Mental health disorders and addiction are often co-occurring, exacerbating symptoms of one another and worsening a person’s overall health. It is not always clear which of the conditions existed prior to the other, but the areas of the brain most significantly impacted by substance abuse are also the same areas impacted by mental health disorders. While there may not be a scientific direct link between mental health and addiction, the high rate of coexistence highlights the increased risk of co-occurring disorders developing when a person struggles with either condition.
Changes caused by substance abuse are deeply rooted and often cannot be reversed by simply stopping. Addiction disorders rewire the brain and cause it to function differently than it may have before. These changes coupled with symptoms of mental health disorders can lead to the development of numerous problems when not adequately treated.
Effective addiction treatment focuses heavily on addressing mental health in addition to the addiction itself. Poor mental health can often be a trigger for relapse making it imperative to prioritize developing healthy coping mechanisms. While in treatment, a person may be somewhat shielded from outside stressors and influences that can negatively impact mental health. Upon completion of treatment, entering the world with newfound independence and fresh sobriety can be difficult, especially if coping mechanisms have not been fully developed. Without the tools needed to support and protect sobriety long-term, relapse is almost certainly inevitable.
How to Improve Mental Health
Everyone’s mental health needs are different making it important to spend time reflecting on what helps you find balance. While there is no exact recipe for feeling happy or fulfilled, there are some ways you can make small changes that can greatly improve your outlook. Improving your mental health does not require you to invest a great deal of time or money into something, but it does require a willingness to change your mindset and be open to reaching out when help is needed.
- Find new ways to cope with stress
Stress can often trigger substance abuse and symptoms of mental health disorders. No matter how many changes a person makes in their life, stress is inevitable, and it is important to find healthy ways of coping with it. Rather than allowing yourself to become consumed by it, developing outlets can help you avoid relapse. Going for a walk, engaging in exercise, or creating art are just some of the many ways you can let off steam.
- Create realistic goals
Setting goals and working towards them can help you stay focused. Rather than setting yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals for yourself, consider some milestones and achievements you can gradually work towards. As you achieve your goals, your feelings of self-worth and outlook on life will improve. These goals can be academic, personal, or professional in nature.
- Take care of your body
Taking care of your physical health can improve your mental health. Getting enough sleep, eating healthier foods, and exercising can help you feel better physically. Often, these changes lead to physical changes that can improve confidence and feelings of self-worth while simultaneously boosting mood.
- Give yourself a break
Taking a break from routines and stepping back can help improve mood. Although routines and scheduling can keep us on track, and they can also become monotonous and boring. Changing up your schedule on occasion and taking a break can help you recharge.
- Connect with others
Having a strong support network can help you feel more grounded. While you may not always be able to get face time with loved ones, making time to have conversations with those closest to you can help alleviate stress and reduce feelings of loneliness. Consider joining clubs or looking at support groups to build your social circle.
- Explore your interests
Finding activities that bring you joy can help you fill the time that was previously used to abuse substances. Hobbies that allow you to get lost in them are worth investing time into. As you become better at them, your feelings of self-worth will improve while stress levels simultaneously decrease.
Everyone’s experiences are different and while it is easy to get hung up on the things you regret and the past, it will not help you moving forward. Instead, focus on embracing what makes you unique. Building new relationships, developing new interests, and exploring the world around you can help you build confidence and learn to appreciate yourself.
- Give back
Putting your time and energy into others can be a rewarding experience. Volunteer work is a great way to connect with others who are passionate about similar issues and topics. Giving back and seeing the outcomes of your work will leave you feeling better about yourself and the work you do.
- Ask for help
Everyone needs help from time to time and there is no shame in asking for it. You do not have to go through things alone. If you are struggling, it is important to reach out to your support network. Just having the ability to speak to someone about what is troubling you can be incredibly beneficial and help you work through difficult situations.
Whether you’re in need of treatment to get sober or are coming back after a relapse, allow Nexus Recovery Services to help.