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Does the Food I Eat Affect My Mental Wellness?

We have often heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” but does the food we eat actually have that much of an impact on us? The short answer is “yes.” Eating healthy meals and choosing nutritional foods can have an impact on both our physical and mental health.

The mind and the body are connected and many wellness recovery programs emphasize the importance of the mind-body connection. The “mind-body connection” refers to the idea that our physical health can affect our mental health and that our mental health can affect our physical health.

The mind and the body relay messages to one another about how we feel. When we feel sick or ill, we tend to also feel “down” or “blue.” During physical exercise, our minds release a rush of “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins that improve our mood. The foods we eat impact our physical well-being, and, by the mind-body connection, impact our mental wellness.

Replacing Unhealthy Diets with Healthier Options

A large part of recovery is replacing our unhealthy habits with newer, healthier habits. While we may think of recovery as a means of just controlling or changing our addictions, recovery is more accurately described as the process of making healthy life changes.

For most of us in recovery, we may not have learned the best ways to care for ourselves. We may have neglected our physical health and mental well-being while engaging in self-destructive, addictive behaviors. Most 12-step programs and recovery treatment may only focus on addressing our addictions.

Programs like these can be incredibly beneficial components of our recovery treatment. However, recovery involves much more than addressing our addictions. Recovery is about changing our way of life to develop healthy habits that we can utilize for a lifetime.

Holistic approaches that incorporate ideas from the “mind-body connection” can greatly enhance your current treatment. Your diet is one of these areas that you might be overlooking.

What We Eat Can Affect How We Feel

Anything that we put into our bodies will have some effect on our minds and our moods. Some foods will make us feel hyper and lead to a crash, like foods that are high in sugar. A “sugar crash” can make us feel moody and depressed for a short time.

Foods with high amounts of calories can leave us feeling tired as our bodies digest the food. We might feel like we have less energy as our body needs to divert its attention to the process of digestion. Other foods can affect our gastrointestinal systems, giving us heartburn or leaving us feeling bloated.

Those of us who experience heartburn may have a difficult time sleeping due to the painful sensations in our bodies. When our sleep is affected, our moods can become negatively impacted. We may feel tired and irritable throughout the next day.

Some foods, while leaving us feeling full and satiated, may not provide the nutritional content that we need to feel our best. Many people have deficiencies in certain minerals or vitamins that can alter the way that they feel. If we are experiencing any co-occurring mental health disorders while in recovery, we might benefit from checking with our doctors about any underlying medical issues that may be increasing our symptoms.

Some doctors might recommend blood work to verify whether or not a vitamin deficiency can be affecting our moods and mental health. Our doctors may even refer us to a nutrition specialist or dietician for ideas on how we can improve our eating habits. Doctors might also recommend dietary supplements to improve your mental health.

Making Small Improvements to Change Our Eating Habits

Healthy eating habits may be overwhelming for some of us to start. We may not know how to cook or what kinds of foods to eat. We can start by making some small improvements. For example, if someone is experiencing difficulty sleeping and they drink sugary sodas before going to bed, they might benefit from drinking water or some other sugarless, decaffeinated beverage later at night.

If someone eats a lot of fast foods because they feel rushed, they can ask for water instead of soda and resist the urge to “super-size” their meal. Sometimes, we do not eat enough during our busy days and then overeat later at night with unhealthy snacks.

We can plan for our day by packing healthy snacks, like dried fruits or nuts, to keep us from getting too hungry throughout the day. Overall, making some small changes with our eating habits can have a big impact on our daily lives. Take time today to consider your eating habits and how they might be affecting your mental health and well-being.

New research is coming out to highlight the effects of nutrition on our mental health. During our busy lives, we may feel too pressed for time to plan for healthy meals. We may be overlooking our eating habits and not prioritizing meal planning. When we are not planning or considering the importance of our diets on our overall health, we may eat fast foods with low nutritional content. We might also neglect to eat well throughout the day, which can lead to overeating at the end of the day. When we feel hungry, yet rushed to eat, we might be consuming whatever is immediately available with little regard for the impact the food will have on us. Camelback Recovery understands the importance of replacing unhealthy eating habits with healthy ones to improve our overall health. We provide healthy foods for our participants and even help with cooking meals. We believe that healthy eating habits are just one of the many ways to achieve the healthy lifestyle you may be seeking in recovery from addictive behaviors. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 to speak with our staff about our treatment program.

 

What Are Some Self-Care Activities That I Can Do for Recovery?

Self-care in recovery refers to activities that can help you improve your mental and physical health. Self-care activities are completed with the sole intention of doing something for yourself. For many in recovery from addictive behaviors, you may not know the value of scheduling activities that are meant to decrease your anxiety or just do things to make you feel good.

While you may be using your addictive behaviors as a way of treating yourself, self-care activities do not take away from your recovery. While you might engage in addictive behaviors thinking that they will help you feel good, addictions have detrimental short-term and long-term effects on you.

Addictive behaviors, like sexual addiction or drug and alcohol addictions, may have been a negative coping skill that you used to manage stress or relieve feelings of depression. However, your addictions may have left you feeling guilty or shameful afterward. They also may have been negatively impacting your physical well-being.

Self-care activities are activities that are rewarding and meaningful to you. Unlike addictive behaviors, self-care activities are completed to leave you feeling positive and healthy afterward. Self-care involves doing things that will not negatively impact your mental and physical health.

You may have never learned to do healthy activities for the sole benefit of helping yourself. Self-care activities can range from simple acts of maintaining your hygiene to learning new activities. The purpose of self-care is to act with intention and to be aware that you are completing a task or engaging in activity to do something just for your happiness.

When thinking of self-care activities keep the following three tips in mind:

  1. Plan the Activity: You may resort to negative coping skills when you do not plan an activity for your health and well-being. You might fall back to bad habits when you have not scheduled time for yourself. Put the activity on a calendar or set a reminder on your phone.
  2. Do Something You Enjoy: You may be tempted to try something new that is challenging or something you feel others would want you to do. Although some of your goals may be in line with self-activities, self-care is primarily meant for your enjoyment. You do not need to set a goal or an expectation. The point is to do something that just makes you feel good.
  3. Keep It Simple: You do not need to invest a huge amount of time in your self-care activities. To give an idea of how much time you can spend, some recovery treatment programs encourage you to engage in self-care activities for at least five hours per week; this is less than one hour per day. Remember that you are the only person responsible for self-care. Just giving yourself a little bit of time each day can be a huge improvement in your overall wellness!

Common Self-Care Activities

Here is a list of examples of self-care to give you an idea of where to start. This list is by no means comprehensive. However, this can help you brainstorm to discover your activities:

  • Spending time outdoors
  • Spending time with a pet
  • Journaling
  • Reading a book or magazine
  • Yoga
  • Taking a short walk
  • Listening to music
  • Drawing
  • Completing hygiene tasks, like combing your hair or dressing well
  • Making your bed
  • Cooking a healthy meal for yourself
  • Gardening
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Meditation
  • Taking a nap
  • Taking a bath
  • Exercise
  • Adult coloring books
  • Cleaning your personal space

Forming Healthy Self-Care Habits in Recovery

The sole purpose of self-care is to take time for yourself and engage in a healthy activity. You may have formed the habit of engaging in negative and unhealthy activities to feel good in the past. Now is the time to replace those habits. Thinking of scheduling time for yourself as a way of being your own self-care coach.

You are telling yourself that you deserve to do something fun that makes you happy. You may feel like self-care is selfish or you may feel guilty taking time out of your day for your own benefit, but it is okay to take a break for yourself.

By scheduling this time for yourself, you are reinforcing the notion that you are important and deserve recovery. You are valuing yourself and caring for yourself in a way that only you can do. Remember that you are the best expert on what you need to do to be happy and healthy.

You alone know what best makes you feel good. You may have never learned the value of setting aside a few minutes to an hour each day just to do something you love. Permit yourself to engage in a self-care activity by starting today.

You are the best advocate for yourself. If you do not speak up for yourself, who else will? You may not have learned how to care for yourself. You may feel burdened by the needs of others or bogged down by the requirements of each day. Sometimes you might feel like you have no control at all over what you do every day. By scheduling a self-care activity for just a short amount of time each day, you can learn to value yourself and improve your mental health and well-being. Take time to engage in a healthy activity that makes you happy! At Camelback Recovery we encourage our participants to engage in self-care activities for at least five hours each week. Call us to begin your path to health and wellness today at (602) 466-9880.

 

Replacing Unhealthy Behaviors with Healthy Ones

Recovery can be defined as a process of building a healthy lifestyle and making lifelong changes to better our lives. If you are in recovery, you have most likely had some unhealthy habits and behaviors that have held you back from growth and change.

When you engage in the recovery process, you may have to give up a lot of your unhealthy habits. While these unhealthy habits or behaviors were not conducive to building a meaningful life, they were likely motivated by fulfilling some need or want.

To find suitable replacement behaviors, you have to consider the underlying motivations of your unhealthy behaviors. When you know why you engaged in your addictive behaviors, you can start to explore healthier options to meet the same needs, wants, or desires.

Behavior: A Form of Communication

Most of our behaviors serve as a way of communicating something to ourselves or others. Generally, behaviors are ways of communicating about what we want by taking action to obtain those things. What purpose did your unhealthy behaviors serve? What were you trying to communicate by engaging in them? Here are six common reasons people give for their unhealthy behaviors:

  1. The need to belong. Peer pressure is a common reason that people engage in risky behaviors. Peer pressure is motivated by the need to be accepted and liked. The need to belong and having a sense of community is a strong motivator for behaviors, both healthy and unhealthy.
  2. Boredom. Sometimes, we are simply bored and are unsure of healthy ways to quell our boredom. We may have grown up with parents who also engaged in unhealthy recreational activities, such as drinking excessively or using drugs. We may not have a good example to follow for how to occupy our time appropriately.
  3. Co-occurring disorders. Some of us have underlying co-occurring mental health issues that drive our unhealthy behaviors. Some people use alcohol to cope with social anxiety. Others may become addicted to drugs to cope with depression. If our primary motivation is that we are seeking relief from mental anguish, then we can seek healthy treatment options for our mental wellness.
  4. Pain management. We may be suffering from chronic pain and use unhealthy methods of numbing the pain by using alcohol or other substances. We also might find ourselves addicted to substances following dependence on pain management medications. Underlying emotional and physical issues might need to be addressed for recovery.
  5. Trauma. People may behave in unhealthy ways to deal with trauma or to numb themselves from past experiences. Risky or unhealthy habits might serve as a distraction from thinking about our traumatic past.
  6. Stress. We may not have learned healthy ways to manage stress or other emotions. Unhealthy behaviors might be our way of coping with stress. However, they usually lead to a lower quality of life and can cause more problems than the issues we sought to solve. Stress management techniques, like mindfulness and deep breathing, can enhance our quality of life and help us in our recovery.

Did any of these stick out to you as a motivation for some of your unhealthy habits? If so, now you can begin to find healthy methods of obtaining the same needs. When you engage in healthy behaviors, you set yourself up for growth and positive changes.

Healthy Replacement Behaviors

Healthy replacement behaviors are ways of meeting our needs with ways that do not cause more problems in our lives. For those of us in recovery, we may need to explore some of our hobbies and interests to find new activities to fill our time.

We might want to try physical fitness or other exercise programs to release natural endorphins that make us feel good. We may need to learn to express our emotions to heal from them, rather than numbing them to escape our pain. We might need to make some life changes to manage our stress levels.

We also may need to learn how to say “no” and set boundaries with others, who pressure us to do things we do not want to do. Once you understand your motivations, you can begin to find healthy coping mechanisms. Recovery is the process of replacing your unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones.

Healthy behaviors enhance our lives and help us change for the better. On your recovery path, you will learn new ways of living that may not have been apparent to you before. Be open-minded and try new things to live the best life on your journey of recovery.

One of the hardest parts of recovery is changing our habits. Most of us are so accustomed to our routines that we have a difficult time making any changes, even changes for the better. Sometimes we know we want to make a change, yet we are unsure of where to start. By understanding our underlying motivations, we can begin to find healthy replacements for our unhealthy and unfulfilling habits. Once we understand why we behave a certain way, we can begin to find alternatives to achieve similar ends. We might need some time in a positive and supportive environment to create new habits. Change is hard, but you do not have to do it alone. At Camelback Recovery, we teach replacement behaviors to help others learn new ways of replacing bad habits. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 for more information to help you or a loved one!

 

Discovering Purpose: Why Are We Here?

An important aspect of being successful in your recovery experience is discovering your purpose. Your purpose drives you toward your life goals and can help to push you through challenging times. When we live a life of purpose, we feel connected to something beyond ourselves.

“Purpose” is one of the pillars of recovery in many treatment programs. Without having a purpose in life, we may feel lost or we may easily stray from our recovery pathway. Having a purpose can give us a reason to wake each morning and face the challenges of the day.

Some of us in recovery may have never thought about our life purpose in life. We may not know what we are looking for in life, as we may have been living day by day while dealing with our addictions. Working on discovering your purpose can take some time, as you need to think deeply about your life and what you truly value.

6 Tips for Discovering Your Purpose

If finding a purpose is new to you, here are some tips to help you discover your purpose in life:

  1. Help Others: Volunteering can help you find your purpose in life. You may have a unique skill that can benefit others. You can even help your peers in recovery. Volunteering regularly can help you build relationships and connections with others. You may then discover a purpose as people come to value your help and your contributions.
  2. Spend Time with Uplifting and Positive People: Start spending more time with people who inspire you or who make you feel good. If you find yourself spending a lot of time with negative people, who often weigh you down with their troubles or tell you that you cannot achieve your goals, you may want to spend less time with them. Uplifting and positive people can help you maintain the positive mindset needed to discover your passions and your purpose.
  3. Explore Your Interests: How do you spend your free time? Do you watch specific types of television shows that might indicate an interest of yours? What things do you like to learn about? Start to explore the things that interest you. These could be new hobbies or new places to travel. Maybe you want to learn an instrument or take up yoga. Try something new to expose yourself to new experiences.
  4. Thinking Back to Our Childhood: When we were children, most of us had an idea of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Your childhood dreams might still be attainable. Try to think back on those times and see if those things still excite you.
  5. List Your Heroes: Who do you admire? These could be fictional characters or real people. They could be people you know or they could be people you have only heard about in the media. Think about who you admire and why you admire them. We often admire people who have characteristics we would like to have ourselves. Knowing these characteristics might help you understand what you value and can direct you toward your purpose.
  6. Social Causes: Is there a social cause that you are passionate about? Maybe you love animals or recycle each week? You might find purpose in exploring opportunities to aid social causes that you believe in. These passions can direct you to specific volunteering opportunities or career paths.

Making Sense of Your Purpose

Sometimes, we get caught up in specific details when we look for purpose in life. We may have the idea that only one or two specific things will make us happy and fulfilled. You may find it helpful to simplify your life’s purpose into one or two sentences. To simplify your purpose, you need to look at the underlying motivation for your actions.

For example, if you wanted to be a fireman when you grew up, you might consider connecting with a local fire company to volunteer. If your community may not have any opportunities available, you can consider your fundamental motivations. Why did you want to be a fireman?

Did you want to help people? Did you like the sense of adventure? Figuring out why you are passionate about something can help guide you to your life’s purpose. Understanding what you truly love about a hobby or an interest can point you in the direction of more things that you may find fulfilling.

Knowing what you care about—or who you care about—can also help you focus on being the best version of yourself. Keep in mind that finding purpose is a process. Be flexible and open to the multitude of avenues presented to you as you discover your purpose. Overall, having a purpose will help you in recovery because you will contribute to something greater than yourself.

Discovering your life’s purpose can be a rewarding exercise unto itself. Open yourself up to the process of understanding your passions and the things you care about. Engage in this process as you work on your recovery. Once you know your purpose, you will have something to strive toward to make the world a better place. You will be able to focus on your recovery, as you will best serve others when you have first helped yourself. At Camelback Recovery, we believe that having purpose is one of the pillars of recovery. We teach our clients about our five pillars of recovery: accountability, support, structure, community, and purpose. We believe these pillars are fundamental to the recovery process. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 to begin your recovery journey!

 

What Does a Recovery Coach Do?

For some of us new to recovery from addictions or those of us already in 12-step programs, the term “recovery coach” may be an unfamiliar term. We may assume that a sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is similar to a recovery coach.

While a sponsor from a 12-step program may seem like a coach and encourage our recovery, the term “recovery coach” refers to a professional with a specific job description. A recovery coach may share characteristics similar to other support members on our team. However, recovery coaches have a set of responsibilities outlined by their program guidelines and expectations.

Sponsors and Recovery Coaches: What Is the Difference?

When entering a sober living home or a recovery treatment program, we may be introduced to a recovery coach on our staff. We might feel like this is redundant if we already have a sponsor. While both people play important roles in our treatment, recovery coaches differ from our sponsors in many ways.

A sponsor will primarily focus on guiding us through the 12-step program of AA or NA. Our sponsor will be with us along every step of a specific recovery program. Recovery, however, can include more treatment options than a 12-step program. We may be attending group therapy or seeing a psychotherapist.

We might have a case manager helping us with attaining resources outside of treatment, like housing and medical care. We might have an addiction specialist helping to connect us with recovery programs. Each of these components can be beneficial to our recovery in their own way.

While a sponsor guides us through one specific program, a recovery coach mentors us through our entire recovery process. Recovery coaches help to coordinate and glue the different treatment aspects together. They encourage us to engage in lifelong recovery.

While sponsors help us through the 12-step process, once we complete AA or NA, we may want to seek alternative methods of recovery. Even if we continue to attend AA or NA meetings, we may benefit from other programs and treatments to enhance our recovery journey over a lifetime.

Recovery coaches help to facilitate this process. They also counsel and support us in pursuing our goals beyond changing our addictive behaviors. Recovery coaches can help us find purpose in life to enable us to cultivate a healthy lifestyle.

Recovery Development Plans

Recovery coaches will primarily help us develop a recovery development plan. Our recovery development plan will include our goals inside and outside of treatment. The tools that recovery coaches use may be things like:

  • Strengths-Based Approaches: Recovery coaches are interested in focusing on our strengths. Sponsors and addiction specialists tend to be more adept at helping us with our addictive behaviors. However, recovery coaches want to build up our strengths to help us see the value in ourselves. Our strengths can help us build the resiliency and focus needed to engage in recovery for a lifetime.
  • SMART Goals: Recovery coaches consult us in thinking beyond fixing our addictions. They want to understand our life’s purpose and guide us in achieving our goals. Recovery coaches can help us develop effective recovery plans by creating Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based goals.
  • The GROW model: Our recovery coach may also use the GROW model to develop successful and meaningful recovery plans. GROW stands for: having Goals, understanding the Reality of our circumstances, being empowered with Options for treatment and recovery, having a coach guide us in Writing out our plans.

Generating Options for Treatment: Empowering Us in Recovery

Our recovery coach can empower us in our treatment by generating options for our recovery journey. Some programs or approaches may work well for others but may not work for us at all. A recovery coach can guide us through the process of finding the approaches that work best for us. While some of us may only be familiar with 12-step recovery programs, we might benefit from exploring some other approaches to enhance our treatment. Some of these approaches include:

  • Individual or Group Therapy
  • Mindfulness Practices
  • Yoga
  • Physical Fitness and Exercise
  • Peer Support
  • Nutritional Wellness
  • Art and Music Therapy
  • Outdoor or Recreational Therapy

Our recovery coach can introduce us to many new and exciting forms of treatment that can enhance our recovery. Recovery coaches also hold us accountable to sticking with our recovery. Some of these approaches can foster lifelong habits that we can continue to pursue beyond our recovery program. Sometimes we need a guiding hand to understand all of our options to develop a recovery plan that works for us. You can let a recovery coach be that guiding hand for you.

Are you new to recovery or already in a traditional 12-step program? Are you looking for more treatment options and guidance in other areas of life? Do you feel that you are ready to take the next step toward leading a fulfilling life beyond treatment? Recovery coaches can navigate us through the process of finding effective treatment options. Recovery coaches empower us to find the best options that will speak to our individual desires and preferences. They help us to discover our purpose in life beyond treating our addictive behaviors and habits. Camelback Recovery provides recovery coaching free of charge for the first two weeks of stay in our sober living home. We like to provide two weeks of this service for free to help our participants start off on the right track. Call us at (602) 466-9880 to start your recovery today!