When’s the last time you did something that brought you joy? Or felt so relaxed that you really believed you deserved it? The scope of self-care is broad and inviting, and is especially vital to recovery health.
How Would You Define Self-Care?
The simple act of making a diverse salad for dinner instead of a grilled cheeseburger is a form of self-care, because you recognize that whole foods filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals is better fuel for your body than the fat-laden cheeseburger (no matter how good it tastes!)
But if we’re going with a more descriptive Oxford definition, self-care is “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health” or even “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”
So just as you made the courageous choice to seek professional treatment for alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, now it’s time to reinforce your commitment to health by embracing self-care routines and rituals that have purpose and meaning for you. What methods work for some people might not be your choice—and that’s totally fine. What’s essential for successful self-care is that you’re consistent and deliberate with your actions so they have the desired impact.
“I Can Take Care of Very Little When I’m Not Taking Care of Myself”
Healthline featured an interesting article by Dan Doty, founder of EVRYMAN, “designed to help support a paradigm shift in how men take care of themselves, others, and the planet.” In it, he addressed some common factors among people who identify as male:
- Women live approximately 5 years longer than men.
- Roughly 65 percent of men “say they avoid going to the doctor for as long as possible, and only go when they fear serious illness.”
- Although suicide is a leading cause of death for men, they’re far less likely than women to reach out.
Societal pressures and expectations, especially for men in the military or those suffering from PTSD, often send the message that men need to simply buck up and get on with life, no matter how confused or in pain they might be. Doty believes a commitment to self-care helps change the dynamic of the perception of what strength and perseverance really mean.
“I believe all men should not only have permission to take care of themselves, but should be held accountable to it,” Doty is quoted as saying. “I can take care of very little when I’m not taking care of myself.”
“If You Don’t Properly Care for Yourself, Your Body Will Let You Know in Negative Ways”
For an individual who identifies as female, the pressures are similar but different. In an article for the Cleveland Clinic, physician Sandra Darling in the wellness and preventative care department outlined some typical reactions by women regarding self-care.
“In our society, women often feel obligated to be caretakers. They tend to put others first— children, spouses, parents, friends, even pets,” Darling says. “So it may feel awkward (and even selfish) for a woman to suddenly shift the balance from everyone-else-care to self-care.”
Women have a tendency to react to stress “with numbing activities—like zoning out in front of an electronic screen or bingeing on junk food and alcohol—contributes to obesity and disease, poor sleep and ultimately, an unhappy existence,” Darling says. “If you don’t properly care for yourself, your body will let you know in negative ways.” Her recommendation? Don’t place yourself last on your priority list.
Recommendations for Self-Care to Enhance Your Sobriety
It will come as no surprise that many of the wellness techniques you learn during rehab, such as maintaining a whole-foods diet, regular exercise, and a focus on good sleep are all vital to self-care. What else might interest you? Both Doty and Darling have some ideas:
- Designate a favorite chair as a special spot to read or journal for at least 30 minutes daily. This is a special rejuvenating type of “me” time.
- Be in nature as much as possible, whether to enjoy an activity such as fishing or running or simply to stroll through a park. Being outside boosts endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.
- Cultivate a better sense of purpose so you know what you’re living for and honor what you want. Write down what this means to you and post it where you’ll see it every day.
- Really, truly strike a better balance between activity and sleep. Defenses come crumbling down when you’re exhausted.
- Dedicate yourself to a favorite hobby or craft and schedule time for it just like any other priority. It reminds you how much more you’re capable of as a human being.
- Likewise, instead of waving to someone you run into with, “Hey, let’s get together sometime!” actually plan to have a casual chat with someone once or twice a week over coffee or lunch to reinforce your connections.
- Speaking of connecting, leave your electronic devices inside and go sit on the porch, watching wildlife and listening to birdsong. Even 10 minutes a day will shift your mindset more positively.
We Are Always Ready to Help
We have numerous wellness articles on our blog, including everything from incorporating holistic methods and mindfulness into your daily recovery practices to how spirituality and social networks improve your recovery. Take a look around, and let us know if you like to learn more about something specific.