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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

An image of a person practicing Self Care in Recovery

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Self care in recovery often gets overlooked.

Maybe you’re just starting down the road to recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Perhaps one of your loved ones is in denial of their addiction, and you’re hoping to get them into a treatment center.

Whatever your circumstances, chances are you could spend a little more time taking care of yourself.

Whether your energies are spent fighting an addiction or looking after someone else struggling with alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, take a moment to reflect on how well you’re looking after yourself.

Why Is Self Care in Recovery Important?

By learning how to better care for yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically, you will maximize your chances of implementing healthier lifestyle changes in line with sober living.

If you follow all the tips we outline today, you will be much better placed to make clear decisions and also in a stronger position to resist temptations and triggers.

It isn’t always easy to put yourself first when you’re always crunched for time, and you’re always juggling priorities. Throw in the always-on nature of modern communications, and it’s understandably tough to factor in enough me-time during the week.

Luckily, by focusing on a few key areas, you can start weaving self care into your daily routine.

20 Self Care Tips

1. Sleep

2. Exercise

3. Eat well

4. Cook for yourself and embrace it

5. Get plenty of protein

6. Don’t overlook gut health

7. Spend plenty of time in the great outdoors

8. Invest in some essential oils

9. Practice kindness and gratitude

10.  Start organizing your life better

11.  Consider reading about self care

12.  Say no to others when you need to

13.  Explore the idea of getting a pet

14.  Volunteer

15.  Practice mindfulness meditation

16.  Take a yoga class

17.  Take a short trip

18.  Do more of the things you like

19.  Stress less

20.  Allot time for self care and never forego this

An image of a person on a hike practicing Self Care in Recovery

1) Sleep

One of the core elements of self care in recovery from addiction is ensuring that you get enough rest and 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

Now, for anyone in any way impacted by addiction, sleep is almost always disrupted, both for the drinker or drug user and for their families.

A 2014 sleep study showed that sleep influences:

  • Mood
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Regulating positive and negative emotions

Getting enough sleep also helps you to stay alert and to feel energized for the day, rather than struggling to summon enough energy.

While everyone is different, most benefit from 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

What can you do if you struggle to achieve this?

  • First, start going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. Try to adhere to this schedule at least loosely on the weekend, too. Even if you’re resistant to the idea of a routine, this should improve your sleep quality.
  • Cut back on caffeine, avoiding it completely during the afternoon and evening.
  • Remove all electronic devices from your bedroom. The light from these is stimulating, and they also distract you from relaxing and sleeping.
  • Refrain from eating large meals before bedtime. Drinking alcohol before sleep will also interfere with the quality of sleep you get. You may drop off easily, but your sleep will be restless and shattered.

Of course, what you do during the day can also play a huge role in how well you sleep. This brings us neatly into the next foundational element of self care in recovery: exercise.

2) Exercise

If you want to live a healthy life and to maximize your lifespan, you should exercise daily.

Now, we’re not talking about running a marathon here. All you need is 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity to achieve tangible benefits. Whether you take a brisk walk, ride your bike, go hiking, running, or swimming, there are hundreds of ways to raise your heart rate and have fun at the same time.

Regular exercise will help you sleep better, while also torching unwanted calories and helping reduce stress. Exercising causes your body to produce feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins so you’ll get a natural high.

3) Eat well

Another crucial component of self care in recovery is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. What does this mean, though?

As much as possible, avoid processed foods and eat real, whole foods. Eat plenty of protein and some complex carbs for energy. Try not to eat too much fat.

Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. If you struggle to get this quantity onboard, consider mixing some up into juices or smoothies. You could easily hit your daily allowance with a single, nutrient-dense breakfast smoothie.

Eating healthily should also help regulate your gut health. Unhealthy bacteria in your gut can trigger depression and anxiety. It can also lead to irritable bowel syndrome.

A balanced diet should also help to ensure you don’t face any weight management issues either.

4) Cook for yourself and embrace it

Maybe you can appreciate the benefits of eating a healthy diet, but you’re so busy you always fall into the trap of buying fast food or grabbing something from the convenience store.

Not only does this cost more, but you’re not giving your body the nutrients it needs.

If you’re always in a time crunch, try setting aside time once or twice a week to batch-prepare meals. You can blitz through all your prep for the whole week ahead, so when you come home from work, all you need to do is throw a few pre-prepared ingredients into the pan. You can also cook large batches and then freeze meals, so you build up a supply of healthy, home-cooked meals.

Perhaps you are still scratching your head and proclaiming you really don’t have enough time. Consider a meal delivery service where the provider brings 3 delicious and balanced meals to your door daily. You’ll need to pay for the privilege, but it’s the next best thing to a personal chef.

5) Get plenty of protein

If you’ve been accustomed to eating a diet high in carbs and heavy on the snacks, you’ll likely find your energy levels spiking then crashing.

How can you avoid this?

Well, eating a diet rich in protein will help you feel full for longer while sidestepping that nasty crash.

Eat lots of fish and chicken, eggs, Greek yogurt, tuna, nut butters, and veggies.

We’re not encouraging you to cut carbs completely or to follow a keto diet but shift your focus from snack food and quick energy boosts to getting the long-term energy you need to power through your day.

Paying attention to your overall health and making small tweaks like this can help you get the very most out of life.

6) Don’t overlook gut health

As we mentioned above, your gut health can immensely impact your overall health and well-being. Proper gut health can fill you with vitality, with improper gut health leaving you feeling ravaged even if you don’t know why.

The type and quality of the foods you consume play a major role in the bacteria living in your stomach. You can affect the outcome here with what you choose to eat.

An unhealthy gut can trigger a range of negative outcomes, so bear this in mind.

7) Spend plenty of time in the great outdoors

If you have a hectic lifestyle and you seem to never get a chance to breathe, disconnect for a short while and spend some time outdoors.

For anyone lucky enough to live near a beach, taking a half-hour break and walking along the ocean is both therapeutic and invigorating. Clear your mind with the salt breeze on your face and the sand underfoot.

If you live somewhere more rural, take full advantage of the great outdoors to get away from everything and focus on your own well-being.

Urbanites can head to the park or other areas in their neighborhood offering some space away from the concrete jungle.

Getting plenty of sunshine and fresh air is a great way to put your self care front and center every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

An image of two people on a hike practicing Self Care in Recovery

8) Invest in some essential oils

Upgrading the air quality in your home can go beyond purifiers and dehumidifiers.

Have you considered using essential oils?

Even if the benefits of aromatherapy are not perhaps as extensive as claimed, using orange, lemon, and other citrus essential oils can de-stress and calm you.

Lavender essential oil is also reputed to help sleep.

Scent is highly subjective, of course. You may adore the smell of sandalwood while your partner can’t stand it. Explore some essential oils at the store and let your nose be your guide.

Use drops of the oil on your pillow and bedding or use essential oil diffusers or candles to infuse the air indoors with the smells of your choosing from all-natural sources and with absolutely no chemicals.

9) Practice kindness and gratitude

You don’t need to compile a gratitude journal to be grateful for all the good things in your life, although this can be beneficial for anyone in recovery from addiction.

By choosing to focus on the many positive elements of your life rather than getting hung up on what you don’t have, you’ll start noticing benefits including a more optimistic view of the future, and improved mood.

It can be harder to show kindness to others at times, especially during a year like the past one with a global pandemic raising tensions everywhere.

Try your best, though, to be gentle and kind toward others. Everyone could use a little more of that right now.

10) Start organizing your life better

Do you frequently find yourself stressed because you have a seemingly endless list of things to do and not enough time in which to do them?

Are you always looking for things that don’t seem to be where you thought you left them?

You could likely use a good overhaul of your habits.

Consider using a launchpad like a tray where you put your keys, purse, anything else you need when you’re leaving the house. If you always leave things here, you’ll never waste time hunting for keys again.

Make a to-do list for the day, but if this seems unmanageable, make smaller lists of 3 tasks and work through these so you don’t become overwhelmed with everything at once.

Decluttering your home can help you feel lighter as you get rid of all those extraneous possessions. Give them to friends, sell them online, or donate them to a local charity shop.

However you feel your life could do with a little more organization, take control and put yourself and your well-being first.

11) Consider reading about self care

If you’re thinking you could easily implement the above strategies, but you’d like to dive deeper into the theme of self care in recovery, we’d encourage you to do so.

The more you learn about helping yourself, the more effectively you can do so.

Whether you prefer to read books or to research self care online, you’ve got plenty of resources at your disposal.

12) Say no to others when you need to

Maybe you’ve been reading through these strategies to increase your self care but you keep thinking you would do this if only you had more time and others didn’t make so many demands on you.

If so, it’s time to appreciate that saying no to others might be tough, but at times it’s absolutely vital to your own well-being.

Now, we’re not saying here that you should stop helping others or stop spending time with others. Rather, when someone else wants you to do something that runs counter to your goals, just say no. Don’t apologize and don’t feel the need to explain, simply but politely decline.

The more you take this approach – and it’s a fine line to tread between this and selfishness – the more confident you’ll become at placing your own needs first.

13) Explore the idea of getting a pet

Are you getting enough social connection?

If you find yourself isolated and in need of a supportive network and friends and family, pets can be a great means of companionship and enormously beneficial for your self care in recovery. Petting a dog or cat can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Even if you don’t live alone, the discipline of looking after a pet and the connection you can form with animals means it’s well worth exploring.

14) Volunteer

One of the most effective approaches to self care involves helping others.

It may sound less than charitable to help others for your own gain, but the benefits will be mutual.

This is not a purely calculating move either. You can easily find a way to volunteer your services as appropriate to your skillset in your local area. The boost you’ll get from helping others is incalculable.

15) Practice mindfulness meditation

Do you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about the past?

Are you often unable to fully enjoy the present moment because you’re constantly thinking about other things you should be doing?

Is it wearing you down not having enough time to yourself?

Mindfulness meditation can help you to manage your mental health and to fully focus on what’s happening right now.

It couldn’t be much easier to put into practice either.

Just find a quiet and comfy spot. Close your eyes for anything from 5 to 15 minutes. Focus on your breathing. Concentrate on the way it flows in and out. Mentally explore your body, asking yourself how everything feels from your head to your toes. If any outside thoughts intrude, let them pass and return to being mindful.

16) Take a yoga class

Yoga delivers a powerful list of health benefits and attending a class also gives you time to spend on yourself.

From building muscles and stretching your joints and inactive muscles, yoga can also provide a burst of cardio depending on which type you practice.

Linking movement with breath – both factors linked to stress reaction – you can notice wide-ranging benefits from regular yoga classes.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to attend a class, you can find plenty of resources online and you can perform the routines at home.

17) Take a short trip

However busy you are and however demanding your lifestyle, you need time to recharge now and again.

Try to arrange a short trip, even if it’s only for a day or two and even if it’s close to home.

Simply changing your surroundings and getting away from the everyday can deliver a powerful mental boost.

Resting up and getting away from the distractions and demands of day-to-day life should also help you to feel physically better.

18) Do more of the things you like

Perhaps the easiest tip to implement on our list today, try to spend more time doing whatever it is you enjoy.

It’s too easy to get caught up on a hamster wheel of work, family responsibilities, and more work.

Make time for your hobbies and interests.

19) Stress less

Stress often occurs in a vicious and self-feeding cycle. The more stressed you feel, the worse you feel, and the more you stress.

Take a step back and decide not to give such weight to the things stressing you. You choose how to interpret events and you choose how to react to them. Make a conscious choice not to let events stress you.

This is not to say you shouldn’t deal with the stressors you’ll encounter in life. Instead of stressing about them, formulate a simple plan of action for solving the problem and then implement it. This is much more practical and also carries the advantage that it might even work.

20) Allot time for self care in recovery and never forego this

Last but perhaps most importantly, always allow yourself enough time in your day to focus on what you need.

Even if all you can manage is a hot bath with a good book, dinner with friends, or a walk on the beach, do what you can to schedule time for you.

How about if you find yourself failing to put the above tips into practice, and you’re still wondering, “how do I make self care a priority in recovery”, try this: block off time in your diary for self care just like you would a work commitment or a dentist appointment. Keep that appointment with yourself at all costs. You deserve it.

An image of someone meditating on the beach | Self Care in Recovery

Getting Help at Renaissance Recovery

Here at Renaissance, we can help you or your loved one learn healthy coping skills necessary to battle long-term substance abuse or mental health disorders. 

We offer treatment programs at varying levels of intensity, from a standard outpatient program to a PHP, the most intensive form of treatment outside of residential rehab.

If you feel ready to commit to your recovery, reach out to our friendly team of experts today at 866.330.9449.

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Pat C

“I owe my life and my happiness to these people. October 8th, 2019 marked two years of sobriety for me, and prior to finding Renaissance I hadn’t had 24 hours sober in nearly 20 years.”

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Paige R

“They truly cared for me and the other people that I served with! From this group, I have made 8 new brothers and friends for life! We have continued on, after the program, to take care of each other”

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Courtney S

“Great staff who took the time to get to know me. They have a lot of experience in this field and have first hand experience with what I was going through. IOP is outstanding and really built up a ton of great relationships and found this program to be a ‘breath of fresh air’.”

Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country