According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), almost 20 percent of adults in America live with a psychological condition. This means that out of every 100 people you encounter, 20 meet the criteria for having a mental health diagnosis. These diagnoses are wide-ranging and vary in scope and severity. Mental health awareness is becoming more prevalent as the stigma is subsiding. Thanks to more thoughtful clinical research and increased public awareness, more and more people are opening up about their vulnerabilities and finding the help they need.
The reality is that life is stressful, especially in the current climate. Upsetting and devastating things happen. If something unfortunate occurs, it is normal to react accordingly. It is how we manage and control our behavior and emotions that can be either beneficial or harmful to ourselves and others.
If everyday life regularly has you grappling with your emotions, here are ten ways to help improve your mental health in recovery or in general:
Find the Right Therapist/Counselor
Part of cultivating balanced mental health in recovery, and in general, is seeking help from an experienced professional. Counseling comes in various forms; and everyone is different. A good therapist will work with other individuals with whom you feel safe and seek advice. Some religious and community leaders also offer counseling services. Talking about the way you feel will help you to better normalize and understand what you are experiencing. Do not hold back. You are not being judged. Make sure to consider what type of counselor you choose. You can find practitioners with different backgrounds and training. For example, if you’re struggling with substance use disorder, your treatment provider can refer you to addiction-trained therapists after you leave your program.
Discuss your needs and ask about their history and counseling style. If you do not feel that they are a correct fit for you, that is okay. They will refer you to another provider. Do not be afraid to speak truthfully; a good counselor knows not all therapists and types of therapy are right for everyone. You will not offend them – they are professionals who want to help. To learn more about different kinds of counselors, you may look up required titles and credentials in your state by visiting the American Counseling Association.
Keep a Daily Journal
Recording your feelings is an excellent way to monitor your symptoms and discover your triggers. You might notice patterns in your thinking or behavior that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. It is also a great form of self-expression. This can also include activities such as writing lyrics to a song, drawing, and poetry. Keeping a daily record may also help you reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, and managing your mental health in addiction recovery. It also allows you to take a step back, process your emotions, and keep your thoughts more organized. Keeping track of how you feel daily is helpful and informative for any healthcare provider with whom you are working, as they usually do not communicate with you on a daily basis.
Get Plenty of Physical Activity
Exercise releases endorphins. These are naturally-occuring chemicals in your body that are crucial to emotional regulation. Being active helps us not to fixate on anxiety-provoking thoughts and assists in releasing so-called nervous energy. If you feel like you cannot get out of bed, it is imperative that you do so. Join a gym. Take up running or brisk walking. We are not all seasoned athletes; you do not need to run a marathon or become a weightlifter. Start small. Take a walk. Go for a hike with a friend. Get some fresh air. Enjoy the scenery. Exercising regularly not only reduces stress, but it also helps with sleep and improves self-esteem and feelings of depression.
This may seem counterintuitive, but if you are suffering with depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition, do things that make you happy and feel productive. This can lead to increased self-esteem. Take on a new hobby. You may discover new gifts and talents you didn’t know you had. Learn a new language. Self-improvement is very satisfying and productive. Volunteer. Helping others lifts your overall mood. Staying busy is key.
Honor the Work/Life Balance
No matter what is going on in life, we are fortunate that if we try hard enough, we can usually find a silver lining. For instance, recovery and mental health-related issues can often affect your professional life. Losing a job can be a traumatic experience, but it provides you with an opportunity to find a more satisfying position. A change in career may be what is needed in order for you to maintain a healthier work-life balance. You can reevaluate how you want to spend your time so that you have room for people and activities that make you happy. According to Harvard Business School, keeping a healthy balance is important for staying psychologically well.
Socialize With People Who Make You Feel Good About Yourself
Stay away from toxic individuals who may be a roadblock to your recovery. Keep yourself surrounded by people who live a healthy lifestyle with whom you feel comfortable. Avoid doing activities that may trigger you. Engage with people who are positive, understanding, and sympathetic. Sometimes, finding a new group of friends is necessary; you do not want to feel pressured into doing something that you are trying to avoid. True friends have your best interest in mind and can be a tremendous source of support. We are social beings and we need each other. Having a support system is necessary.
Allow Yourself to Laugh and Smile
Laughter releases serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins; three chemicals that assist in mood regulation. Additionally, it lowers levels of the stress-inducing hormone, cortisol. Practicing smiling releases endorphins and has beneficial effects on the immune system. It is amazing what our bodies can do for us when we give them a little nudge. Additionally, happiness is contagious and most people feel satisfaction when they make others happy. Watching comedy specials or a funny movie is an easy way to let loose, laugh, and relax right from your home. There are also funny books filled with jokes for those who prefer reading.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene and Hygiene in General
Go to sleep at a reasonable time every day. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the average adult aged between 18 and 60 requires at least seven hours of sleep per day. Older adults require an extra hour or two. Your bed is intended for sleep and intimate acts. When you lay down, you want your body to know it is bedtime. If you spend time under the covers watching television, eating, using your smartphone, or doing other activities, you will have a harder time falling asleep. Make your bed first thing in the morning, brush your teeth, and take a shower. Soon enough, these actions will become easier and more routine. Take care of yourself – you deserve it.
Self-care, put simply, means making time to ensure you’re treating yourself well so you can help others and live a fulfilling life. It can include allocating half an hour a day to meditate, taking a walk, getting a massage, or playing golf. Only 44 percent of American adults make self-care a priority because of time constraints and 35 percent neglect doing so because of perceived financial limitations. Not all activities cost money or are expensive. Set aside time each day to take care of yourself and incorporate it into your routine. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, take a deep breath and a nice break. You will be more productive in the long-run. You do not need to ask permission to practice self-care.
This is also very important, especially if you’re trying to balance mental health in recovery. Everyone makes mistakes and not everything is your fault. It is easy to be self-deprecating when we are struggling. There is always room for positive growth and change. Remember to love yourself; you are your biggest ambassador. Stay focused on the future. Do not become overwhelmed by past events. Unless you have a time machine, there is nothing you can do to change what has already occured. According to research, it is wiser to spend time and emotional energy staying grounded in the present, working towards having a happier, healthier, and more productive future (National Library of Medicine).
Recovery Unplugged is acutely aware of the importance of balanced mental health in recovery from addiction, and we’re here to help you or your loved one overcome co-occurring substance use and mental illness. We offer comprehensive dual-diagnosis treatment programs to help you reclaim your peace of mind, mental health and quality of life. Contact our team now to start your treatment.