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If you struggle with addiction or mental health issues, hopefully you know that recovery is a lifelong process. If you stick to your treatment plan and get the support you need, you should see steady growth and improvement over time. But some backsliding is a normal and expected part of recovery, and sometimes you might need an extra push getting back on track.
Perhaps you’ve been engaging — or considering engaging — in unhealthy behaviors again and are worried you might spiral. Or maybe you’re suffering from some new stressors and unsure how to handle them without substances or maladaptive coping mechanisms. Whatever the case may be, the important thing is that you’ve grown enough to notice yourself slipping. Here’s what you can do next to stay on the path of recovery.
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Reach Out to Your Support Network
One of the most important steps you can take when you realize you’re struggling is reach out to dedicated professionals. If you have a therapist, get in touch with them right away and let them know how you’ve been feeling. If you participate in group counseling of any kind, make sure you’re still showing up to regular meetings and sharing openly.
Don’t try to hide what you’ve been going through or doing, even if you feel ashamed or embarrassed. When you’re struggling with symptoms like addiction or self-harm, it can be difficult to admit to behaviors that feel like backsliding. But these are the times it’s especially important to be honest about what you’re experiencing.
While you may feel alone and like you have something to hide, remember that professionals understand what it’s like. They got into this profession because they care about your well-being and want to see you succeed in recovery. They would rather you share your symptoms and concerns and let them help than have you pretend everything is fine.
That said, if you’re not happy with your current support systems, you can consider other possibilities. Likewise, if you’re experiencing more serious symptoms than usual, you might need to try inpatient care. Mental health rehab could be a good resource if you’re having an especially hard time and aren’t seeing success with your current treatment plan.
Change Up Your Treatment Plan
Maybe your symptoms aren’t severe enough for inpatient care, but you still feel like your current treatment plan is no longer effective. In that case, it might be time to evaluate the methods you’re using and see if you have better options. Always consult with a licensed professional before making any changes to medications or major lifestyle factors.
If you’re on medication for a mental health condition or addiction recovery, you could need to up your dose or get a new prescription. Some people don’t see long-term results with certain meds and need to try others when their current ones lose effectiveness. This is especially true with certain antidepressants, which can stop working gradually or suddenly after years of use.
For other types of treatment, such as various kinds of talk therapy, a new modality might be in order. Some people find more success when they switch from one style of therapy to another. For instance, researchers have found that many people ultimately benefit more from cognitive behavioral therapy than psychodynamic therapy.
That said, therapies and medications work differently for everyone. What helped your friend, relative, or favorite social media influencer might not help you. And what once benefited you may stop working as your body, mental health, or lifestyle circumstances change. If you notice your treatment plan seems less effective than before, speak to your therapist, psychiatrist, or other professional for an upgrade.
Take More Time for Self-Care
Once you’ve gotten assistance or ruled out other causes of worsening symptoms, it’s time to take a good look at your lifestyle. Any treatment plan will work significantly better if you prioritize your health and well-being while you’re on it. The contentment and ease of a healthy, balanced lifestyle is one of the best supplements to a good recovery plan.
First up, make sure you’re getting plenty of hours of good-quality sleep every night. Try to establish a consistent bedtime routine with roughly the same bedtime each night and wake time each morning. Consider upgrading your bedding, hanging blackout curtains, wearing earplugs, or getting a white or brown noise machine. If you think you need them, ask your doctor about medications or supplements to help you sleep.
In addition to rest, incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine — and try to make it something you enjoy. Light cardiovascular exercise, like a 20-30 minute walk every morning, can have a dramatic impact on your mental health. You can also try group activities, like dancing, team sports, or workout classes, that provide exercise and community.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of nutrition for your overall health. Eating the right foods can give you more energy and boost your mood, having a positive domino effect on your life. Some studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet may help people fight symptoms of depression. But any diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods is probably a good choice.
When It’s Serious
If you’re having any kind of emergent symptoms, don’t wait to get help. Addiction and mental health symptoms can become dangerous quickly, and your safety is important. For addiction and treatment assistance, you can also call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). If you’re having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm, you can call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. If you think you might be overdosing or there’s any immediate risk to your life or safety, call 911 immediately.