Mental Health and Recovery
In early recovery, it isn’t uncommon for someone to struggle with their mental health. Following treatment, you might find it incredibly difficult and uncomfortable when adjusting to your new life. Feelings of self-doubt, confusion, sadness, and loneliness may arise during this phase.
Life after treatment is a fresh, new beginning for recovering addicts. Establishing a healthy routine to maintain sobriety and your overall health and wellness is imperative. Administering stable boundaries will generate good habits that’ll contribute towards building the foundation for life in recovery. However, obtaining a healthy routine after treatment is not always easy.
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mental disorder commonly associated with substance abuse and addiction recovery. Dealing with depression in recovery can be strenuous on your physical and emotional health. Whether you’re in recovery or not, using healthy coping strategies to manage your depression is crucial for your healing journey.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
The signs and symptoms of depression are commonly overlooked as a mental health disorder
due to people experiencing them at both mild and severe levels. Many people might experience depressive symptoms but don’t actively struggle with depression itself.
Depression signs and symptoms can include:
- Feeling unmotivated and lazy
- Being in a constant state of sadness
- Changes in appetite and weight loss
- Lack of energy
- Spending an excessive amount of time alone
- Reckless behavior
- Lack of self-worth
- Feelings of helplessness
- Suicidal thoughts
If you’re looking for the signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to keep in mind that the symptoms of depression are recurring. Unlike ordinary sadness or grief, which can occur temporarily after a loss, the symptoms of depression occur nearly every day for weeks—sometimes months or years—interfering with all aspects of an individual’s life.
How Can I Manage Depression in Recovery?
1. Have a Support System
It’s essential to surround yourself with an uplifting community and a positive environment when entering your new life in recovery. The people you spend most of your time with will be the ones that impact how you talk and act—you want to make sure that’s a positive effect.
2. Prioritize Your Needs
Everyone loses sight of their wants and needs every now and then and puts them on the back burner of their life. When we don’t prioritize our wants and needs, we leave room for other things of less importance to take that place. Solidifying your list of priorities is essential to creating a healthy lifestyle, whether that be prioritizing self-care, a healthy diet, daily exercise, or meditation—it’s going to improve your recovery journey.
3. Stay Active
Exercising releases endorphins—the hormones the body releases when experiencing pain or stress. Regular exercise is particularly beneficial for managing and minimizing depressive symptoms. Staying active could include walking or running, practicing yoga, or attending a workout class.
4. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is going to look different for everyone. Different people have different health issues or allergies, resulting in a specific diet that works for them. What works for someone else might not work the same for you, and that’s entirely normal. It’s essential to research what foods are specifically nutritious for your body and your situation.
Foods to avoid in recovery:
- Refined sugars
- Fried foods
- White flour
Foods that will improve your health in recovery:
- Whole grains
5. Create a Routine
A routine is incredibly essential to keeping yourself organized and occupied in recovery. Your routine might include time for reading, the gym, a walk in the park, exploring a new hobby, or attending group meetings. The significance of a daily routine is that it keeps you on track with your priorities and responsibilities. This is especially important in recovery so that you don’t find yourself unoccupied for too long to where temptations for a drink or a hit creep in. Getting yourself accustomed to a consistent schedule strengthens your organization skills, commitment, and how and what you prioritize.
6. Be Open to Getting Help/Medical Treatment
It’s never easy to experience major depressive disorder or feelings of depression, and it can be even harder to ask for help. Seeking help or medical treatment for your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness. You should be proud of recognizing and tending to your need for assistance and a change in your mental health.
7. Go Outside
Studies show that spending time in nature boosts cortisol levels and reduces stress levels. Stepping outside for even a few minutes each day to get some fresh air and sunshine could instantly alter your mood for the better. Take a hike, go to the beach, go to the park, or sit outside with a book.
Meditation comes in several different forms—it is entirely what you want to make of it. Practicing meditation could be praying, focusing on your breathing, or taking a moment to think positively. Setting aside 5-10 minutes in your daily schedule for meditation allows your mind, body, and soul to take a much-needed break.
9. Try Something New
Coming out of treatment, finding new hobbies and routines is almost essential to building a new life for yourself. Addiction takes away that drive and motivation to do things you love and make you feel good. Life in recovery is about finding and rediscovering activities and relationships that make you feel like the best version of yourself. Trying something new could be agreeing to a sober hangout with new friends, reading a book, learning to play an instrument, or signing up for a workout class.
10. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is essential in all stages of life—regardless of your situation and circumstances. Your physical, emotional, and spiritual health should always be first on your list of priorities. Self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence or being selfish. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, be well, do your job, help and care for others, and do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day.
Each and every one of these fall under self-care practices. For instance, surrounding yourself with healthy friendships and relationships will only boost your speed on the road to recovery. Prioritizing your needs—exercising, nurturing your emotional health, maintaining good hygiene, and a healthy diet— is the most important form of self-care. If your needs are not your priority, it becomes easy to slip into the pattern of serving or pleasing others before yourself—this is also known as codependency.
Attending therapy sessions or group meetings is incredibly fundamental to your personal growth in recovery. Talking about your thoughts and feelings—good and bad—is one of the most beneficial ways to move forward and accept healing. Place yourself—your healing, health, sobriety, and happiness—on the front burner of your life and keep it there.
- American Addiction Centers “Depression and Substance Abuse” https://americanaddictioncenters.org/treating-depression-substance-abuse
- Everyday Health “What Is Self-Care and Why Is It So Important for Your Health?” https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/
- Psychology Today “How to Conquer Codependency” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/conquering-codependency/202010/how-conquer-codependency