Overcoming substance abuse is a difficult yet rewarding path that requires focused effort, support, and practical strategies. This article, courtesy of How to Organize Your Life, provides actionable insights for anyone ready to make the leap toward a substance-free existence. From the role of community in healing to the positive influence of mindful living, let’s explore the roadmap to recovery.
Connect Through Community
One of the fundamental elements in the journey to recovery is the power of community. Being part of a support group or a structured recovery program offers not just expert advice but also a network of people who understand your struggles. This connection fosters accountability, provides emotional sustenance, and instils a sense of purpose—all of which are crucial in the fight against substance abuse.
Cultivate Mental Wellness Through Gardening
Engaging in therapeutic activities can offer a profound impact on mental wellness, and gardening is one such endeavor that has demonstrated positive effects. The very act of working with soil, sowing seeds, and observing plant growth can imbue a sense of meaningful achievement and emotional restoration.
Before getting started, it’s prudent to consult online resources that offer in-depth product reviews and expert gardening advice. Click here to explore these resources!
Pinpoint the Catalysts
Understanding what prompts you to use substances is an instrumental aspect of recovery. Are you driven by stress, emotional trauma, or mere routine?
Identifying these triggers allows you to circumvent situations where you’re most vulnerable so you can make more informed choices. Once you know what to look for, you can develop preemptive strategies or healthier coping mechanisms to replace the act of using substances.
Evaluate Institutional Care Options
For those who find that outpatient methods are not sufficient, the next logical step might be inpatient care, which offers a rigorous, structured environment free from common triggers that might lead to relapse. The concern about the cost is understandable but should not be a barrier to seeking help.
Many inpatient centers have affiliations with health insurance providers, which can alleviate the financial burden. When considering this option, you might ask, “Are there available treatment alternatives in my area?” A discussion with your insurance company can answer this question and guide you to a treatment facility that aligns with both your medical needs and financial resources.
Foster Resilience Through Alternative Coping Strategies
Engagement in life-enhancing activities can significantly aid your recovery journey. This can range from physical exercise to artistic expression.
By investing your time and energy in these pursuits, you create a compelling alternative to substance use. Developing new skills or hobbies can serve as both a distraction from cravings and a means of emotional regulation.
Acknowledging your past actions and their ramifications is a fundamental aspect of recovery. This acceptance allows you to genuinely apologize to those you’ve hurt and mend fractured relationships. Accountability is the gateway to personal growth, paving the way for you to make informed choices in your ongoing journey to recovery.
Integrate Physical Activity
Incorporating even minor changes in your physical routine can contribute to your general well-being. These changes can be as simple as walking instead of driving for short distances or choosing stairs over elevators. Such activities are not just beneficial for physical health but are also conducive to mental wellness.
Master the Art of Mindful Living
Mindfulness techniques, such as focused breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, can be valuable tools in managing cravings and emotional upheavals. These practices train you to remain present, and aware of your thoughts and emotions, so you can react less impulsively to stressors. Practicing mindfulness cultivates a mental environment where recovery can truly thrive.
Recovery from substance abuse is neither a straightforward nor a solitary journey, but it’s an attainable goal. You can navigate the complexities of recovery by fostering a strong support network, recognizing triggers, considering structured treatment, and adopting enriching activities. A life free from the grip of substance abuse is not just a possibility; it’s a realistic outcome for those willing to commit to the transformative power of practical, supportive steps.
If you enjoyed this article, you can find more helpful content on How to Organize Your Life!
We now know that today’s diet, lacking in brain-friendly fats and other nutrients, yet high in sugar and ultra-processed food, is likely to be shrinking our brains, dumbing us down and triggering a big increase in mental health problems. But it isn’t just nutrition that is creating the perfect storm for our mental demise.
The digital culture we exist in is pushing us towards a whole new paradigm of background stress. This is partly because the marketeers have learnt how to get us addicted to their products – applying a level of stress and variable reward to trick the brain’s reward system – leaving you with a ‘gotta have it’ feeling.
So is this where smartphone addiction comes from?
This manipulation of the stress/reward response is one of the oldest mechanisms of the brain. It is both core for our survival, but also makes us more impulsive, manipulatable and, effectively, stupid.
Most of all, it makes us good consumers. Reward, based on dopamine, equals pleasure. We are living in space-age times with stone age minds and multinational companies have learnt how to get us hooked – literally neurochemically addicted to consuming their products.
We are being sold pleasure in the guise of happiness: the happy hour, the happy meal, happiness in a can. But joy and happiness are regulated by the neurotransmitter serotonin, not the latest special offer. And in fact, this pleasure-seeking may be counterproductive.
“The more pleasure you seek, the more unhappy you get” says Professor Robert Lustig, author of ‘Hacking the American Mind’. This is because too much dopamine (the ‘reward’ neurotransmitter) suppresses serotonin (the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter) and we end up feeling unhappy and depressed. This brain hijack may be why depression, suicide and psychiatric drug prescriptions have rocketed to the point where, in the UK and US (and probably elsewhere), there are almost twice as many prescriptions for psychiatric drugs per year than there are people.
“We are the most in debt, the most obese, the most medicated and the most drugged up adult population in human history” says Lustig. We have literally learnt how to fool our brains and in doing so have fooled ourselves, by creating addictive behaviours and addictive foods.
It seems dopamine, the brain’s main neurotransmitter of reward and desire, is the key.
Of all the changes that have taken place in the 21st century, the ‘digital revolution’ has changed our world beyond recognition, seemingly speeding up time. Yes, our diet and environment have changed a lot, but what’s really changed, especially in cities that now house half of humanity and an estimated two-thirds of the world’s population by 2035, is the pace of life. People all over the world are sleeping less, having less downtime, feeling more anxious and stressed and burning out at a far higher rate. This is reflected in the increasing rate of work absenteeism, depression and suicide, especially in cities.
The speeding up of communication – emails, smartphones and digital media – means that we are supposed to react to demands, and are bombarded with them, at an ever-increasing speed.
We have literally become addicted to our phones(8). The average person picks up their phone 352 times a day – more than every three minutes, and swipes it thousands of times a day. A UK survey reports 62% cannot make it through dinner without checking their phone. Almost half of us report anxiety if we don’t have our phone, or a signal, suffering ‘nomophobia’. We are going to sleep with our phones and checking them first thing on waking up. One survey found that one in ten university students in the US admitted to having checked their smartphones during sex!
Why? Basically, to sell stuff. “I feel tremendous guilt,” admitted Chamath Palihapitiya, former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook, to an audience of Stanford students. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.” Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn or any other platform, the core design is to get your attention, then show you ads tailored to your attributes and behaviours which the technology learns about you. Facebook, for example, has learnt how to do this with prompts, swipe downs, red icons that you press and don’t know what you receive. Is it a ‘like’? Do I have more ‘friends’? Or has another person ‘linked’ to me on LinkedIn etc.
Facebook even knows when you’re feeling ‘insecure’, ‘worthless’ and ‘need a confidence boost’ or are ‘bored’, and can make sure you receive a notification of a ‘like’ at just the right time to keep you hooked. If you find yourself checking your phone at the slightest feeling of boredom, purely out of habit, know that programmers work very hard behind the screens to keep you doing exactly that. A study of 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania, limiting use to 30 minutes a day versus a control group found significant reductions in loneliness and depression (9). The researchers concluded, “Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.”
Whether it’s a text, a notification or a ‘like’, just like sugar, this digital consumption triggers a reward signal in our brains. The marketing algorithms schedule the precise times to deliver our digital diet and serve up the extra addictive quality of a variable reward.
Your brain’s reward system
It’s to do with a tiny organ in the central hippocampal area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This is the headquarters of our dopamine-based ‘reward’ system.
The more dopamine you release the more receptors shut down, so you seek more pleasurable behaviours and foods. Insidiously and unknowingly your brain has been hijacked and the symptoms you feel are the direct consequences of an intended addiction. Gambling, gaming, overeating, sex, drugs, food, social media and other digital addictions are all part of it. We end up needing this constant stimulation and, to fuel that, need instant energy foods and drinks – sugar and coffee.
The issue here is to understand how the combination of sugar, caffeinated stimulants, alcohol, tech and social media addiction, shopping, gambling, gaming and so on can hijack your brain’s natural reward system and result in the opposite – you feeling more tired, anxious, unfulfilled and depressed. If that’s happened to you, rest assured there are some simple suggestions that will help you reclaim your brain’s full potential for feeling good, energised, clear, focussed and purposeful.
Simple ways to win back your brain
- Limit your time spent on social media – 30 minutes a day max is a good target but you may need to build down to this. Turn your phone off (or to ‘airplane’ mode) at least an hour before bed and keep it that way for at least an hour in the morning. If you have to have it on, don’t check social media for a couple of hours.
- Limit your intake of caffeine to under 100 grams a day – that’s one strong cup of coffee or two weaker cups of tea. If you have a second cup, use the same tea bag, or have a filter coffee ‘run through’. Avoid all caffeine after noon.
- Avoid buying food that contains added sugar, dates or raisins – if in doubt, read the label and remember sugar is often disguised as high fructose corn syrup. When looking at food labels remember 5g is a teaspoon of sugar and foods with more than 22.5g per 100g of sugar are considered high sugar and those with 5g or less per 100g are considered low sugar. Ideally, only have sugar in whole fresh fruits. Fruit juice is also high in sugar so best avoided or limited.
- Limit your daily intake of alcohol to 20 grams, or a maximum of two small glasses (125ml is one small glass) of wine. Have at least two days a week alcohol-free.
What are the Sunday scaries?
The Sunday scaries, also known as the “Sunday blues,” are the sense of anxiety or dread you feel on a Sunday night before returning to work on Monday. You might recognize the Sunday scaries as the pit in your stomach that forms on Sunday evening as the last hours of the weekend tick away and the beginning of the workweek closes in. The Sunday scaries are a form of “anticipatory anxiety” since they cause you to feel anxiety about an event that hasn’t happened yet.
Tips to combat the Sunday scaries
If you’re struggling with the Sunday scaries, we’re here to help. While the dread that fills your Sunday nights can feel overwhelming, there are several actions you can take to reduce—or even eliminate—the fear that takes hold on Sunday evenings.
Remember, you’re not alone in this. The Sunday scaries are related to self-care, but they’re really a work issue. They’re also a valid feeling of anticipatory anxiety that many people, likely including your colleagues and peers, struggle with. By taking steps to identify the cause of your anxiety and prioritize your well-being, you can overcome your Sunday night dread.
1. Determine the cause of your Sunday scaries
Without a clear root cause, the Sunday scaries can feel insurmountable. One moment you’re enjoying your weekend, and the next you’re hit with a feeling of impending doom or unease that you just can’t shake. Instead of writing off this sense of dread as a natural reaction to the end of the weekend, focus on what might be causing the feeling. Ask yourself, is there anything going on at work that you feel unprepared for? Are you happy in your role, or are you feeling stagnant? What’s your work-life balance like?
Determining the specific source of your Sunday-night dread is the first step to overcoming it. Once you have a better idea of what might be causing your feelings, you can brainstorm steps to fix the origin—like prioritizing your most important work to increase your productivity and reduce missed deadlines.
2. Try anxiety-coping techniques
The Sunday scaries are both a work and a well-being challenge. Since the Sunday blues manifest in feelings akin to feelings of anxiety, using anxiety-management and relaxation techniques can help you manage your levels of Sunday-related stress. Try coping strategies like:
- Practicing mindfulness and gratitude
- Using deep breathing exercises
- Keeping a work journal to provide clarity and awareness around complicated work situations
- Taking a long walk or meditating
- Using visualization techniques or reciting positive affirmations
Of course, these are short-term strategies that will help control your feelings of Sunday-night anxiety in the moment. To curb these feelings long-term, you’ll want to focus on actionable changes you can make to your work routine.
3. Create a relaxing Sunday
Since the Sunday scaries lead to increased stress, one of the best ways to combat them is by prioritizing an otherwise stress-free Sunday night. Even though it’s tempting, try not to push all of your weekend responsibilities, like household chores or grocery shopping, to Sunday. Instead, knock out your essential weekend to-dos on Friday evening or Saturday morning to give yourself space to breathe and relax on Sunday.
You can also incorporate a relaxing routine into your Sunday night. Creating a routine will help you wind down, reducing the stress you’d otherwise feel about the upcoming week. Plus, creating a relaxing routine you enjoy gives you something to look forward to on Sunday night, which can reduce your anxiety around the end of the weekend. Try adding stress-management techniques to your routine, like reading a book before bed, taking a warm bath, or meditating.
4. Plan something fun on Monday
Like giving yourself something to look forward to on Sunday evening with a Sunday night routine, planning something fun for Monday can make the start of the week a little less intimidating. It can be something small, like grabbing a cup of coffee before work. Or you can schedule time for something you enjoy, like watching a favorite TV show or cooking a favorite meal. Bonus points if it doubles as something relaxing, like taking a walk or doing yoga. Or, plan an event that will make Monday your favorite day of the week, like a standing happy hour or dinner with a friend. You could also create a productive morning routine to start your Monday fresh and energized.
5. Prioritize your work-life balance
As you may have guessed from our first few tips, prioritizing your work-life balance is key to curbing the Sunday scaries. And while making time for yourself is an important part of developing a successful work-life balance, it will take more than a few bubble baths.
Truly prioritizing your work-life balance means reframing how you think about work and what’s required to succeed. According to the Anatomy of Work Index, 40% of all workers think burnout is an inevitable part of success.
Use strategies to achieve a healthier work-life balance. These could include:
- Setting clear boundaries around when you’re online
- Reducing the amount of work activities you do outside the office
- Learning how to say no if you’re overscheduled
6. Use “do not disturb” and block notifications when you’re off the clock
Technology has connected us—and also made us more distracted. According to the Anatomy of Work, over a third of workers feel overwhelmed by persistent pings. What’s more, workers are facing technology overload: 42% of workers are spending more time on email than one year ago, and 56% feel they need to respond immediately to notifications.
Despite this, only 37% of all workers snooze notifications to limit notifications. Look for tools that offer a “do not disturb” function so you can block app notifications when you’re offline. This sets clear boundaries and gives yourself time away from the hustle and bustle of work on evenings and weekends. After all, your time is your time. When you’re off, you should be fully off(line).
7. Plan out your work week
One root cause of the Sunday scaries is feeling overwhelmed or unprepared for the week ahead. Perhaps you have looming deadlines you’re not sure you’ll be able to meet, or you have an upcoming presentation you don’t feel ready to present. Creating a weekly work plan can help.
A weekly work plan breaks down and organizes your weekly tasks into a manageable overview, so you can see what you need to do and by when. Weekly work plans also allow you to prioritize tasks and set due dates, giving you visibility into your upcoming week. Since weekly work plans help you break down large tasks into smaller to-dos and give you a view of your week at a glance, they’re perfect for balancing your workload. And a balanced workload means less stress during the week—and less anxiety on Sunday.
8. Know when to ask for help
It’s important to recognize the signs that the Sunday scaries are becoming something more serious, like depression or an anxiety disorder. If the above strategies aren’t helping diminish your feelings of Sunday-night dread, or if your work anxiety is significantly impacting your work or personal life, it might be time to take further action. Talk to your manager, mentor, or HR department about workplace benefits that might help. Remember, mental health is health. It’s important to prioritize it—in the workplace and beyond.
SPF Factors Explained
It needn’t be a sweltering day to feel the full force of the sunshine. Even in overcast conditions, sunlight remains extremely strong, penetrating clouds and even glass.
And with that sunlight, come plentiful supplies of UV rays. These can covertly and very gradually damage the skin, cause wrinkles, and increase the chance of developing skin cancer, especially if skin is over-exposed and under-protected.
While we won’t be suggesting you avoid the sun completely or give up that golden tan, you can minimise the risk of sun damage by getting to know what’s on your sun cream bottle, and what that means for your sun protection.
Take a look at our top tips below about what SPF means, how SPF works, and how often you should apply sun cream.
Understanding your sunscreen bottle
What does the SPF number mean?
SPF stands for sun protection factor which acts as a yardstick for the length of time the sun’s UV radiation will take to burn your skin versus if you were unprotected.
For example, an SPF 30 sun cream should take you 30 times longer to burn than if you were wearing no sun cream, as it allows around 3% of UVB rays to reach your skin. Likewise, SPF 50 would take 50 times longer to make you burn and allows around just 2% of UVB rays through. This only applies, of course, if you are applying sun lotion as directed on the bottle and reapplying as instructed.
What does UVA and UVB mean?
Beyond what SPF means, your sun lotion bottle provides much more vital info about its sun protection level, including the differences between UVA and UVB.
UVA (ultraviolet A) penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB and has a longer-lasting effect. These types of rays are closely linked with skin cancer and premature ageing, such as wrinkles, leathery skin, and sun spots. UVB (ultraviolet B) has shorter wavelengths than UVA and is more commonly displayed on sun cream bottles; it is also the main cause of sunburn and is linked with some skin cancers.
Where is the expiry date on sun cream?
Not had a chance to buy new sunscreen this summer? Are you wondering how long sun cream lasts as you’re looking to apply last year’s bottle?
To know when suncream expires, all you need to do is look out for the symbol that looks like an open jar on the sunscreen bottle. This has a number inside that tells you how long the product should be used after it has been opened.
For example, if you see “12M” in the open jar, then the sun cream should be used within 12 months of cracking it open. After that time, the sun cream becomes ineffective – no matter how high the sun protection factor is. As such, try to remember when you last opened it and, if you know you used it last year, it’s time to buy a fresh one.
How often should I apply sun cream and how much should I be wearing?
While many dermatologists will recommend wearing sun cream everyday to provide constant sun protection (yes, even during the winter), during summer, when the sun is at its hottest, you should consider reapplying sun lotion every two hours. If you are out and about during the hottest point of the day, have sensitive skin, go swimming, or sweat a lot, you may need to increase the frequency.
As for how much sun cream you should apply, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 35ml (around seven teaspoons) for all over body coverage. This amount of sun cream should cover a teaspoon on the head and neck, one teaspoon on each arm, each leg, your front, and your back.
Generally, we don’t apply enough sun cream to our bodies which means, while we think we’re doing everything we can to protect our skin, we could be greatly reducing our level of sun protection. If in doubt, apply more, not less.
What SPF should I use?
It goes without saying that, for maximum sun protection, a higher SPF is advised.
.The decision comes down to what you know about your skin. Are you prone to burning at the first sight of sun? Is your skin pale? Have you any skin conditions? If you know your skin has a low tolerance to sun exposure, it is always better to be over-cautious with sun protection and opt for a higher SPF, even if it is cloudy.
Other than sun protection factor, what else should you be looking for on your sunscreen bottle? Water-resistant sun creams are most effective as they are able to wick away sweat, rain, and swimming water. Sprays don’t always play well with windy weather and tanning oils – which develop a deeper tan through attracting more UVB rays – will deepen your chance of burning.
Also don’t forget to consult the UVA and UVB ratings on the bottle when choosing between sun creams: they should say ‘high’ or ‘very high’ or provide a star rating of 4 or more (the higher the rating, the better).
Your Inbox is meant to bring e-mail IN. It’s not meant to live there forever and ever. What comes in must go back out again. It’s no different than the physical inbox on your desk for papers, files and other incoming mail. It’s also no different than voice mail for your office phone or your cell phone. All of this information is not supposed to accumulate.
Here are 4 fundamentals to help you lighten the load in your Inbox
1. Your Inbox is NOT a file cabinet, nor a To-Do list.
Your Inbox is meant to bring e-mail IN. It’s not meant to live there forever and ever. What comes in must go back out again. It’s no different than the physical inbox on your desk for papers, files and other incoming mail. It’s also no different than voice mail for your office phone or your cell phone. All of this information is not supposed to accumulate. It’s meant to keep flowing forward to its next temporary station or permanent location.
2. E-mail can be clutter, too.
Just like all the other aforementioned incoming bits of data, your e-mail can build up and become clutter, just like paper and files can on your desk. So remember this next bit: “Clutter is unmade decisions.” You are avoiding or deferring decisions when you let your many inboxes fill up with stuff.
E-mail is meant to be read, unless you know immediately it’s trash or spam. Otherwise read it, then STOP. Make a decision about the content of the e-mail and it’s usefulness to you.
When I worked with my client, the associate, he immediately recognized that much of what he had kept was now useless or meaningless since it was related to completed tasks and projects and time had passed.
Check your e-mail Inbox. How far back are you holding e-mails? A year? Two years? More? How is this information useful to you?
3. Better safe than sorry.
Sometimes it’s true… you have to hold on to e-mail forever and ever due to legal, financial and/or other rules and regulations existing in your job, career or industry. However, even if that’s true, that doesn’t mean these e-mails are best kept in your Inbox OR in the folders on the left. Nope, sorry. They need to go somewhere else.
If you don’t reference older e-mails very much – or at all – once the task, job, project, program or client work is completed, consider storing e-mails and attachments elsewhere.
Consolidate information in your hard drive according to project, job, department, program or client. Or you can archive them in your e-mail system by year or in another structure that helps you find them fast when you actually do need to find them later.
4. For now or for later?
If you don’t already have a few folders set up on the left side of your screen, this is a handy place to keep active and ongoing e-mails. While the associate I worked with identified lots and lots of old, obsolete or useless information in his Inbox, some of these were, at one time, useful. So once your e-mails become reference information, they need to come out of the Inbox.
While your work is in progress, you can set up folders on the left, under the Inbox for tracking and storing ongoing work or projects. But… keep the final destination of this information in mind, especially if you’re meant to be saving all client information, for example, in your hard drive according to company guidelines or as hard copies in a file drawer.
Don’t use e-mail folders as a stepping stone if the information is really meant to stay somewhere else on a more permanent basis. If that’s the case, then, with few exceptions, it’s better to get these e-mails and their attachments to their permanent location right away, instead of letting them accumulate. I’ve seen this “stepping stone” approach backfire more than once and the frustration and lost time was incredible.
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Another reason that Synoshi is so effective at deep cleaning is that it is hand-held and cordless, and because of this, it can scrub places that other tools may not be able to reach. Additionally, the power scrubber can rotate a stiff bristle brush so quickly and with so much strength that grime has no chance to stick around.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong process. There will be bumps in the road, and you will always need to stay vigilant on your journey to a better life. That said, incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine can help make sobriety easier. Today, How to Organize Your Life provides some tips on how to do just that.
Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s rest is crucial for both your physical and mental health. It can be hard to stick to a regular sleep schedule when you’re first getting sober, but you must try. A lack of sleep can lead to relapse and a host of other health issues. Here are some tips for achieving a healthy sleep rhythm:
- Establish a regular sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will help your body regulate its natural sleep rhythm.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: Caffeine can keep you awake for hours after drinking it, while alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Avoid working or using electronic devices in bed: Working on your laptop or watching television in bed can make it harder to fall asleep and get the rest you need.
- Get plenty of exercise during the day: Exercise helps promote good sleep hygiene by tiredness your body and making it easier to fall asleep at night.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable: Keeping your environment calm and stress-free will help you relax and fall asleep more easily.
Start the Day Strong
The morning is a critical time of day; it’s when we get ready for the day ahead and set the tone for how we’ll be feeling. Developing a healthy morning routine is important for ensuring we’re off to a good start. Some things you may want to include in your morning routine are:
- Waking up early enough to have some time to yourself.
- Getting dressed in comfortable clothes.
- Making breakfast and/or drinking a healthy smoothie.
- Reading or doing some quiet meditation or mindfulness exercises.
- Spending some time outdoors, if possible.
- Eliminating social media from your morning routine.
Having these things in place as part of your morning routine can help you feel more relaxed and centered as you start your day. It can also help set the tone for how the day will go, and give you the energy you need to take on whatever comes your way.
A healthy diet will help your body heal from the damage caused by addiction and give you the energy you need to stay sober. Avoid processed foods and sugar as much as possible, and try to get plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein. While you’re at it, limit your caffeine intake; too much caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and negatively impact your sleep.
Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. It also helps reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase energy levels. All of these things are essential to maintaining sobriety, so find a physical activity (e.g., running, cycling, weightlifting, etc.) that you can commit to at least four days a week.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you’re about to lose your cool, take a break. Step away from the situation and take some deep breaths. Doing so will help you avoid saying or doing something you might regret later.
Connect with Others
Isolation is one of the main triggers for relapse, so it’s essential to stay connected with friends and family members who support your sobriety. Attend meetings, join a sober social group, or volunteer — do anything that gets you around others who understand what you’re going through.
Sobriety is a difficult but rewarding journey. Incorporating healthy habits into your everyday life can make it easier to maintain your sobriety long-term. So get plenty of rest, establish a morning routine, eat healthily, connect with others, and implement the other tips above. Your recovery and your overall life will benefit significantly as you put in the effort!
Written by: Becky Bargh
Around two million people in the UK are affected by the winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, as the shorter days trigger many of us to feel more lethargic. While we can’t hurry winter along, we can give you some tips on how to navigate the colder, darker months. Here are just five…
Like its predecessors, 2022 was a tough year for many people.
But at the dawn of a new year, January brings with it positivity and plenty of promise.
As we move through the winter months, however, the winter blues – otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – can start to creep in.
SAD has been described as a “winter depression” that occurs annually during the winter months.
While its cause is still debated, low vitamin D levels and lower levels of melatonin are a few suggestions for the onset of SAD over the darker season.
Symptoms are similar to that of depression and include persistent low mood, lethargy and irritability.
The good news is that there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help to combat the winter blues, as well as treatments depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Here are some suggestions.
1. Get active
Described as a “miracle cure” by the NHS – the benefits of exercise are vast.
It’s something that everyone can do to improve their health; whether it be little or a lot, you’re guaranteed to feel the benefits.
To combat SAD, the NHS recommends exercising outside in as much daylight as possible.
This could be something as simple as a gentle stretch or a midday walk.
“Exercise release endorphins – chemicals that help us to feel good,” explains rugby legend, Jonny Wilkinson.
“It also gets the body moving, the blood pumping and helps to avoid stagnancy. Completing goals and challenging limits are small victories that help us build momentum and a sense of self-worth.”
However, we know it can be difficult to be motivated to get regular exercise in the winter months.
2. How your diet can help
Good health is achieved through a balanced diet. This doesn’t just mean eating a plethora of foods, but also in the right proportions.
The Associations of UK Dieticians recommends eating regular meals to help combat depression, along with a healthy portion of protein at each meal, due to its high tryptophan content – an essential amino acid needed to make proteins.
Sources include fish, poultry and eggs.
Adding more vegetables to your favourite meals is one way to ensure you’re hitting the recommended allowance. Or swap out one of your less healthy snacks for a piece of fruit.
Meanwhile, Vitality’s Head Mental Health and Wellbeing, Belinda Sidhu, says that foods that are rich in vitamin D and B can help with energy levels.
3. Light therapy
In an effort to simulate sunlight exposure, light therapy is becoming an increasingly popular method to counter winter blues.
The act of light therapy itself involves sitting by a specific type of lamp for around 30 minutes to an hour, giving the illusion of more natural light throughout the shorter days.
Studies have found that using light therapy it can effectively adjust users’ circadian rhythm, which improves our sleep.
These lights come in a number of different forms, such as desk lights, screens and clocks.
While it’s a compelling idea, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is yet to determined light therapy’s effectiveness.
For more information, visit the NHS website here.
4. Mindfulness and meditation
As mentioned above, theories around the onset of SAD come from a higher production of melatonin.
This natural hormone is produced by the brain’s pineal gland and controls the sleep cycle.
The body begins to produce melatonin when it gets dark, meaning it is produced for long in the winter months, and can disrupt our circadian rhythm.
There is some evidence to show that meditation can be used as an effective tool to overcome SAD. Meditating helps to increase the body’s serotonin levels, which modulates melatonin to a healthy level. In turn, this can help change your thoughts around negative thinking, a common symptom on SAD.
Mindfulness is another practice that can be beneficial in combatting SAD.
5. Speak to someone
A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes, and it’s been proven to an effective one, too.
Research by Age UK found that around one in three adults share their worries and 36% feel better as a result.
Meanwhile, Wilkinson says that, for him, speaking out is how he moves towards his goals:
“When you feel like you’re overcome from the outside, it’s an opportunity to realise what you need to let go of in order to grow and face those challenges,”
‘Brew Monday’, is also one way that people are reframing ‘Blue Monday’, whereby people grab a hot drink and have a chat with someone, in order to ask how they’re feeling about their mental health.
But for those that are struggling with more serious forms of SAD, counselling can be a very positive form of treatment.
Meanwhile, more severe cases of SAD might call for antidepressants as a form of treatment, however, this should be discussed with your GP.
With work back in full flow and our chaotic lives resuming, following a fun-filled and relaxing festive season, it comes as no surprise that many are already struggling to stick to New Year’s resolutions. Here’s when Quitter’s Day is and how to beat it.
January isn’t the most pleasant of months with Christmas and New Year’s Eve behind us and the daunting prospect of a New Year ahead.
However, it’s also a month full of opportunity and a chance to hit the reset button amid the busyness of day-to-day life. It can present new beginnings and a way to instil life-changing habits.
The second Friday in January, each year, is known as Quitter’s Day and there’s a double whammy this year as it falls on Friday, 13th January.
It’s a day when the month has already taken its toll on many, and those who set themselves New Year’s resolutions decide to give up.
So, if you’ve been teetering on the edge of giving up on Dry January, tucking into a steak in the midst of Veganuary, or skipping that lunchtime run, we’ve got a range of tips from nutritionists, personal trainers and sobriety experts on how to power through.
Remember why you’ve made your New Year’s resolution
While it can be tempting to quit and give up on New Year’s resolutions, try to remember the exact reason that spurred you on to set yourself the goal of quitting drinking, eating healthier, doing something creative daily or exercising more.
Consistency is key – even if it’s a tiny change
From dark mornings to the cold winter air, January doesn’t make it easy to spring out of bed and make the most of your day.
However, we are sometimes guilty of overcomplicating our goals or making them a tad too hard, which also makes sticking to them far trickier.
Try to make life a little easier for yourself by trying considering the following things:
- Even going for a 20-minute walk is better than not exercising at all, you don’t have to go to the gym daily
- If you’ve said you’ll cut out takeaways, think about the fact that you could whip up an easy meal in the 30 minutes it takes for your food order to arrive
- While one drink might not hurt on a night out, is it worth the guilt you’ll feel later for having that one blip in an otherwise-perfect sobriety run?
- Break your goals down into monthly milestones – this makes things seem much more achievable and allows you to celebrate little wins
Don’t underestimate the power of tiny changes, such as cutting out a can of Coke every lunchtime. The cumulative impact of one small change can still be incredible. Don’t be hard on yourself, and take your time – fitness doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
It can be so easy to wing it and believe that, as you’ve made this mental promise to yourself, you’ll stick to your resolutions. However, we’re only human and you’ll soon find a little bit of planning goes a long way.
Some easy ways to prepare for your resolutions include setting a reminder and blocking out time daily, putting a calendar on your wall and ticking off each day you stick to your plan, and noting down your plan for each day in a list.
One way to minimise gym anxiety, particularly in the weight room, is to have a plan in place beforehand, so you know exactly what you need to do and where you need to go.
Accountability and support will help you on your way
Temptation is never far away, particularly when social plans with your friends revolve around the one thing you’re giving up.
While we know it isn’t realistic to avoid seeing your friends for the whole of January or avoiding walking past your favourite takeaway joint until February, there are easy ways to stick to your resolutions.
Believe in yourself
As corny as it may sound, lacking self-belief will instantly set you on the path for failure. If you’re constantly telling yourself you ‘can’t do it’ or you’ll ‘never stick to it’, your mind will believe that, too.
Implementing a new habit into your lifestyle is tricky enough as it is, so try to avoid putting mental barriers in the way of your progress.
For example, gyms can be daunting places and there’s endless opportunity to compare yourself to those around you. You may think you’ll never get to their level when it comes to strength or stamina, but everyone starts somewhere and they’re likely to have been in the exact same place as you.
Where you will be by next January is completely your choice.