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10 Ways Women Can Maintain Their Mental Health While in Addiction Recovery

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Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease. While there is no cure for addiction, it can be effectively treated. This typically involves a combination of medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).

Of the 20.4 million over-12s diagnosed with substance use disorder in the United States, there are some key differences between men and women. Men are more likely to abuse illicit drugs, while women are more prone to abusing prescription medications like benzodiazepines and opioids.

Men and women not only abuse different substances, but they also use substances for different reasons. Men are more susceptible to peer pressure, while women often use substances as a reaction to trauma.

Substances also affect men and women differently, meaning that women’s rehab is often the most effective form of addiction treatment for women.

Assuming you have addressed your substance use disorder and committed to recovery, taking good care of your mental health at this tumultuous time will help you build a strong, stable foundation for sustained recovery.

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health is an umbrella term used to describe your emotional, cognitive, and behavioral wellbeing.

The complex interrelationship between your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors can heavily impact the life choices you make and your overall experience of life.

Given its nuanced nature, maintaining sound mental health is more complicated than just taking a daily pill. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take if you’re a woman in recovery looking to strengthen your whole-body health.

10 Ways to Keep Stay on Top of Your Mental Health

  1. Focus on sleep quality and quantity
  2. Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  3. Exercise for at least thirty minutes daily
  4. Work on improving your emotional health
  5. Ensure your environment is conducive to recovery
  6. Attempt to stabilize your finances
  7. Rebuild any unraveled relationships
  8. Stimulate yourself intellectually
  9. Take any medications required for mental health conditions and attend regular check-ups with your healthcare provider
  10. Make sure you engage with the right dual diagnosis treatment program if you have mental health issues co-occurring with addiction

1) Focus on sleep quality and quantity

If you have been addicted to drinking or drugs, chances are your sleep patterns have been seriously disrupted.

Research shows that sleep deprivation can affect your mental health, so do everything possible to improve the quality and quantity of sleep you get.

Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Even if you’re not working, it’s sound practice to adhere to set times for going to bed and getting up. Sticking to a routine will help you sleep better in the long term.

Limit your caffeine and nicotine intake from the late afternoon onwards, and try to avoid the white light from electronic devices in the hour before bed.

By improving your sleep health, you can also improve your mental health.

2) Eat a healthy and balanced diet

While depression and other mental health conditions have emotional and biochemical roots, nutrition can also play a key role.

Nutrient deficiencies – B1, for instance – can impact both your mood and your energy levels.

Some research points to a possible link between junk food and depression, with diets rich in empty sugars and carbohydrates raising the risk of depression.

Instead, eat a diet with as many healthy, whole foods and as few processed foods as possible. Aim for moderate to high levels of protein from lean, premium sources. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. If you find this tough to accomplish, consider juicing or making a smoothie. Limit fats and sugars. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

If you stick to this basic framework, you have plenty of latitude to eat the foods you enjoy while at the same time taking care of both your physical and mental health.

3) Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily

There is a substantial body of research attesting to the mental health benefits of cardiovascular exercise. The robustness of this research and the manifold benefits of exercise led the APA (American Psychological Association) to encourage the integration of exercise into therapeutic interventions.

If you’re now in recovery, it’s the ideal time to introduce 30 minutes of activity that raises your heart rate into your daily routine. Start slowly with a gentle walk for a block or two if your fitness levels are low. Build up as you feel fitter and stronger.

From running and swimming to cycling and aerobics, imagination is your only limitation. When you exercise, the boosted endorphin levels and increased dopamine production can improve your mood. Get a natural high where you once relied on a chemical crutch.

4) Work on improving your emotional health

If you have any mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, you should ensure that you engage with treatment.

The other way you can improve your emotional health as you push into sustained sobriety will also benefit your overall recovery. Eliminate any toxic relationships from your life and work on forming new, healthy friendships. You can also work on rebuilding existing relationships – more on that just below.

5) Ensure your environment is conducive to recovery

Maintaining sound mental health is challenging if your living environment is subpar. You need to feel safe and secure in your home if you want to stay strong in your recovery and in solid mental shape.

Work on making your home environment as conducive to your recovery and peak mental health as possible. If things still seem untenable, you could consider basing yourself at a sober living home in the short term.

6) Attempt to stabilize your finances

Being in an unstable financial situation can easily lead to issues associated with mental health and even relapse.

If you need social support, employment assistance, or employment training, most recovery programs have an educational and vocational component. Take full advantage of these.

Slash needless expenditure and work on increasing your income, but do not jeopardize your recovery in pursuit of more money.

7) Rebuild any unraveled relationships

According to SAMHSA’s definition of recovery, there are three strands – home, community, and purpose. These elements have one commonality: human connection.

If you have been addicted to drinking or drugs, your relationships at home, work, and in the community will likely have suffered. By taking the opportunity as you continue with your recovery to rebuild these relationships, you’ll make yourself feel better, and you’ll improve your mood, too.

8) Stimulate yourself intellectually

Continuous learning and growth are core components of stable mental health.

When you’re in the early stages of recovery, keeping yourself intellectually stimulated can help minimize the chance of relapse through boredom and strengthen your recovery as you pour yourself into new endeavors.

 9) Take any medications required for mental health conditions and attend regular check-ups with your healthcare provider

If you have any co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety or depression, take any medication you have prescribed as directed.

Make sure you remain in close contact with your healthcare provider and schedule regular wellness checks.

10) Make sure you engage with the right dual diagnosis treatment program if you have mental health issues co-occurring with addiction

Maybe you haven’t yet engaged with treatment for your substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder, but you’re now ready to commit.

Data from NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) shows that 9.5 million Americans suffered from co-occurring mental health conditions and substance use disorders in 2019. If you are among those suffering from a co-occurring disorder, you’ll need to make sure you engage with a dual diagnosis treatment program. This will enable you to tackle your mental health condition and substance use disorder simultaneously.

Ultimately, this will be your most effective path to ongoing recovery while maintaining sound mental health.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

Contact a Resource Specialist

About the Author: Joe Gilmore is a creator on behalf of Renaissance Recovery, a drug and alcohol rehab in Orange County dedicated to helping clients kick their substance abuse habit and establish long-lasting sobriety.

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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