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Self-care means performing actions that take care of your physical and mental health. It starts when you get up in the morning. Do you stretch? Do you lay in bed for a while, allowing yourself to adjust to being awake? Do you brush your teeth as soon as you get up? These small acts are part of your wake-up routine and forecast how your day will progress. Having a set of simple acts of self-care — even just one or two — can boost your day in a way that sets you up for success. This is great news because self-care plays a powerful role in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. 

This article will look at different types of self-care, ways to bring self-care into your life, and the impact it can have on your physical and mental health.

Self-Care and Physical Health

Perhaps the best-known type of self-care is exercise. Regular exercise is essential for a healthy body and can play a motivational role in reducing alcohol use and reducing stress. It is reported that dopamine is released in the brain during physical activity. Therefore, exercise is characterized as a natural reward.

Further, what we look like, how much we sleep we get, and how we eat are often linked to movement or lack thereof. However, there are many other types of self-care that contribute to physical well-being. Already mentioned above are tooth brushing or a good morning stretch. There exists an abundance of other actions you can take daily to improve your physical health. Some of these are:

  • Drinking water
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Using a meditation app
  • Practicing yoga or stretching
  • Playing with pets

Take some time to reflect on what your physical goals are. How can you make progress toward one of those goals in just a few minutes each day?

Self-Care and Mental Health

You may not be aware that any self-care act that impacts your physical health also impacts your mental health. Eating only until you are full might be a goal you have for healthy weight maintenance. However, each time you achieve that goal, your brain is rewarded. These are the same rewards drug and alcohol use provides. That is what continues to motivate some people to use substances. 

This means that you can consciously choose healthy activities that reward the brain for replacing an unhealthy action. In other words, instead of choosing to use a substance, you can choose to perform an exercise, pet a cat, paint a canvas, do a puzzle, or take a bath. The positive action of self-care stimulates the reward response in your brain, which can ease the urges of substance use. 

With this in mind, take some time to think of what actions bring you joy. Maybe you have some cute pet videos you turn to when you need a smile. Maybe you enjoy journaling or walking through fallen leaves in autumn. You might enjoy coloring, drawing, listening to music, learning an instrument, or talking to a specific friend. Make a list and keep it handy. This acts as a safety net for you when you have the urge to use substances. 

Incorporating Self-Care Into Your Routine

One great way to make a self-care act a lasting habit is to incorporate it into your daily routine. You’ve already reflected on some goals. Which of them can you prioritize? Starting there, think of one measurable action you can take toward that goal. If you are walking zero minutes a day and you want to start walking, set a timed goal to walk daily.

It can be easy to aim too high when incorporating self-care into your new routine. Using SMART goals, you can choose specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, which prevents you from setting goals that are unrealistic to achieve.

For example, say you want to start walking daily and know that 30 minutes a day can impact your life. Start small. It may be tempting to kick off with a goal of 30 minutes daily, but it may be more realistic and attainable to start with five minutes. If you end up walking more than that in a day, great. If not, don’t worry about it. This takes away the pressure of failure. In other words, first, establish consistency by walking daily. Once you have a routine of five minutes a day, you can increase the amount of time. Move from five minutes to seven or 10. Reestablish consistency, then repeat your increase.

What about when you miss a day? Don’t break the chain of success. Did you miss your normal walking window? Consider walking for one minute around your room before bed if you are well and have the opportunity. Jump right back into your routine the next day. Your brain will be rewarded with dopamine for completing your goal, and that will keep you motivated.

Mental Health and Addiction Recovery

Ultimately, taking care of your mental health circles back to your addiction recovery. Having positive self-care habits helps combat the likelihood of relapse by reducing stress. 

It is often easier to put aside even the smallest tasks that involve taking care of ourselves in favor of other actions. However, it is incredibly important to establish a few key actions you can perform daily that support your personal well-being. When we skip out on acts of self-care, we are letting our well-being fall to the wayside. That is why self-care supports addiction recovery; it prioritizes your wellness. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and would like to take steps to focus on self-care and recovery, West Coast Recover Centers (WCRC) can help. Call (760) 492-6509 today to learn how WCRC can support you in establishing self-care routines during addiction recovery.

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