5 Ways to Practice Self-Care in Recovery

By Beth Leipholtz 01/09/18

When using a substance is the priority, you forget to do the things that keep you feeling healthy and before you know it, your health has deteriorated.

happy woman with arms raised at sunset
Few things are more important in recovery than making time to take care of yourself physically and mentally.

Taking care of yourself may sound like an easy and rather mindless task, but the reality is that it’s something many people struggle with, especially in active addiction. When drinking or using drugs, it’s easy to let your health—mental and physical—fall to the wayside. When using a substance is the priority, you forget to do the things that keep you feeling healthy and before you know it, your health has deteriorated.

So there’s no question that upon getting sober, it can be difficult to figure out how to get back into the habit of caring for yourself. It's a learning process which will take time and patience. While it may be frustrating to feel mentally fragile or physically out of shape, there is always a way back to the place you want to be. It takes starting small and gradually building onto your self-care routine to get to that point.

Here are a few simple ways to start making self-care a priority in your recovery:

  1. Write about the way you are feeling. This may sound like a simple task that isn’t likely to solve anything, but there is something truly therapeutic about writing. Being able to sit down and just spill your heart out without fear of judgment allows you to say what you really feel and acknowledge those feelings. You may find that through writing, you learn where your struggles and emotions are rooted, which makes you more capable of taking the next steps. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are good with words. Just sit down with a pen or a computer and start expressing whatever comes naturally without editing or thinking about how it sounds. No one besides you has to read what you write. In many ways, I credit my continued sobriety to the fact that I’ve written about it since the beginning. It allows me to go back and revisit how I used to feel in comparison to how I feel now and often reminds me of how far I have come.
  1. Take time to be alone. It can be comforting to always surround yourself with people, but doing so isn’t realistic. There are going to be times in your life when you need to be alone and be OK with only your own company. Early in recovery, this can be a scary idea. Being alone means having more time for your thoughts to take over and consume you. But learning to be alone is something that you will eventually come to value. There is something mentally freeing about knowing that you can spend time on your own and come away feeling at ease.
  1. Give technology a rest. Social media is so integrated into our lives today that we don’t realize just how draining it can be. It’s important to remember that no one is forcing you to be part of it. About a month ago, I took a week-long Facebook break. I thought it was going to be incredibly difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised by how at ease my mind felt without worrying about notifications and scrolling through my newsfeed. I was able to redirect that energy elsewhere, to move productive things. Sometimes our minds become overstimulated with what is going on in the lives of everyone else and how ours measures up. At those times, just do yourself a favor and step away for a while. Your mind will thank you.
  1. Make sure to move and fuel your body. I can’t say enough about the importance of exercise. As much as writing has kept me sober, so has moving. I’ve found that the days you least feel like getting up and being active are the days you need it most. While working out is definitely good for your physical health in obvious ways, it is also beneficial to your mental health. A long walk or an intense weight session allows you to get out of your own head and focus only on the task at hand. You’ll likely find that after working out, whatever was weighing heavily on your mind feels just a little lighter. Working out also releases endorphins, which causes a pleasant feeling in the body and brain which in turn reduces stress. What you put into your body also plays a huge role in how you feel physically and mentally. Certain foods will make you feel sluggish and lazy, while others will give you boosts of energy and give your body the fuel it needs to carry you through the day.
  1. Connect with other people. When people struggle they sometimes isolate themselves, which can make it even more difficult to get back to a healthy and happy state of mind. While you may think that talking to other people sounds draining or unenjoyable, the reality is that it's helpful to know you are not alone. This may mean reaching out to a peer who has also struggled with getting sober, or seeking professional help. There is no shame in making an appointment with a therapist to talk through how you are feeling and why. Sometimes an outside perspective can be just what you need to jumpstart taking better care of yourself. You may have known what you needed all along, but hearing it from another person can make it more real.

Of course, there are many more ways to prioritize self-care. What works for one person may not necessarily work for you in the same way. The important thing is that you are taking the time to try things that may benefit your mental and physical health. If you find that they do, stick with those things and make them part of your daily or weekly routine. By doing so, you’ll find that you feel better mentally and physically, which can carry over into all aspects of your recovery.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.