So you did it! You took action over your life and made the decision to get sober. You feel healthier, clear-headed, all around just plain better. Not only does it feel good to be sober, but you feel better about yourself for staying sober. Then, all of a sudden you have one of those days where you don’t feel this way – in fact, you feel the opposite.
Even in recovery, we can still have these dark and moody moments. Having bad days is a part of life and being human. Years of habitual physical and mental abuse do not go away just because we are sober – no, it takes years to overcome these feelings, but it is possible. Since we are in recovery, we can’t turn to the crutch we were used to: drugs or alcohol. So what can we do to get out of these blues? Rest assured there are plenty of actions you can take to make yourself feel better and keep yourself from feeling down.
This one is number one for a reason: it works every time. The only catch is getting there. Chances are if you are feeling down the last thing you want to do is run on the treadmill for an hour or lift some weights, but if you can muster that self-motivation, believe me, you will be glad you did. A full and intense workout isn’t entirely necessary though; sometimes all you need is to get the ball rolling. Walk your dog, play with your kids, pace around the room for a bit, anything to get moving and get that blood pumping through the body – most importantly the brain. I promise you will feel better. The harder you push yourself the better you’ll feel. Studies show that the more you exercise, the better you will feel in the long run (: meaning you won’t feel those Monday blues anymore. Ok, maybe the Monday blues are inevitable but not the Friday blues.
Ok. Ok. We’ve been told since we were kids to eat our daily vegetables, but this doesn’t always happen. When we are feeling down we especially want that delicious comfort food which ends up making matters worse; we just added physical distress on top of our mental. My advice would be to reach for that bar of chocolate first. I know this goes against everything I just said, but chocolate raises serotonin levels to help you temporarily feel better. Hopefully, this can be enough to break your funk and you’ll be able to focus on healthier eating. If you have the blues it is important to never skip meals as that is worse than eating McDonald’s. Fluctuations in blood sugar can mean fluctuations in mood. Also, try to avoid certain things like sugar, processed food, fried food, salty food and caffeine. All of these foods play havoc with insulin levels and neurological systems.
Get Enough Sleep
“You need a nap!” Yeah, we get cranky when we are tired; and we’re usually this way because our moods are out of whack. The best way to get enough sleep is to set a schedule. If you have trouble falling asleep try staying away from your television and phone as hard as that might sound. The blue light tricks our brains into thinking its still daytime, therefore melatonin never kicks in making us tired. If you try reading a book I can guarantee you’ll want to crash before the chapter is over.
Sleeping too long can be just as bad and equally doable. When we’re not feeling great, we don’t have the energy and motivation to start the day. Like junk food, what we want at the time actually ends up hurting us further. If you feel like staying under the cover, just try to sit up and take in a big stretch. Then once you land those feet on the ground it’s easy street from there.
Grab Some Rays
Pulling the drapes closed sounds appealing when we are in a bad mood, but once again, what we feel like doing will only add to the problem. Light (especially natural light) is so important that people who live in places where there is little sunlight (like Alaska) are prone to develop seasonal depression. Light of any kind will elevate our mood but natural light works the best! Light triggers part of the retina that releases serotonin which helps regulate our good mood. Also, people who are vitamin D deficient are more likely to be depressed and have unregulated mood: and our primary source of this vitamin comes from the sun. So get out there, put on some Raybans, catch some Tampa Bay Rays action, and soak in the…well…you know.
The Nurture of Nature
Research has shown the countless benefits of spending time in outdoor green spaces. Emerging ourselves into nature brings us back to our primal self which centers us and brings peace. From a scientific standpoint, the surplus of oxygen helps tremendously in a variety of ways. Spending time among trees lowers stress hormones, blood pressure and heart rate. So get out there, find a hiking trail and enjoy the neat nature!
Establish a Routine
If we’re depressed our days tend to blend together and eventually a month flies by without anything to show for it. If we have a daily routine it compartmentalizes our day and gives us more purpose to our days. Your schedule can start out with something simple like waking up at 8 am that leads to a walk, work, grocery store run, workout, attending a 12-step meeting and ending with a book. Creating a schedule helps us bring purpose to our days and keeps us moving.
Make To-Do Lists
Responsibilities pile up on us every day but it can get especially bad when we are depressed as we tend not to want to do anything. My advice would be to start with something simple and easy to build momentum and work your way into a flow for harder tasks. Also, make your lists doable and realistic. Simply putting “finish work project” is going to seem too daunting and will never be started. Instead, write how you can accomplish said tasks in a manageable manner like, “research” then “ “outline” and finally “begin project”. Taking care of responsibilities is all about getting started; once your doing it it’ll be easier to finish.
Make a Commitment
Try to make yourself accountable for something. By that I mean make a promise to someone that you are going to do something. Make plans, offer to take someone to work, bring snacks to a meeting, sign up for volunteering or a gym class. These things push us to do things during times when we might normally not, but achieving them helps us feel accomplished and keeps us motivated.
Try or Do Something New
I try to do or taste something new every day but it can be especially useful when we are feeling down. Monotony can bore us out, but a new experience can be both exciting and sometimes scary. This can break us out of a funk and into curiosity. Try out a new restaurant, play a new game, attempt a new skill, find a new hobby; it can be as simple as changing up your regular coffee, but expand yourself each day.
Meditation Benefits are endless. For the most part, it helps with cognition and memory by clearing our head and alleviating stress. Just a quick 5-minute meditation can bring you out of a depressed state and even keep you from feeling that way. Intensive mediations (over 30 minutes) can leave you feeling blissful and content. Meditation does not have to be sitting cross-legged on the floor; you can meditate before bed as you are laying down (a good trick to fall asleep faster) or even sitting at your cubicle before the workday begins. It can be hard with so many noisy distractions in our everyday life, but the more you practice meditation the easier it is to focus.
Humans are social creatures, social interaction is a necessity for a healthy life. Lack of relationships and communication is linked to depression so even if you feel you are introverted, get off the couch and be social. 12-step meetings make it easy as they are every day and provide a chance to simply be around other people. Try to make plans with friends and family regularly, have fun, laugh, and share some experiences!
Ask For Help
This can be hard for a lot of us, but also the most important. It is never easy to open up to someone as it makes us feel vulnerable but asking is a brave thing to do. Just taking action will make you feel better. Even the action of talking alone and expelling pent-up emotion will give you a cathartic release. Try to approach someone who has your best intentions and can give you honest advice – such as a spouse, parent, best friend, or even a therapist. A therapist or sponsor can help you see the situation from a different angle so you can gain a fresh perspective.