It’s no secret that Americans today are struggling with their mental health. Research shows that about 20% of Americans have some form of mental illness, and the numbers are only increasing each year1. Individuals with a substance use disorder are particularly at risk for mental health issues, as many people who struggle with addiction also struggle with their mental health2.
Emotional and mental health are just as important as physical health — especially when you’re trying to recover from a drug or alcohol addiction. This Mental Health Awareness Month, we want to encourage you to focus on your mental health needs, in addition to addiction treatment. Here are a few tips for your mental health.
The Importance of Being Intentional with Mental Health
When most people hear the term self-care, they think of indulgences like bubble baths or expensive “retail therapy.” However, self-care encompasses much more than that. According to the World Health Organization, self-care is “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”3.
Self-care can encompass a wide range of activities. From advocating for yourself with your doctor to taking time to calm your nervous system (including with an occasional bubble bath). Most importantly, self-care has a very real impact; a study of U.S. medical students found that those who practiced regular self-care were less stressed and enjoyed a higher quality of life4.
This is why we encourage everyone to use self-care to foster their mental health. When you take a little time for yourself, your life becomes just a little better — and when you’re in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, a calm and contented mental state can make the recovery process a little easier.
10 Self Care Tips for Your Mental Health
1. Move your Body
Fitness is a great way to relieve stress, increase endorphins, and generally improve your health (both physical and mental). It’s also an excellent habit for people in recovery, as exercise activates the same reward pathways in your brain as drugs or alcohol.
Of course, you don’t have to run marathons or start Crossfit to practice self-care. A simple walk around the block or stretches before bed can help you develop a fitness routine that benefits your body and mind without overdoing it.
2. Make Sleep a Priority
When someone is going through rehab and recovery, sleep can often feel elusive. Insomnia is a common side effect of withdrawal, and too often, people in recovery stay up late looking for distractions to keep their minds off their substance of choice.
Do your best to ignore these impulses and get some sleep! Rest is incredibly restorative for our minds and vital to our mental health. This suggestion is an excellent mental health tip for college students, folks in recovery, and anyone else who regularly burns the midnight oil.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Many mental health professionals advocate mindfulness as a key to relieving stress and promoting emotional wellness. But what exactly is “mindfulness?” Simply put, this practice helps you focus on the present moment by encouraging you to pay special attention to your bodily sensations and the stimuli around you.
Practicing mindfulness is particularly useful for people in recovery, as it asks you to pay extra attention to how your body responds to different experiences. This helps you better identify your substance use triggers, which can help you protect your sobriety more effectively in the future.
4. Keep a Journal
Another great tip for your mental health is regularly writing in a journal. While mindfulness helps you identify your feelings in the present moment, journaling can help you process emotions and events after the fact. This can give you greater insight into why you feel a certain way about a person or event.
Research shows that people who journal enjoy less anxiety and mental distress — and that is something anyone in recovery could use5!
5. Build Connections
Humans are social creatures. We crave connection with one another. This is why our relationships with our friends, family member and loved ones are vital for our mental health! Try to foster relationships with people who care about you and your sobriety.
We do recognize that it was challenging to follow this tip for mental health during COVID. Lockdowns and social distancing left many of us feeling disconnected from the people we love and made it almost impossible to connect with anyone new. Remember to heed local COVID guidelines as you build connections with others so that everyone can be safe AND happy.
6. Set Boundaries
While humans are social creatures, sometimes we need to establish boundaries with the people in our lives. Setting boundaries is particularly important for people in recovery! After drug or alcohol addiction treatment, you may not be ready to associate with people from your “old life.” It may be too tempting to be around people still using substances, which means you need to set boundaries.
7. Spend Time in Nature
Want to reduce stress levels and improve your mental health? Explore the great outdoors! The American Psychological Association reports that spending time in nature can be instrumental for our mental health, helping lower stress levels and improve our ability to pay attention6.
Hiking is a great way to commune with nature and get some exercise (another self-care tip for your mental health). However, if you’re not up for something that strenuous, just visit a local park. You can still enjoy the benefits of nature right in your town.
8. Engage in (Safe) Activities You Love
If there’s one tip for mental health we’ve all heard before, it’s probably this: “get a hobby!” Believe it or not, this advice is quite useful. Hobbies and other engaging activities keep our brains healthy and activate our reward center, giving us that much-needed dopamine.
Of course, looking for hobbies that still protect your sobriety is important. It’s best to look for activities you can do in a safe and substance-free environment.
9. Turn Off Your Phone
These days, many of us are glued to our smartphones. Turning off your phone is a great way to connect with others and stay updated on the news, but it can also be detrimental to our mental health.
Research shows excessive cell phone use (particularly on social media) can increase negative feelings and anxiety levels7. For this reason, sometimes the best thing you can do for your mental health is take a break from your phone! Just let your loved ones know before shutting off your phone so they don’t worry about you.
10. Ask for Support
Finally, let’s discuss the most important tip for your mental health: ask for help when you need it! Countless people want to support you, from your friends and family members to addiction specialists at rehab centers. If you need support with your mental health or addiction issues, there’s always someone who can help — and Better Addiction Care wants to be there for you.
Whether you’re looking for a California drug rehab, a sober living house in South Carolina, or anything in between, Better Addiction Care can help you find the right program for your recovery needs. Call us today at (800) 429-7690.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2022, January). Mental Illness. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, April). The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness. NIH. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness
- World Health Orgaization. (2021, July 13). WHO Guideline on self-care interventions for health and well-being. WHO. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240030909
- Ayala, E. et al. (2018, August 6). “U.S. medical students who engage in self-care report less stress and higher quality of life.”BMC Medical Education. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6080382/
- Smyth, J., PhD. (2018, December 18). “Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial.” JMIR Mental Health. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6305886/
- Weir, K. (2020, April 1). “Nurtured by nature.” American Psychological Association. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature
- Shoukat, S. (2019, February 4). “Cell phone addiction and psychological and physiological health in adolescents.” EXCLI Journal. Retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6449671/