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Recovery from addiction is often described as a path with hills and valleys. When a person goes through a valley, they are more vulnerable to stressors or environmental cues. Self-care practices serve as an anchor to prevent relapse and promote maximum life satisfaction. This article will discuss the importance of being a caregiver to oneself and provide examples of what this might look like.

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care is an important subject in the arena of addiction recovery, and specifically, relapse prevention. Self-care is a personalized practice that contributes to a healthy way of being in the world. A person who consistently tends to their basic needs can identify when it’s time to take action or rest. As such, self-care is not a standardized method. What someone incorporates into their daily routine depends on their unique needs. These needs can shift over time as they gain strength in recovery. 

What Function Does This Practice Serve?

Addictive substances are effective at consuming a person’s life. Before treatment, you may have dedicated the majority of your day to overconsuming alcohol. Taking care of basic needs is not a priority when addiction takes over. Some typical signs of addiction include: 

  • Altered sleep routine like barely sleeping or sleeping at strange hours
  • New eating patterns, such as eating very little or only eating junk food
  • Poor body and dental hygiene like infrequently changing clothes or brushing teeth
  • Dropping essential behaviors, such as not exercising, spending time with family, or dedicating time to spiritual practice

Self-care is a way to provide yourself with simple yet effective tools that protect against relapse. Additionally, self-care provides a strong foundation to build a healthy, happy life. 

Being Kind to Yourself Is Not Selfish

When a person puts their own needs before others, it can be viewed as selfish. This depends on the context, and it is important to find a balance between serving oneself and helping others. Generally speaking, no guilt should be attached to putting one’s needs first. At their core, basic needs are necessary for a person to function well. If a person cannot do so, they can’t help others, let alone themselves. 

Self-care is not selfish, nor is it a privilege. It’s selfless, and it’s a necessity. Anything less could arguably be considered neglect. In addiction recovery, losing touch with oneself in this way is an indication of emotional relapse.

How Can Self-Care Be Practiced? 

Since people have different needs at various times, there are many ways to practice self-care. The following are some questions a person can ask themselves to start developing their self-care plan:

  • What activities give you energy?  
  • How do you want to live your life?
  • Which values are important to you? 
  • Which activities ground or relax you?
  • What are your short and long-term goals?
  • What role do spirituality and a higher purpose play?
  • Are there any tools that help you stay organized or motivated? 
  • Are you attending therapy or going to support group meetings?
  • Have you established an exercise routine or a gym membership?
  • Are there any thoughts, behaviors, situations, or people that are not worth your time? 
  • Are your family and friends involved in your recovery? Do they understand your needs?

Managing Stressors: HALT

A simple example of how addressing basic needs can prevent relapse is H.A.L.T. Do you check in with yourself regularly to ensure you’re not hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? These stressors may seem elementary, but they can make or break sobriety. Addressing them as they occur is a classical focus in relapse prevention programs.

  • Hungry: Substance abuse is associated with poor nutrition, deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, and dehydration. In turn, a person’s mental health can be affected. 
  • Anger: When someone struggles with uncontrollable anger, they may return to old habits to calm down. 
  • Loneliness: This is perhaps one of the most painful human emotions. Humans are highly social creatures and need supportive, loving relationships. An individual can become depressed without a strong network.  
  • Tired: Poor sleep can throw a person’s entire sense of well-being off. Their mood, perception, and metabolism will be disrupted, putting them in a vulnerable situation.

What Are Some Self-Care Practices?  

Self-care is whatever makes you feel like you are stable and making progress towards your goals. A person can start taking care of themselves in simple ways. This can be done cognitively or through physical activities. 

Some practical applications of self-care include:  

  • Sitting in nature 
  • Playing with pets 
  • Exercising daily 
  • Reflecting on goals
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Taking a relaxing bath
  • Creating art or music 
  • Scheduling fun activities 
  • Planning the coming weeks
  • Getting a clean shave or haircut 
  • Participating in an alumni event
  • Limiting social outings when needed

Human beings have many needs, whether they be social, physical, or emotional in nature. Coming up short in one of these areas can impede recovery, particularly when an individual is recovering from addiction. Substances cause a person to sabotage their own well-being, partly through the loss of connection to one’s needs. Relearning how to care for oneself is a critical component of relapse prevention. West Coast Recovery Centers is a nationally accredited drug, alcohol, and behavioral health rehabilitation center in Oceanside, California. We treat adults who are struggling to find their way out of addiction. Relapse is a common occurrence in early recovery. For this reason, we have a relapse prevention program that guides clients in developing their own self-care plans and practical skills. Recovery can be sustained with proper help. Set yourself free from addiction by calling (760) 492-6509 today.

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