Most of us are taught throughout our lives that giving is more important than receiving. We are expected to treat others with compassion, empathy, and kindness. While this is indeed very important for leading a happy and healthy life, it’s just as important to hold ourselves to the same standard. This means being kind to ourselves through acts of self-care. Yet, it seems that treating others well comes more naturally than taking care of ourselves. When it comes to practicing self-care, it can often feel unnatural or even selfish— especially during recovery.
What Is Self-Care?
Practicing self-care is precisely what it sounds like: taking care of yourself. It can mean anything from meeting your best friend for coffee to taking a warm bubble bath after a long day of hard work. In any case, the point of self-care is to improve all aspects of your life— including physical, mental, and emotional health— by finding effective ways to combat stress.
Do Not Confuse Self-Care for Selfishness
Many people today seem to misunderstand what it self-care means. Most people might mislabel the act of caring for yourself as being self-centered, but it should not be. On the contrary, practicing self-care means making a routine out of necessary, healthy changes to your lifestyle. This can include getting enough sleep every night, eating clean, and doing more of the things in life that bring you joy. None of these are inherently selfish actions, and they improve your sense of self-worth and self-love.
If anything, self-care is the opposite of selfishness. According to Dr. Christopher Germer, a renowned psychotherapist who specializes in mindfulness and the behavioral science behind compassion, “self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” He and other psychotherapy specialists agree that there is a notable link between self-care and care toward others. In other words, practicing self-care gives you a deeper understanding of how to care for others as well— and that is not selfish.
What Makes Self-Care Essential in Early Recovery?
Self-care is critical in early recovery because that’s when you’ll experience the most stress, discomfort, and cravings. Additionally, you’ll most likely be exposed to the most triggers during the early stages of recovery. Without self-care, those challenges can potentially put you at a higher risk of relapsing. This is the main reason why self-care is so essential to recovery.
Another benefit of self-care in recovery is confidence-building. When you first become sober, you might feel a little out of touch with yourself. After spending so much time in such a dark place, it’s normal to experience unpleasant feelings like guilt or shame. However, holding onto these feelings will only hinder your recovery. Practicing self-care will help you rebuild your self-esteem and self-image.
Practicing self-care in early recovery might be challenging at first, but ultimately, it will strengthen both your sobriety and long-term health. It also improves your quality of life, which is probably the most crucial part of the recovery process.
Building a Self-Care Regimen in Early Recovery
It’s important to note that self-care is different for everyone. No two people have the same needs for recovery. So, you should create a self-care regimen that works for what you specifically need out of the recovery process. These are some of the most effective and beneficial methods of self-care:
Getting a healthy amount of sleep is one of the greatest things you can do for your physical wellbeing. Adequate rest is necessary every day because it allows your body to rejuvenate and heal itself. During sleep, your body works extra hard to ensure that you are as healthy as possible. In fact, various studies have determined that regular sleeping patterns can contribute to:
- Improved mood
- Stronger immunity
- Fewer aches and pains
- Enhanced cognitive function
- Faster metabolism (i.e., potential weight loss)
Keeping a routine sleep schedule can be challenging— especially on weekend days when you might be more inclined to stay up late to socialize with others— but it’s crucial to your recovery. So, try to get at least eight hours of sleep at around the same time every night.
Getting enough exercise every day has many of the same benefits as getting enough sleep. When you exercise, your body releases “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins, which serve as one of the best natural methods of stress relief. Regular exercise can also help with chronic pain management.
Exercising doesn’t have to be tedious or time-consuming. It can include anything from daily walks in the park to surfing at the beach. The most important thing about getting exercise in recovery is making it fun for yourself.
More Healthy Foods
All too often, people in recovery turn to high-sugar and high-fat junk foods for comfort. Unhealthy foods may not be very harmful in the short-term, but they can contribute to numerous health complications if you indulge too frequently. This is why starting a healthy diet is one of the most highly-recommended forms of self-care in recovery. Not only will eating clean help you feel better physically, but it will also prevent you from forming other (non-addictive) bad habits that could potentially cause harm in the long run.
More One-on-One Time with a Professional
Therapy is one of the most utilized services for people in recovery, and with good reason. Most people who develop addictions do it in response to something, whether it’s a genetic predisposition passed down from parents or a coping mechanism for stress or trauma. In any case, addiction treatment professionals are some of the best people to have as part of your recovery team— even after being discharged from inpatient treatment. Regular visits with a therapist or counselor can help you better maintain your psychological health, especially in the early stages of recovery.
One method of self-care that is particularly underrated is journal-keeping. Writing in a journal, diary, or gratitude book can be very therapeutic because it offers an unfiltered, honest method of “sharing” your thoughts and feelings without fear of being judged. Journal entry can also help you discover the root of some of your struggles in early recovery. By getting your thoughts on paper, you can review them in depth and determine what your next steps should be. You don’t have to share your entries with anyone, but if you’re comfortable, you could share some with your therapist for additional guidance.
More Time to Yourself
During the recovery process, it’s important to socialize with people who support you and your lifestyle changes. Still, you’re not required to spend every waking moment with your friends or support group. Taking time to yourself is just as important. With so many changes happening for you in the early stages of addiction recovery, spending some time alone is a form of self-care that can keep you grounded as you continue to make progress. Doing things you enjoy by yourself, like hobbies, can be a freeing experience that gives you peace of mind.
Relaxation is essential to recovery. This form of self-care combats stress, which is one of the most common relapse triggers in recovery, especially during the early stages. It’s not always easy to relax, but there are countless things you can do to help you reach and maintain a peaceful state of mind. This might include:
- Listening to music
- Cooking or baking
- Reading a book
- Creating art
- Doing yoga
More of What You Love
Doing things that bring you joy is an invaluable method of self-care that everyone should do more often. Making time for the things you love to do can be challenging, but it’s more than worth it. By creating a kind of “to-do” list of fun activities and referencing it every day, you can build your routine to include your favorite hobbies.
Most people tend to give so much love to others that they hardly have any left for themselves. Although the concept of self-love may seem simple, it’s not always so easy in execution, especially in early recovery.
When you first become sober, you might feel a little out of touch with yourself. After spending so much time in such a dark place, it’s normal to experience unpleasant feelings like guilt or shame. However, holding onto these feelings will only hinder your recovery. Practicing self-care through self-affirmation as you make progress will help you rebuild your self-esteem and self-image.
More Balance in Your Life
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be particularly religious to be spiritual. Having a sense of spirituality means sharing a relationship with non-physical things like morals, feelings, and the human spirit. Spirituality can build a sense of connectedness with others and reduce any feelings of loneliness. Still, be sure to avoid relying too much on one aspect of your life for spiritual fulfillment.
In early recovery, you might be tempted to focus all your attention on one particular part of your sober life. This could be your job, your best friend, your significant other, or even your recovery itself. However, without finding the right balance of all aspects of your life, some parts of it could be neglected or forgotten. This could prove detrimental to your spiritual health in the long run.
More Bonding with Your Higher Power
Many people of faith lose their connection to their higher power during active addiction because all their attention goes into their substance of abuse. In a way, addiction breeds worship for drugs and alcohol. At one point, your addiction might have even been your God.
Whether you are religious or not, one of the best methods of spiritual self-care is to rebuild that lost connection with whatever you consider your higher power. You can do this is by giving back to your community and showing gratitude for the progress you’ve made in your recovery so far. Attending church, volunteering, or just spending time with others who share your views and passions are just some of several ways to do this.
More Support from Others
One of the best ways to take care of yourself is to allow others to take care of you when it’s needed. Your support group should consist of friends, family, and peers who are all rooting for you to live your best life. Accepting comfort, love, and help from these people in your life is a cornerstone of the recovery process. So, to practice social self-care, you must allow others to take care of you the way you take care of them.
More Healthy Boundaries
The purpose of self-care is to protect yourself and your hard-earned sobriety. Practicing self-care by setting boundaries is essential in recovery for a variety of reasons, but the most important is relapse prevention. You have to be clear about what you expect from the people you regularly see, like coworkers and friends. Letting others know what you need and expect from them will prevent uncomfortable situations that could potentially trigger a relapse.
Practicing Self-Care with Help from TTC Outpatient Services
While it is true that the best addiction rehab facilities offer aftercare services once patients complete treatment, individuals in recovery are still ultimately responsible for their sobriety and the choices they make that affect it. Having support from others is essential, but you should also take the time to do things that will ultimately improve your health and quality of life. Once you find methods of self-care that work for you, make them part of your routine so their benefits can positively impact your recovery. At The Treatment Center’s Outpatient Services, our team of professionals and support staff will equip you with everything you need for your post-inpatient recovery. For more information about our outpatient programs, please call us at (844) 665-6834.