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It’s not uncommon for those who have struggled with alcoholism to also face mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Chances are that drinking was a good way to mask such issues. Once you get sober, you have no choice but to confront them and learn how to cope in a healthy matter, rather than numbing the pain.
Learning to do so can be a lengthy and frustrating process for some. It takes time, patience and persistence. Here are just a few things you can do to monitor and care for your mental health in sobriety.
Keep a journal.
Though it may not sound like it will help much, keeping a journal can be surprisingly therapeutic. It allows you to express thoughts you may not express elsewhere and even make sense of the thoughts you are having. There is something about getting them down on paper and in front of you that makes them make more sense than when they are floating around in your head. Plus, when it’s on paper, it almost feels as if the thoughts are removed from your head and you have cleared up space.
Take time for yourself.
This is good for anyone to do, even people not in recovery. Yes, some people like being around others all the time, and being alone in the beginning of recovery is unsettling for some people. It’s important to become comfortable being with your own company. This might mean taking 10 minutes to take a bath, or getting a manicure. For some people, it could mean working out. It doesn’t really matter what the method is. Just try to make the time to focus on yourself at least once per week.
Step away from technology.
This one is tough. I’ll be the first to admit that, but sometimes it can be overwhelming to be on social media and surfing the internet so often. There is a lot of content there to take in, and sometimes it can begin to weigh on you. It’s important to take time away. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, unplug. Go for a run. Visit a park. Take a hike. If you like to take photos, bring your phone for that purpose, but put it on airplane mode so you can take your break and regroup.
Acknowledge your feelings.
When people are drinking or using drugs, it’s easy to push down and ignore feelings. Over time, these feelings buildings up and likely reach a breaking point. This can be avoided if feelings are acknowledged as they are felt. While not always enjoyable, really feeling your emotions is better for you in the long run. It gives you the ability to determine what you are feeling, why you are feeling it, and what you can or cannot do about it. Not only is this an empowering feeling, it’s a healthier approach than shoving your feelings away to deal with later.
Fuel your body.
What you choose to put into your body can have an effect on the way you feel mentally. If you fill your body with fast food and sugary drinks, you’ll likely feel like you are dragging and not performing as well as you know you are capable of. If you make healthier choices, it will reflect in the way you feel mentally and physically. Healthy eating isn’t just about external physical appearance. It’s about what it can do for your body internally, too.
Make the time to move.
Exercising can work wonders for mental health. Whether you are struggling with depression or anxiety, or something else altogether, making the time to move your body can help. While it won’t solve the issue, it can distract you for the time being. Working out also has a way of clearing your mind and making obstacles seem just a little more manageable.
Talk to someone.
Whether this is a mental health professional or just someone you are close to, there is something therapeutic about vocalizing what you are feeling. Speaking about difficulties and sharing them with another person can make you feel less alone. The other person may also have some insight as to what the best course of action could be. They may have been through something similar or have training in managing such situations. Regardless, you often have nothing to lose by reaching out and asking for someone to listen.
Of course, there are other options out there when it comes to caring for yourself mentally. Each person is different, and so are their experiences. As such, people handle and process things differently and may need to utilize different methods. The important thing is that you take the time to figure out what works for you and then utilize those methods in tough times.