The connection between mind and body can play an important role in recovery. What is going on in our heads and hearts has a profound impact on what is happening in every cell of our bodies. The reverse is true as well. When our bodies are sick, it affects the functioning of our minds.
For people in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse, or clawing their way back from a serious illness or injury, this connection is a crucial aspect in managing their return to a healthy way of life. One tool we can use to navigate our way along this journey is good self-care, looking after our whole person physically, mentally and emotionally. This means committing to a regime of exercise, good nutrition and spiritual growth.
Your Mind and Your Spirit
Psychologist Guy Winch recommends we should all be practicing a type of emotional first aid, closing the gap between physical and emotional health. When our self-esteem is high, we are resilient and more able to recover from setbacks. Give yourself the opportunity to feel good about yourself. Make time for yourself, do things you enjoy and engage in activities that boost your self-confidence. Set aside time in your day to meditate. You can try journaling, to get more in touch with what you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to lighten your load; it’s OK to take some alone time if you need to. Whether you are recovering from illness, injury or addiction, remember that you have been through a traumatic experience, so pace yourself. It takes time to heal.
Body and Mind, Working Together to Heal Each Other
While you were sick, you may have neglected your physical well-being, too. Feed your body well, and it will nourish your spirit. Choose foods that make you feel more energetic and motivated. Avoid excess sugar and caffeine as their associated highs wear off, you’ll feel more sluggish than when you started.
Whatever you do, you need to move, each and every day. Find a form of physical activity that you enjoy, so you’re more likely to stick to it. But start slowly; if you’re not in the habit of doing much, don’t start off with a marathon. Set realistic goals for yourself and reward your diligence when you achieve them.
The benefits of exercise during recovery are numerous. Physical exertion causes you to produce endorphins, nature’s original feel-good hormones. They act as pain suppressors and mood elevators. Studies show that regular exercise speeds recovery and lessens the chance of relapse.
Engaging in outdoor sports also puts you in touch with nature. A bike ride or a walk combines healthy exercise with fresh air and sunshine. You can get out of your own head for a bit. You may find that exercise clears the mind, and allows you to renew your focus on yourself, and your recovery.
Maintain a Healthy Balance
It’s important to balance all the aspects of your self-care regime. You want to integrate them into a single plan of action to make you stronger, healthier and happier. Beware of falling into the trap of replacing addiction with exercise: a runner’s high is not a euphemism; you can become as dependent on those endorphins as any medication. Pay attention to what your body is telling you each day:
- Does it need more rest?
- Are you adequately hydrated?
- Is there anything preying on your mind that you need to address?
- If you’re just not feeling like exercise today, is it a message from your muscles that they need a rest?
- Or, is it a bit of emotional withdrawal? Have you overtaxed your emotional resources?
The Bottom Line
Be mindful of your emotional and physical needs, so you can affect holistic change and make healthy choices in all areas of your life.