young woman writing in journal while sitting outside - depression and anxietyUnfortunately, depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand with substance abuse. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that approximately 20 percent of adults diagnosed with anxiety or depression also have a substance use disorder.

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The Importance of Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center‘s Pennsylvania drug and alcohol addiction treatment program, we believe that effectively treating co-occurring mental health disorders is an essential part of maintaining lasting sobriety. In this post, we share some of the ways that we encourage our clients to manage their mental health.

Set Manageable Daily Goals

Depression and anxiety can zap your motivation. This can create a vicious cycle where you feel guilty about what you haven’t accomplished, and your guilt leaves you feeling even more depressed and anxious.

Making a list of daily goals for yourself promotes accountability, but these goals should be manageable tasks that will provide a feeling of accomplishment. This might be getting fully dressed even when you’re working from home, tackling a chore you’ve been putting off, or calling to check in with your sponsor. As you start to feel more confident in your ability to make it through the day, you can begin to tackle more challenging goals.

Watch What You Eat

Have you ever noticed that you feel a little tired and sluggish after stopping for fast food? What you eat affects how you feel, so it’s important to pay attention to good nutrition if you are dealing with depression or anxiety in recovery. A diet rich in lean protein, whole grains, and a variety of fruits and vegetables will give your body the energy it needs while helping to stabilize your mood and reduce cravings for drugs or alcohol.

It’s fine to enjoy the occasional treat, but you should limit your intake of fatty or sugary processed foods. If you struggle with anxiety, it’s also smart to limit your caffeine consumption as well. Too much caffeine can often lead to nervous energy that triggers the symptoms of a panic attack.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity releases mood-boosting endorphins while helping to manage the physical effects of stress. Experts recommend that you aim for a minimum of 20 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day. While joining a gym is certainly an option, this can be any type of exercise you find enjoyable—whether you’re playing with your kids, walking your dog, or dancing to your favorite music.

Tracking your steps can help you remind yourself to stay active throughout the stay. This can be accomplished with a Fitbit or similar fitness tracker, or you can simply download the free Google Fit app for your smartphone. Track your steps during a normal day, then aim to gradually increase this number. A goal of 10,000 steps per day is considered reasonable for most healthy adults, but your doctor can help you determine a goal that is suitable for your personal needs.

Explore the Great Outdoors

Spending time in nature offers a number of mood-boosting benefits. Time outside decreases cortisol production, increases Vitamin D production, promotes mindfulness, and boosts creativity.

Some ideas for outdoor fun include:

  • Go for a long walk with a friend.
  • Explore a neighborhood park.
  • Enjoy a picnic lunch in your backyard.
  • If you have short errands to run, walk or ride your bike instead of driving.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Go stargazing.
  • Visit a local farmer’s market.
  • Attend an outdoor concert.
  • Plan a camping trip with family or friends.
  • Develop a Soothing Evening Routine

When we’re busy, it can be difficult to find time for self-care. However, taking the time to relax at the end of the day can help you more effectively cope with the symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you’re having trouble sleeping, a soothing evening routine can also help promote more restful sleep.

Ideas to consider include:

  • Relax with a cup of chamomile tea.
  • Take a warm bath while listening to soothing music.
  • Buy an aromatherapy diffuser and soothing essential oils such as lavender, orange, bergamot, or clary sage.
  • Do 10-15 minutes of meditation or yoga.
  • Try a weighted blanket for deep pressure stimulation.
  • Put down your phone and write about your day in your journal.

Keep in Mind That Medication May Be Necessary

Although many people may find that their depression or anxiety can be managed with simple lifestyle changes, medication is sometimes necessary. Medication is not a “shortcut” or “quick fix” for your mental health, but it can be a valuable tool in helping you continue to progress on your recovery journey. Be honest with your healthcare provider about your symptoms, so you can work together to find a treatment approach that best fits your needs.

Looking for co-occurring treatment in PA? If you or a loved one are in need of help from addiction, please contact us today.
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