enjoy spending your time in social situations, you still may benefit from taking some time for yourself. You don’t need to necessarily spend your alone time meditating or stuck in your own head. Read a book, take a bath, watch some television, or go for a walk. I like to think that we can spend time WITH ourselves rather than time BY ourselves. Be with yourself and just allow your needs and experience to be present. Caring for ourselves sometimes means just being alone!
Spend time WITH yourself rather than BY yourself.
If you can see that something is working for you, continue doing it! This may seem rather obvious to mention, but it’s a wonderful way to practice self-care. If your life is working and you are feeling a sense of ease and happiness, keep up what you’re doing. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. We sometimes stop doing things that have helped us because we begin to feel better. Practice self-care in your life by recognizing things that help you and continuing with them. For example, I have a calendar with my tasks for the day that need to be done. This helps me stay on track and I feel less stressed when I know what I need to do and can mark things off my list. It may not be right for everyone, but I know it works for me. If you find something that is helping you, care for yourself by actually doing it!
Again, another suggest that may seem hypocritical given the suggestion immediately above it. Again, it’s about balance! You can find the things that are working for you and continue doing them while challenging yourself to try new things. Sometimes, we get caught in fixed views about what makes us happy or what we should be doing. Practice self-care by challenging yourself in some way. This could come in the form of picking up a new hobby, building new skills, or practicing a new self-care activity. Try taking up yoga, learning meditation, swimming, walking, or a service opportunity. Maybe you need to take it the other way, and challenge yourself to relax more! Remember that everyone is different. What’s challenging to me may not be challenging to you.
This post comes to us from Changing Tides Treatment, a holistic rehab facility in Southern California. Offering activities, meditation, nutritional counseling, and more, Changing Tides excels in offering their clients a full spectrum of care. Visit them at www.ChangingTidesAddictionTreatment.com.