Preventing a Relapse through self-care practices and setting boundaries
One of the most beautiful things about recovery is finally being able to see how truly precious our own genuine laugh and smiles are. When laughing and smiling is just part of our natural emotional state, when we are complimented on them we might not be able to really appreciate their true value or see how beautiful they really are. When we lose our ability to smile and laugh genuinely then regain this ability, our every smile and every laugh can be filled with a deeper sense of gratitude. Knowing that our emotional health and positive state of mind is so important, it’s natural to be more protective of ourselves and our mental health.
If you’ve just recently made a recovery, it’s likely you won’t feel ready to think about what went wrong just yet. For a period of time it might be more beneficial and easier for you to enjoy your newfound ability to feel good, and only after that, when you’re ready you can revisit the past and try to understand what triggered your poor mental health in the first place; this is something we’ll be covering in our next article. You might find thinking about the period that you’ve just come out of to be triggering in itself and that’s okay. You don’t need to force yourself to revisit anything if it’s too much to bear right now, but self-care practices will be important in preventing a “relapse” in the meantime.
- Build a healthy daily routine
You might have lost your sense of routine, perhaps because you were avoiding doing things that you felt took a lot of effort or things which made you feel anxious, or because you found it difficult to wake up or to go to sleep on time, and now is the time to start rebuilding this. Your sleep has a profound impact on your mental health and so making sure you get enough sleep is so critical. Just because you feel better now doesn’t mean it won’t be damaging to stay up all night or to force yourself to wake up very early. It pays off to have a stable sleep and wake-up time. For the rest of the day some sort of plan might be helpful to give you a sense of control and ease worry/ anxiety. If you are working or studying full-time you might find that you already have a pretty solid routine, which is great but if you’ve had to take time off/don’t work/study full time, developing a routine could be grounding.
- Incorporate time doing a creative/ physical activity
Therapists and counsellors often encourage people to start a new hobby or invest more time into activities they already enjoy doing and with good reason, numerous studies have shown that creativity and physical recreation boost wellbeing. This could be because when you are absorbed in an activity you enjoy you are likely to be more present and ruminate less. Activities that require a lot of focus is what we are talking about because they demand your full attention and distract you from your own mind… and really sometimes you need to be distracted from your own mind if your brain is overactive with thoughts that upset you. One study has found that participants that engaged in creative activities for two or more hours per week had significantly higher levels of mental wellbeing, and another has found that team based sports boosts mental wellbeing and alleviates feelings of loneliness. Think about what you have enjoyed doing in the past and things that you love in general. Maybe create a mind-map of things you love (anything in general) like food, flowers, reading, animals and see how you can incorporate these things into an activity or an opportunity to volunteer with the things you love. It could be that you enjoy cooking so you could start to branch out and try new recipes and make that a new hobby. Anything that feels rewarding and valuable in and of itself is a great place to start.
- Positive content only
In between activities we’re likely to choose passive activities like watching TV, checking social media or listening to music so making sure this content we consume is positive is important. It’s quite funny that sometimes when we are sad we listen to sad music or watch sad movies, almost reinforcing the way we feel. Whilst it can be comforting to know that other people have felt the way we feel and have survived it and gone on to be much happier, sad music has been found to encourage mind-wandering and when we want to avoid relating the sadness others are talking about, to our own lives, it’s probably best to stay away from sad content. We’re not advocating that you force yourself to be upbeat by consuming creative content which is energetic and overly joyous but to be mindful that if you are seeking something calming perhaps listening to the sound of waves or raindrops would be more useful than a song about heartbreak and loss. This extends to social media and even social events/conversations you partake in – clear your feed of things that trigger bad feelings and set clear boundaries with content that may dampen your mood.
What works for some, may not work for others since recovery, just like experiences, can be individual and personal but sometimes it may take a push to accepting help is needed to partake in any self-care practices and setting boundaries.
How do you try to maintain your mental wellbeing?