Self-Care: What It Is, Why You Need It, and How to Use It to Improve Your Recovery

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Staying sober for the long-term is a task that is accomplished by putting together a ton of little pieces every day. That is, every small decision you make, even if it seems insignificant, can really help you to stay sober.

Self-care encompasses a number of those little decisions, often the kinds of decisions that you do not even think about. In fact, you are likely doing most of these already and, in so doing, improving your ability to stay sober.

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care includes all the choices you make to lower your stress, improve your overall health, and increase your energy levels throughout the day. Engaging in self-care means to prioritize your emotional and physical needs so you have the time and energy to do all the things you want to accomplish in life. Doing so means to strive for a sense of balance in all things, and finding ways to give yourself a break and improve your ability to live and work more effectively in relation to others.

Self-Care: What It Is, Why You Need It, and How to Use It to Improve Your Recovery

Why Self-Care Is Important?

When little attention is paid to self-care, you are more likely to feel stressed out, tired, irritable, and uninterested in doing much of anything – spending time with friends, working, or engaging in hobbies or recovery-related therapies. When you do show up to things, you may not give them your full attention and energy. When it comes to recovery, that can mean that you are not getting all you need out of the experience to help you keep moving and progressing.

Too often, this can lead to stagnation in recovery and a sense that things just aren’t working the way they should. When a stressor arises, it can mean that suddenly drinking or using drugs seems like the only response because there is little energy or desire to engage in healthier coping mechanisms.

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How to Incorporate Self-Care into Your Recovery

The good news is that no self-care options are difficult to do, and for many, once they start, they begin to crave those choices and they become habit. Here are just a few ways you can begin to prioritize self-care in your day and improve your ability to avoid relapse:

  • Get good sleep. What could be easier? All you need to do is make sure you are getting enough hours of sleep each night, allowing you to experience full cycles of sleep that include REM and deep sleep, and that you are going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This allows your body to get into a rhythm that helps you to feel tired at bedtime and ready to go when you wake up, improving your energy throughout the day.
  • Drink lots of water. Feeling dehydrated – especially during the summer months when it may literally be hot enough to bake cookies on your car dashboard – can zap your energy, kill your mood, and make you crave alcohol. Plus, if you have medical issues, dehydration can make symptoms even worse and potentially trigger a medical emergency. Make sure you are getting enough water throughout the day, and watch how your sense of mental and emotional balance improves.
  • Eat more fresh, local produce. Summer is a great time to get lots of fresh berries and vegetables, so make sure you are getting to your local farmers markets to get the freshest versions possible. The fresher they are, the more nutrients they have. The wider the range of nutrients ingested through food (making them more available to your body for use), the more efficiently your body will be able to repair itself and keep you healthy.
  • Give yourself some downtime. While it is absolutely imperative that you commit to a schedule that prioritizes your mental health treatment appointments, your 12-Step meetings and support groups, family therapy sessions as well as personal therapy, and any holistic treatment options you have found to be helpful, you also need some time to just relax. Whether you do that by going for a run, drinking coffee with friends, or binge watching your favorite guilty pleasure TV show, it is important that you give yourself a break from running from one thing to the next so you can refresh and rejuvenate.

With so many great self-care options to choose from, which ones will you work on incorporating into your weekly schedule in order to get the most out of recovery?