This month, L.A. CADA is looking at coping with stress during recovery from addiction. Let’s talk about self-care. Without it, you can’t properly care for others and you can’t fully protect your own sobriety.
The World Health Organization defines self-care 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 healthcare provider”. Sounds kind of clinical, but self-care is really pretty simple. It’s the necessary things we should do that are good for our physical, emotional, or psychological well-being.
Self-care means different things to different people. For someone in customer service, self-care may mean some much needed “alone time”. For a person who works from home, it could mean being around other people. Think of it like recharging your battery. Acts of self-care can reduce anxiety, improve our mood, and they are a great way to reconnect with ourselves. Above all, it’s about giving yourself permission to put yourself first.
For addicts, putting ourselves first is challenging because in the past we’ve prioritized drugs and alcohol over everything else. Active addiction is a form of self-abuse. It creates negative coping mechanisms for the stresses and challenges of everyday life, resulting in self-harm. In recovery, we become mindful of living up to our responsibilities, such as caring for family members. We also learn that self-care is needed to rewire our coping mechanisms in healthy ways that are kind to our minds and bodies. Taking the time to prioritize and care for ourself is a way to practice love and create better self- worth, self-esteem, and mental wellbeing. So, how do we do self-care?
- Take time for daily self-reflection. Consider asking yourself: How am I feeling today? Have I learned anything about myself today? What am I grateful for today? Which actions did I take to strengthen my recovery today? Did I learn any new triggers today?
- Set boundaries. Learning to set boundaries is a key part of protecting our sobriety – one of the most important acts of self-care you can practice. Boundaries come in many forms: some are physical, like leaving a situation that risks your sobriety, and some are mental or emotional, such as telling someone when something doesn’t feel right.
- Practice Mindfulness. Much of our life is run on auto-pilot and thinking about our to-do list for the day. By always living in the future and worrying about our next task, we never live in the “now”. That’s where mindfulness comes in. It means being in the present moment, fully aware of where we are and what we’re doing. In other words, not being distracted by what’s next or what’s happening around us.
- Do something for you every day. Take an action that promotes your physical, emotional, and/or or psychological well-being. Maybe that’s enjoying a mindful cup of coffee in a peaceful place. Or washing away the stress of the day with a shower. Or it could including processing daily events by writing in our journal. Once we practice self-care on a consistent basis, it will come easier every day.