Mental health issues often go hand-in-hand with addiction, but caring for both at the same time can be difficult.
What Do You Mean by Mental Health?
The term “mental health” is a pretty broad one, but it’s very important to not just addicts, but everyone. It has to do with your psychological state, your emotional stability, and your social network. They all work together to create a sort of connected web, where each strand affects each of the others. Caring for this web is as essential to a person’s wellbeing as any physical upkeep, but it can be easy to neglect it even for someone not dealing with addiction recovery.
It is imperative that a recovering addict attend to their own mental health during their recovery process. In the same way that we take a daily shower or wash our hands, we need to be in constant care of our mental wellbeing as well.
Why is Mental Health More Important for Recovering Addicts?
It’s been shown that addicts have a higher rate of mental health issues than those that are not experiencing addiction. These co-occurring disorders can run the gamut of mental health disorders, such as depression, ADD, anxiety, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder. As such, it can be almost impossible to treat one without the other. Whether one is the cause of the other is a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg situation, and ultimately it doesn’t really matter – they must be taken care of together.
So What Can You Do?
In addition to other addiction treatments, general good mental health practices should be encouraged for any recovering addict. The most effective lifestyle changes to maintain mental health seem like general common sense, but they very much fall into the “easier said than done” category:
- Exercise. Specifically, regular cardiovascular exercise (jogging, biking, etc.) has been shown in study after study to improve nearly every facet of life, and that includes mental health. In fact, many recovery programs even integrate cardiovascular exercise into the program itself.
- Watch what you eat. Diet is directly tied to mental health as much as it is physical health. Vitamin deficiencies can cause a number of mood and energy issues, which can impact your overall mental health. Lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will keep your body and mind healthy while you work towards recovery.
- Finally – and possibly most importantly – sleep. Seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is recommended for every adult, yes it’s estimated that nearly 1/3 of all Americans lack enough sleep. The effects sufficient sleep have on a person are numerous – from significant boosts in energy and mood to a possible direct correlation to willpower, something every recovering addict needs.