April is Stress Awareness Month, which means it’s the perfect time to check in with yourself and refresh your self-care routine. Many of us struggle to put ourselves first, especially when it comes to our health and feelings. Maybe you don’t think you need to modify your routine, or it seems like the concept of self-care is extravagant and unnecessary.

Contrary to what social media would have you believe, self-care is about more than face masks and bubble baths. It also includes “the boring stuff” – making time to pay your bills, going to the grocery store regularly, and cleaning your home are all important aspects of your personal wellbeing. Below, we’ve explored the role of stress in addiction and outlined three key pillars of self-care: physical, mental, and spiritual.

Stress: A Major Factor in Drug & Alcohol Abuse

Studies show that stress is a key risk factor in drug abuse. It contributes to every part of the process; the chronic stress of day-to-day life causes many people to turn to drugs and alcohol. As obligations pile up, tolerances develop, and work/life balance crumbles, one’s dependence on a substance increases. Stress even contributes to higher rates of relapse after treatment. Substance use disorders are a prime example of a destructive way to cope with pressure and tension. This is why it’s incredibly important to replace that coping mechanism with new, healthy habits of self-care. Read on for some suggestions about how to destress and thrive in sobriety.

Physical Self-Care: Diet, Fitness, and Hygiene

It’s hard to feel good if you aren’t taking care of your body. A complete diet based on proper nutritional guidelines can completely transform your day-to-day life, giving you more energy and a sunnier outlook overall. Cook new recipes that inspire you, grow your own produce, or eat at a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Small changes like this can create a ritual around mealtimes, and may make you more excited to do something that can feel like a chore.

Exercise is another easily forgotten component of our routine. Many people think that they have to spend hours a week in the gym, but that’s not everyone’s favorite way to cultivate fitness. Find a physical activity that you look forward to: it can be a brisk walk around the neighborhood, participation in group fitness classes, or a hike down a favorite trail. If possible, include some of your sober support network in these outings – not only will you hold each other accountable, but you’ll build community as well.

Hygiene is something that’s taken for granted by many people, but it’s worthwhile to remind yourself of its importance to your physical health. This is one of the first things that falls by the wayside when someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, and it can be difficult to make yourself prioritize it again. You can approach this in a few different ways. Run a bath or hot shower, even when you feel too tired to get out of bed. Take small steps to prevent big messes from piling up around the house. If something takes less than five minutes, try doing it right then – tidy up as you cook, straighten the room where you’re watching TV during commercials, or wipe down the sink after you brush your teeth. Do a personal inventory and confirm that you’re stocked up on hygiene items – toothpaste, nail clippers, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are easy to forget when you’re at the store, so be sure they’re on your list before you leave the house.

These items are the foundation for your physical self-care routine; once you’ve prioritized them, you can start adding in fun extras, like the aforementioned bath bombs or scented candles.

Mental Health

Your mental health is another key cornerstone of your wellbeing. Pay attention to your emotions and thoughts, and practice good mental habits. For example, try to avoid feelings of guilt or obsession over past actions. When you let yourself notice your feelings – without judging them or letting them rule you – you’ll feel more in control. This decreases your stress levels and lets you choose the best course of action moving forward.

Many of us have gone through treatment while also battling co-occurring disorders, which can present additional challenges to your mental health. Be sure you’re keeping tabs on any depressive episodes, feelings of anxiety, or other concerns, and bring them to a therapist or doctor when appropriate.

You can also care for yourself proactively by keeping yourself mentally stimulated – avoid falling into a rut or shutting out new experiences. Pick up a new book or pursue a hobby you’ve been meaning to try, especially if it’s a creative outlet you can use to express yourself.

Tending to Your Spiritual Self

The final aspect of self-care we’ll outline here is how to tend to your spiritual self. Beyond mental stimulation or physical health, this third, more abstract factor can have some of the biggest impact on your life satisfaction.

Try to surround yourself with people that are good for your soul – someone who pushes you to be better or sparks great conversation, rather than a person who brings you down or challenges your sobriety. Building a solid sober support network can make a huge difference in your life, and it’s never something you’ll regret.

Similarly, seek out activities that bring you joy and spiritual fulfillment. For some people, this means spending time in nature or at church, while others prefer setting time aside to meditate or journal.  

Regardless of which option you choose, we encourage you to check in with yourself frequently. In the same way that routinely tidying can prevent big messes from piling up, consistent introspection helps catch potential issues before they spiral into larger problems. When you get a gut feeling that something’s off, you can start taking steps to address it: attend a meeting, call a trusted friend or family member, or reach out to your sponsor for support. Keeping tabs on your internal life – and caring for your spiritual side regularly – lets you clear any mental cobwebs and sidestep potentially devastating setbacks in your sobriety.

Self-Care Tips

Below are a few of our favorite, often-overlooked aspects of self-care. Build on this list to create something unique to your recovery and lifestyle.

  1. Rest, rest, rest! Be sure you’re getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Doing this increases your concentration, sparks creativity, and sharpens your decision-making ability. A lack of sleep results in higher instances of mood disorders, heart disease, weight gain, sickness, and much higher stress levels overall. So turn off those cell phones and TVs, create a regular bedtime routine, and let yourself rest.
  2. Schedule doctor’s appointments. Put your wellness front-of-mind by making regular visits to your general practitioner, as well as any specialists you need to keep up with.
  3. Talk about how you’re feeling. Confide in trusted friends and family when you’re going through difficult times, or share at meetings when you need a little extra support.
  4. Reward yourself in recovery. Sobriety is a lifelong commitment; one that doesn’t come easily. Celebrate yourself and how far you’ve come! As you meet milestones or conquer potential triggers, do something nice for yourself: schedule a massage, pick up a good book, or write out a list of your accomplishments to reflect on.
  5. Use positive language and self-talk. Don’t put yourself down or start to spiral when difficulties pop up. Shift your inner dialogue and speak to yourself as you would a dear friend – this empowers you to overcome challenges and remain optimistic about your future.

Effective, Affordable Treatment for All

Wherever you are in your recovery journey, Lakeside-Milam is ready to walk with you. We offer residential, outpatient, and extended care treatment for adults of all ages. Call us at 800.231.4303 or email help@lakesidemilam.com to get in touch with our dedicated team, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.