How to Promote Self-Healing During Recovery
Addiction is devastating to physical and mental health. Its sources are complex and can be unique to each individual, though people generally gravitate to addictive possibilities when they are seeking some sort of relief. Those seeking a healthy lifestyle often wonder if it’s possible to produce an alternative that provides better, safer relief than drugs or alcohol. Many people believe that physical fitness can be a gateway to addiction recovery when balanced with self-care and self-healing.
Brain Benefits of Exercise
Substance abuse and mental health issues are often comorbid; that is, addicts often experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, while depressed and anxious people sometimes turn to dangerous substances for relief. Relief is the end result that distressed people search for through substances. According to medical research, the brain releases the same neurochemicals during exercise as it does when getting high, making it a great tool during recovery. We’ve all heard of runner’s high – that feeling of euphoria triggered in small amounts by exercise. However, this feeling can be life-defining for marathon and elite runners. When we seek the euphoria of fitness, we substitute a good habit for a bad one. And when the workout high wears off, we are not hungover; rather, our bodies are fortified. After some rest, we are ready to run or lift weights again, and the next high may even be better than the last one, but it’s important not to overdo it.
Self-Care and Emotional Well-Being
In order for exercise to be a sustained component of our lives, we need to be aware of the potential for burnout. If we try to exercise too hard, with unreasonable fitness goals in our mind, we will fail and fall back to bad habits. Self-care is one key way to keep our fitness regimens in check. Self-care encompasses all actions that we take to provide comfort and support our healthy lifestyle choices. The following are examples of self-care:
- Rest: Exercise is only effective when you give yourself rest days to recover and rebuild. Muscles can be overworked and injured if we fail to properly rest, and muscle building does not occur during workouts, but afterwards when we are healing.
- Massage: Sore muscles can benefit from sports massage, and our emotional well-being thrives when we occasionally pamper ourselves.
- Healthy life-work balance: Both are equally important in life, but situations may occasionally thrust one ahead of the other. Self-care ensures that we know how to balance these two main components of life.
- Breathing exercises: Those who master their breath have more effective workouts and are able to effectively manage stress.
Self-care enables us to maintain a balanced life that has ample room for fitness. In this life balance, healthy habits take root in the spaces vacated by poor health, bad diet, drinking, and drugs. Sustainable lifestyle change is the key to overcoming substance abuse, according to addiction professionals. And when we tend to our comfort, we are more likely to pursue things that might challenge us, such as reaching fitness goals. Recovery experts liken the first steps of recovery to combining pain with hope. Self-care goes a long way in alleviating that pain, and the exhilaration of exercise, combined with positive outlooks that result from avoiding substances, results in hope.
Humans are uniquely wired to seek pleasure and reward. While some understandably seek both in drugs and alcohol, these feelings can be found when we go in the opposite direction, toward health. Through self-care, positive momentum toward successful recovery can be sustained. And, since holistic health is the overall goal, self-care requires moderation in exercise, so as to avoid burnout and maintain progress.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
By Sheila Oldson