Self-care in recovery is essential for relapse prevention, but often times we neglect it. It’s not easy learning how to take care of yourself after so many years of doing it wrong. When we finally reach a point where we can start doing it right without the influence of drugs and alcohol, we struggle with guilt from our past mistakes and tend to prioritize other activities first.

“But I have a full-time job,” you say. “That takes most of my day.”

“But I have kids,” you say. “That takes the rest of my day.”

“By the time I put my head on the pillow,” you say, “all I can do is close my eyes and sleep. Who has time for self-care?”

Self-Care in Recovery Is Hard

We all live busy lives and finding time for self-care in recovery can be difficult. In fact, it tends to hold people off from beginning a self-care routine because they assume that it’ll consume hours out of their day. They feel that these hours are needed to take care of seemingly more important responsibilities. This was especially true for me as I was trying to please everyone else in hopes of “making up” for the chaos I created while drinking.

“But I was so selfish while I was drinking,” I would say. “I don’t deserve to take time for myself.”

According to Chopra Treatment Center, however, “Loving yourself does not mean you are selfish or self-centred. On the contrary, loving yourself deepens your ability to care for others and broadens your capacity to love.”

Early in sobriety, I was dealing with two sick parents, one with cancer and the other with diabetes, working extra hours to catch up on neglected debt, and repairing the relationship with my daughter. All while doing what I needed to heal. It seemed selfish to want to cut back on them just so I could enjoy a little time for myself.

Fortunately, I discovered that I didn’t have to take hours out of my day to begin a self-care in recovery routine that would improve my life and ultimately make me a better person for the people I love.

And it won’t for you either.

Time Trading for Self-Care In Recovery

Self-care can start with as little as ten minutes a day, so you won’t have to rearrange everything you do to start seeing the benefits. Rather, you can think of it as trading time. By practicing a little time management and making some small adjustments to your priorities, you can gain more than enough time to add a few small acts of self-care. These tips can provide large benefits that will help you manage stress, improve your health, and help you avoid relapse.

Here are a few examples of ways you can begin trading ten-minute chunks of time for self-care:

Plan Meals Ahead of Time

One way to practice self-care in recovery is to eat the proper foods. However, when you make last-minute dinner decisions, you don’t always make the best choices. In fact, if you are like me, an unplanned dinner too often means fast food. By planning dinner in advance, you can make sure you have all the needed ingredients for a healthy meal on hand while avoiding having to make extra trips to the grocery store saving you valuable time. This time trade (probably adding up to more than ten minutes) also pays for itself by helping you develop better nutrition habits.

Make the Most of Your Drive Time

Instead of driving with music on, try listening to a podcast or book on tape. You can fulfill your intellectual self-care needs by choosing educational topics to listen to. This self-care time trade requires that you do nothing more than modifying your driving entertainment. In fact, no time is actually lost or traded. You can check out our podcast, Back Porch Chats for free or get a subscription to Audible to get caught up on your reading list.

I first started doing this early in recovery, but I found that I had trouble focusing on the spoken words. My mind kept wandering. A trick I used to keep focused was to repeat out loud key points as they were read. This helped to internalize the material I was listening to. After a while, my brain adjusted, and I discovered I was learning a lot of new information while I drove to work, something I had to do regardless of what played through the speakers.

Waiting with Purpose

How much time do you spend daily just waiting? You wait at the doctor’s office. You wait in line at the grocery store, and at the gas station pump. It seems we are always waiting for something. Sometimes our wait time is so minimal that we can’t use it to multi-task, except when that multi-tasking activity is to practice a moment of mindfulness.

For example, next time you are on hold on the phone, don’t allow frustration to seep in resulting in your yelling at the annoying elevator music on the line. Instead, try using that time to make a mental list of things you are grateful for.

Set an alarm clock for self-care in recovery

Set an Early Alarm Clock

This doesn’t have to be hours early. Ten minutes earlier than normal will give you enough time to do a few self-care activities. In this time, you could start your day by writing in a journal, meditating, doing a morning stretch, or enjoying a cup of coffee on the back porch while listening to the birds.

When I started doing this, I found that I was waking up before the rest of the household and could spend my morning time doing anything I wanted without interruption. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I started setting my alarm for 5:00 am instead of the usual 8:00.

Bank Time

So far, I have addressed ways you can get little bites of self-care in your day without taking an hour from each day. Another way, however, to manage your day so that you can get an extra hour of fluid self-care time is to bank your time trade gains.

For example, if you decide to try waking up ten minutes earlier each day, you can spend that time taking care of things that would otherwise consume an hour of time during the weekend. In this way, you are banking that hour for yourself to use at a later time.

In fact, I have found that if I use the extra ten minutes in the morning to write a daily to-do list, I actually get more done during the day and, as a result, have more available time at the end of the week because tasks haven’t piled up on me.

Self-Care in Recovery Is Possible

You can easily trade 10 minutes a day to help you improve your life significantly. It may not seem like it, but if you pay attention to how you use your time, you can do a lot more than you’d think towards gaining better mental health and a stronger foothold on sobriety with self-care in recovery.

It’s certainly better than completely neglecting yourself on a routine basis.

self-care in recovery

When you find small time-trading opportunities to practice deep breathing or to take a short walk, and you engage in them consistently throughout to week, your body and mind respond.

One final thing to consider. If you actively use substances to self-medicate from stress, depression, or anxiety, or if you are in recovery from substance abuse, there’s a good chance you could benefit from a better understanding of self-care. We have identified eight areas in daily life where self-care in recovery is needed. It’s fair to say that most of us neglect several of them.

Understanding them and including them in your daily life can help you relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, applying many of them will help you overcome the alcohol obsession and may prevent relapse. If you would like to know more about self-care in recovery, check out my course, Simply Sober Self-Care: An 8-Week Course to Help You Beat “I Need a Drink” Thinking.

Not Sure You Have a Problem with Alcohol

If you are considering whether or not you have a problem with alcohol, it might be worth looking into. This free workbook may give you the answers you are looking for.

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