Bubble Bath

The Role That Bubble Baths (and Other Forms of Self-Care) Play in Recovery

Did you have a bad day at work? Was traffic a nightmare on your way home? Did you argue with your spouse or significant other? Are you tempted to forget about your recovery and pour yourself a drink? Or maybe you had a fabulous day and are looking for a recovery friendly celebration. Either way, run yourself a bubble bath!  Enjoying a bubble bath may sound trivial in the face of addiction recovery, but a nice warm bath can be helpful in maintaining your chosen sober lifestyle. Why? A soak in the tub is an example of self-care.

January 8 is officially National Bubble Bath Day. The bubbles on top of the bathwater act as insulation and keep the water warmer for a longer period of time. If you have a cold or the flu a nice, steamy bath can help relieve nasal and chest congestion. If you’ve had a strenuous workout a soak in the tub can relieve sore muscles. A nice bath also helps to relieve stress and can make falling asleep at bedtime easier.

Why Is Self-Care Important in Recovery?

Self-care plays an important role in recovery because an active addiction can lead to self-neglect- lack of exercise, poor diet, increased stress, etc. Many people who are struggling with addiction turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with stress, boredom, or strong negative emotions. It’s a maladaptive coping mechanism, in that the drugs or alcohol helped- until they didn’t. An important part of recovery is finding healthy ways to cope with negative emotions, as well as healthier ways to celebrate. Making time to take care of yourself isn’t selfish; it is akin to putting on your own oxygen mask first when the cabin pressure drops in the aircraft before you help other people with their oxygen masks. Taking care of yourself helps you in your recovery and in maintaining sobriety.

Many people begin their journey of recovery because they want to start living to their fullest potential. Part of that involves taking care of your body and paying attention to your diet, your sleep, and exercise.

Foods to Avoid- and to Eat

Eat nutritious food. Most people who are struggling with a serious addiction either make poor food choices from a nutritional standpoint or lose interest in eating and fail to consume enough calories. Avoid or reduce your intake of processed food, refined grains, sugary beverages, and artificial sweeteners. Instead, nutritionists recommend that whenever possible you eat whole foods, which is defined as foods that are “not processed or modified from its original form” (U.S. News and World Report, “You’re In Recovery, What Should You Eat,” December 3, 2018), organic food, or locally grown foods.

“Sleep That Knits up the Ravell’d Sleeve of Care”

Playwright William Shakespeare was right when he wrote about the importance of sleep in Macbeth, calling sleep “sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds.”  Drug and alcohol abuse interferes with good sleep which is problematic because sleep restores your brain and your body. Adequate rest (seven or eight hours for most adults) helps with learning and recalling new information, solving problems, focusing on tasks, making decisions, and creating. While you are asleep, your heart and blood vessels are repaired. Sleep problems have been connected with heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. Enlightened Solutions’ blog on Beating Insomnia During Addiction Recovery offers helpful tips to improve sleep. Avoid blue light (light emitted from television and computer screens) an hour before bedtime. If you have trouble sleeping, reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex. Keep your bedroom tidy. Set the temperature between 60 and 70 degrees. According to the National Sleep Foundation, that temperature range is the most conducive to sleep. Consider wearing an eye mask and earplugs to eliminate distractions. Reduce stress at night by writing in a journal, practicing mindful breathing, or meditating. If you need additional help to get to sleep, try natural sleep aids like melatonin, tryptophan, or GABA.

Exercise: Good for Your Body and Your Mind

Regular exercise is good for everyone (assuming there are no medical issues that would preclude exercise) and especially for those in recovery. Regular exercise can reduce the incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and other health problems. In terms of the mental and emotional benefits, spending 30 minutes engaged in aerobic exercise (like walking, running, swimming, cycling, dancing) will improve sleep, reduce stress, increase mental alertness, and improve mood overall. Exercise also leads to greater self-confidence and more social interaction.

For people in recovery, participating in a fitness program of some sort is very important for a number of reasons. A regular exercise program can provide structure for the day and fills some of the time that used to be spent drinking or using drugs. Exercise can distract you from cravings and can alleviate boredom. For these reasons and others, many treatment centers include exercise and fitness as part of their programs.

Proper nutrition, restful sleep, and exercise (and bubble baths) are all examples of self-care and are important to you in your journey of recovery.

At Enlightened Solutions, we do far more than help our clients reach sobriety--we equip them with the life skills and self-care techniques they need to maintain sobriety as part of the healthy lifestyle they have embraced. Our clients have the opportunity to learn to prepare organic meals from produce that they have helped to grow on our farm. Here at Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients a variety of fitness options and teach relaxation techniques that will lead to more restful sleep. We are located on the New Jersey shore and we offer alternative therapies to complement the one-on-one and group counseling that we provide. The therapies that we offer include art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and family constellation therapy. Every client has a treatment program developed specifically for them. If you or a family member are tired of addiction and are ready to break free, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Suffering

The Co-Occurring Disorders of Substance Abuse and Depression

Addiction and mental health issues often go hand in hand and it can be difficult to tell which came first. In order to successfully treat addiction, mental health issues must also be addressed.

Major depressive disorder is more than the blues or feeling down. It’s not something that a person can “snap out of” or “get over” by force of will. It is a common and serious medical condition that impacts the way you think, feel, and act. Symptoms include feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, and empty. You may experience persistent sadness and tiredness. You may have trouble sleeping, or you may want to sleep all the time. You might gain or lose weight, and you might lose interest in activities that you used to enjoy.

To cope with these feelings, you may start to drink or use drugs, or use these substances more often or in greater quantities. You would like to cut back or quit, but you can’t. Now you have added addiction to the issues you face. You have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder: major depressive and substance use disorders.

You Are Not Alone

You are not the only one to struggle with a co-occurring disorder--far from it. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), in 2018 nearly 9.2 million people in the United States were diagnosed with both substance use disorder and a mental health issue. A dual diagnosis of depression and substance abuse puts people at an increased risk of suicide as well as social and personal impairment.

Links Between Depression and Substance Abuse

While it is not completely accurate to say that one condition causes the other, and it can be difficult to say which disorder came first, the depression or the addiction, there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and major depressive disorder. People with depression often use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. While this can bring relief in the short term, in the long term, substance abuse usually makes depression worse. It is also thought that substance abuse can cause symptoms of depression. Additionally, drugs or alcohol can interact with antidepressants, making them less effective.

Treating Depression and Substance Abuse

In the past, many drug and alcohol treatment centers only focused on treating addiction. This meant that any mental health issues that may have contributed to the addiction went unaddressed, setting the person up for relapse when the next crisis came along. Fortunately, many facilities now treat both substance use disorder and any mental health issues that the person may have. If the patient’s addiction is to be treated effectively, the depression must be treated as well. Otherwise, the patient may not be able to maintain a life of sobriety. 

If you are looking for a treatment center and you have major depressive disorder and an addiction to drugs or alcohol, look for a center that is licensed to treat co-occurring disorders. The center should involve you in goal setting for your treatment plan, provide education about both disorders, and teach you the life skills that you need to manage both.

Effective Self-Help

While no self-help measures can take the place of professional help, there are steps you can take to make your symptoms more manageable.

Learn techniques to reduce stress levels. Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but you can become better at managing it. Meditation and deep breathing techniques can be very helpful. If you are new to meditation, there are many apps you can find to guide you through the process.

Learn what triggers you to drink or use drugs. Recognize these triggers and use strategies to cope with them without using drugs or alcohol.

Be aware of your health. Exercise for 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. Eat nutritious food and get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

Do something for someone else. Volunteer with a non-profit organization in your community. Take in the trash cans for a neighbor. Fix a meal for someone who is ill or has had a death in the family. Doing something for someone else will take the focus off of your own difficulties and will make you feel better. Helping other people either individually or through an organization will give you a sense of purpose and a reason to get up in the morning.

Having the dual diagnosis of major depression and substance use disorder can seem overwhelming, but with professional mental health treatment and self-help measures, you will find relief and recovery.

At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that substance abuse frequently has at its roots a mental health issue like depression. It is imperative to treat the mental health issues as well as the addiction as the needs of the whole person must be addressed in order for treatment to be effective. Enlightened Solutions offers a comprehensive recovery program rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We create a custom treatment plan for each patient based on their needs and goals for recovery. We offer traditional psychotherapy as well as a host of alternative therapies that include sound healing, art and music therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic work, massage, yoga and meditation classes, equine therapy, and family constellation therapy.  We are located on the southern shore of New Jersey. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, and looking for a place to begin their journey of recovery, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


Journaling

Three Ideas for a Spiritual New Year’s Eve

When we think of celebrating New Year’s Eve, for many of us the images that come to mind are the images that are fed to us by the media: you go to a big party. If you are married, you go with your spouse. If you are single, you go with a date or you go hoping to meet someone. Either way, there is dancing and drinking. At midnight you drink a glass of champagne to ring in the New Year. It can be a great time, but maybe this year you want to do something different. Maybe you don’t drink. Maybe you aren’t in the mood for a big party. Maybe you want to spend the time more reflectively. Here are three ideas for how to spend a more contemplative New Year’s Eve.

Declutter Physically and Mentally

Decluttering and organizing has been in the media a lot recently. Decluttering your physical surroundings can help lighten your mental load, which would be a great way to start the new year. Also, if you want to bring new things into your life--new clothes that fit the career you aspire to, a new habit to improve your health, a new spiritual practice--whatever it is, you need to make space for it. Spend some time on New Year’s Eve getting rid of possessions that you no longer want or need. Get them physically out of your home.

Spend some time thinking about habits. Maybe you stop for coffee every morning on your way to work. If you really enjoy that part of your morning, then keep it. If not, change it. Maybe you would like to spend 30 more minutes at home reading or meditating. Think about the habits of the mind. Do you speak critically to yourself? That would be a good mental habit to change. Have you been holding onto anger? Your anger may be completely justified, but it is only hurting you. Do you still feel guilty about something that is over and done with? Maybe it’s time to let that go. Just as you removed the physical items you no longer need, you can remove the mental junk as well. Take a piece of paper and write down the habits you want to remove from your life and the old anger, hurt, and guilt that you no longer want to carry with you and then you can burn the paper to symbolically rid your life of that negativity.

Create a Vision for What You Do Want

Now that you’ve cleared out some space--physically and mentally--you have room to bring in the new. A great way to make what you want tangible is to create a vision board. To start, spend a few minutes writing down goals you want to achieve in the coming year, experiences you want to have, and what you want your life to be like. You will need a poster board or foam board, tape or glue, something to write with, old magazines, photos, or images from the internet. You will want to include a picture of yourself somewhere on the board and make a collage. If you want to become more physically active maybe you have a photo of a swimmer. If you want to work towards a promotion at work maybe you find an image of a nice office or some other image that speaks to you. Add words, affirmations, inspirational messages, quotes you enjoy, and anything else you want to your board. When you are finished, take a few minutes and enjoy your work. Put your finished board someplace where you can see it every day and use it to keep what you want uppermost in your mind.

Some people make separate vision boards for different aspects of their lives. For instance, you might make one for work and one for home. If you have set a major goal for yourself, perhaps to run a marathon, you might want to create a board just for that. The key to making a vision board is to create something that speaks to you, and you should have fun while you are doing it.

End and Begin the Year in Meditation

Now you have spent some time getting rid of what no longer serves you, literally and symbolically, and you have spent some time contemplating what you do want. Now it’s time to quiet your mind. Take some time to mentally review the year, focusing on special memories and accomplishments. Shortly before midnight, settle in to meditate. If you are new to meditation, that’s okay. A simple way to meditate is to focus on your breath. Sit with your eyes closed, and notice your breathing. You will begin to feel more peaceful. End the old year, and begin the new year with a feeling of peace.

Part of the recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol involves visualizing what you want your new life to be. Having a vision can help sustain your commitment to sobriety or influence your decision to begin your journey. It isn’t enough to treat your addiction; the underlying issues that led to the addiction need to be addressed, and you need a powerful vision of what your life can be when you are free of addiction. At Enlightened Solutions, we tailor a recovery plan for each client that reflects their needs and goals.  We offer a range of treatment modalities designed to treat the whole person, including individual and group counseling, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, and equine therapy. We provide our clients with the skills they need to be successful in the new life they are creating.  To take that first step into a life free from addiction, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


Holiday Stress

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year--Or Is It?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year

There’ll be much mistletoeing

And hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

This upbeat holiday song, first performed by Andy Williams in 1963, conjures up images of happy couples and families gathered together to celebrate. But for some people and for many reasons, the holidays can be a very difficult time. If you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious during the holidays, you aren’t alone.

The Trappings of the Holidays

The holidays are filled with activity. We shop for presents, we wrap them, and we ship them, hoping that we have found the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We send cards and letters to friends and family near and far.  We decorate our homes, we bake, we go to parties and concerts, and we travel to be with our families. We cook elaborate holiday meals. All of this activity can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. This activity gets dropped on top of our normal lives and can cause stress and anxiety. All of this activity costs money as well. If you have already been struggling with money issues, the added costs associated with the holidays can add to your stress level. The prospect of the holidays may fill you with anxiety as you try to stretch your budget to include gifts for loved ones. If you have children you may feel guilty and sad at the prospect of not being able to get your children everything on their list to Santa.

Changes this Year Because of COVID-19

COVID-19 will bring changes to the holidays this year. Most of the usual holiday performances have been canceled or reconfigured to be presented virtually. Due to health considerations, you may not be able to travel to be with family this holiday season, or it might not be safe to see your grandparents. Your family may decide to hold a smaller event this year, perhaps limited to people in the local area, and connect with other family and friends virtually. Whatever your family decides, it is important to realize that the holiday may look and feel different this year and to acknowledge and process the emotions that you may have surrounding the changes to holiday traditions.

Relationships and Family Issues

During the holidays, we are encouraged to spend time with loved ones--friends, partners, and family. If you are not in a relationship, the holidays can feel especially lonely as the media bombards us with images of happy couples at festive gatherings. If you are divorced with children, holidays can be logistically complicated as children are shuttled from gathering to gathering. Any issues you may have with your family can bubble up to the surface. If you are not able to be with your family, you may feel a sense of loss and loneliness. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you may feel the loss acutely during the holidays. “Firsts” are difficult--the first Christmas, New Year’s, birthday--after the death of a loved one. Even if the death occurred a number of years ago, you may find that you remember the loss more at a time when there is so much emphasis on family and relationships.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues

If you struggle with depression or other mental health issues or have issues with substance abuse, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time. The additional demands placed on our time and resources lead to stress, which in turn can cause feelings of anxiety and sadness which can exacerbate mental health issues. Also, if you are a person who tends to use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions, you may find yourself drinking or using more. If you have chosen a sober lifestyle, the stress of the holidays, and the prevalence of alcohol at holiday events may make it more challenging to remain sober.

Tips to Cope With the Holidays

Although the holidays can be difficult, here are some tips and techniques that can make the holidays more manageable.

  • Say no to some invitations. You don’t have to go to every event you are invited to.
  • Make time for self-care.
  • Make sure that you are eating well and exercising regularly.
  • Set a budget. If you are part of a large extended family, suggest that gift-giving be limited to children or draw names for a gift exchange. Or follow the example of the British royal family and exchange gag gifts!
  • Do something for someone else. Volunteer with an organization, help a neighbor or do something kind for a stranger. You will feel better.
  • Most importantly, acknowledge your feelings. Talk to someone who will listen without judgment or write in a journal. Find a safe outlet for your emotions, rather than bottling them up inside.

If at any time during the holiday season your feelings seem unmanageable, remember that it’s okay to ask for help. 

At Enlightened Solutions, we understand that the holidays can be a difficult time for people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. We have programs that can help those who are struggling with mental health challenges and addiction to drugs or alcohol. We are a licensed co-occurring treatment center, which means that we offer treatment for the mental health issues that very often are at the root of addictive behaviors. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore, rooted in the 12-Step philosophy, and offer many alternative therapies to complement the more traditional talk therapy. Alternative therapies we offer include sound healing, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, reiki, art, and music therapy, horticultural therapy, and equine therapy. We offer each client a customized treatment plan based on their needs, drawing from these therapeutic treatment modalities. If you are struggling with an addiction and are ready to begin your recovery journey, call us at (833) 801-5483.

 


World Kindness Day

“Random Acts of Kindness”: It’s Good for Others And for You

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” A recent article on the benefits of kindness defined kindness as doing something nice for someone without being asked and without expecting anything in return. Examples of kindness include holding the door for the person behind you, inviting a new colleague to join you for lunch, or taking a meal to someone who is sick or has had a death in the family.

Kindness is also an international affair. World Kindness Day has been celebrated on November 13 each year since 1998, promoted by the World Kindness Movement (WKM). The WKM is a non-governmental organization with no religious or political affiliation whose mission statement is to “inspire individuals and connect nations to create a kinder world.” 

Health Benefits of Kindness

Besides benefitting the recipient of the kind act, kindness can actually improve the physical and mental health of the person performing the kindness. When you do something kind for someone, you have an increased level of oxytocin in your system. Known as the “love hormone,” increased levels of oxytocin are associated with bonding: the bond between a mother and her infant, the romantic love between two people, and the bond between people and their pets. Physically, studies have shown that increased levels of oxytocin help to lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. Oxytocin is also connected to feelings of greater self-esteem and optimism. 

The act of being kind also elevates levels of serotonin. Serotonin is the “feel-good” hormone and allows brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate. According to the Hormone Health Network website, serotonin aids in sleep reduces depression and anxiety and helps with bone health. Serotonin levels are also increased by performing acts of kindness for others. Increased levels of endorphins help to reduce sensations of pain and decrease anxiety. In addition, numerous studies show that people who are routinely kind to others produce 23% less cortisol (a stress hormone) than people who don’t. This results in less stress, which results in better overall health and slows the aging process.

The Role of Kindness in Substance Abuse Recovery

As shown above, performing acts of kindness clearly provides physical and mental health benefits: increased oxytocin promotes greater self-esteem and a more optimistic outlook on life; serotonin reduces anxiety and depression and aids sleep; increased endorphin levels (similar to the boost you get from exercise) reduce sensations of pain and reduces stress levels and anxiety; and a lower level of cortisol results in less stress and may lead to greater longevity. In fact, people who are suffering from depression are frequently told to exercise and to do volunteer work for the mental health benefits of those activities.

Kindness also helps with substance abuse recovery. When we are abusing drugs or alcohol or another addictive behavior, our focus is on ourselves and our next drink or whatever substance or behavior we crave. Performing an act of kindness or service for someone helps to turn our focus from ourselves to others. In fact, performing acts of service is an important aspect of the 12-Step philosophy. 

Performing acts of kindness also aid us in building connections with other people. We may feel a greater sense of connection to the people we are serving, but if our service is as part of a group (like a church group serving lunch at a homeless shelter or a high-school club participating in a local effort to clean up a local area), we may also feel a greater sense of connection to the people we are serving with. Performing acts of kindness can open us up to new possibilities, and we may begin to focus more on what we have in common with other people, rather than the differences that divide us. By serving others, we start to emerge from the self-imposed isolation that is common with addiction.

Be Kind to Yourself

If you are in recovery, it’s important to direct some of those acts of kindness toward yourself as well. People suffering from addictions tend to criticize themselves harshly, which does not aid in recovery. We need to learn to like and love ourselves in order to fully recover. It can be helpful to write a list of the qualities about yourself that you like--a love letter to yourself if you will. If meditation is part of your spiritual practice, consider doing a loving-kindness meditation, where you direct kind intentions toward yourself and others. Scripts and more specific directions are widely available online.

An act of kindness doesn’t need to be elaborate or time-consuming to benefit both you and others. Smile at a stranger. Give a coworker a compliment. Run an errand for a neighbor. The benefit to you will be just as great to you as it will to them, and the world will be a kinder place.

Because of the physical and mental health benefits of performing acts of kindness, many opportunities to be of service are incorporated into many of the treatment options offered at Enlightened Solutions, a substance abuse treatment center located on the New Jersey shore. One of the modalities offered is horticultural therapy. Clients have the opportunity to work on the center’s farm and grow much of the food that is used to prepare their meals. In addition, produce is provided for the Enlightened Cafe. Profits from the cafe are used to provide scholarships for those who cannot afford treatment. The holistic treatment modalities offered include group and individual counseling, yoga, meditation, sound therapy, and music and art therapies. Enlightened Solutions offers its many treatment options within a framework of the 12-Step philosophy. If you are interested in a recovery facility that tailors a treatment plan for each client, call (833) 801-5483 today.

 


Suicide Survivor Awareness Month

Suicide Survivor Day: Increasing Awareness of Suicide’s Impact on Those Left Behind

Suicide Survivor Day: Increasing Awareness of Suicide’s Impact on Those Left Behind

Losing a loved one to suicide is one of the hardest losses to bear. In addition to missing someone you loved, many survivors are left with intense feelings of guilt and may wonder, “How did I miss the signs? I should have known. I should have been able to prevent this.” On top of that, misinformed people may tell you that your loved one’s act of taking his or her own life was selfish, weak, or a misguided bid for attention. While none of that is true, unfeeling comments like that can add a huge weight of guilt to the psychological burden you are already carrying.

History of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

In 1999, Senator Harry Reid (now retired) introduced a resolution on the Senate Floor which led to the creation of the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, held each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Reid’s father shot himself in 1972 when Reid himself was 32. Reid didn’t speak much about his father’s suicide and its impact on him. When he did, he received an abundance of correspondence. He realized that suicide happens to many people, and devoted part of his career to raising awareness of suicide and improving prevention through legislation.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, also called Survivor Day, is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). According to the AFSP’s website, survivors of suicide loss “come together to find connection, understanding, and hope through their shared experience.” The organization sponsors events and provides resources to those who have experienced a suicide loss. In 2019, the AFSP sponsored 417 events in more than 20 countries. The timing of the day, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, is intentional. Holidays can be especially difficult for those who have experienced the death of a loved one, particularly to suicide.

Magnitude of Suicide

According to the AFSP, in 2018, 132 people died by suicide each day in America or 48,344 in that year. In addition, 1.4 million Americans attempted suicide that year but survived, which means that over 4 million people each year experience the loss of a loved one or an attempt.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country and the second leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 through 34. Suicide also has a ripple effect; one of the risk factors for suicide is having someone close to you die by suicide or make an attempt.

How to Support a Suicide Survivor

Don’t let “not knowing what to say” stop you from reaching out to a friend who has lost a loved one to suicide. The truth is, no one knows what to say, and there really is nothing that anyone can say to make it better. It’s perfectly fine to tell the person that you don’t know what to say but that you are there for them. There are, however, there are some dos and don’ts when talking to someone who has lost somebody to suicide. 

Do not tell your friend that you know what they are going through--you probably don’t. Don’t ask detailed questions about the person’s death, but do listen to what your friend has to say. Take your cues from him or her. And don’t feel like you have to avoid talking about death. Your friend will need people willing to listen.

Refrain from offering advice or platitudes. Don’t tell the survivor that the loved one “is in a better place,” that “everything happens for a reason,” or that “God never gives you more than you can handle.” While these sentiments may be honest expressions of your beliefs or the survivor’s beliefs, they may not want to hear them. Just listen.

Do not make judgments about suicide. Do not tell the survivor that their loved one was weak, cowardly, or looking for attention. Do not blame anyone else for suicide. Ultimately, the person who took the action is responsible for his or her death. The reasons behind the action may never be fully known or understood.

Do offer help specifically. Offer to bring dinner on a certain evening, or to go to the grocery store for them or take the kids to school. If you say, “let me know if you need anything,” you are putting the burden to reach out on them. The survivor may have trouble reaching out, not wanting to be a burden, or they may honestly not know what they need.

Do be willing to talk about the person who died. You will not be reminding the survivor of what happened--the suicide and loss of their loved ones are likely all that they can think about, and they will need to talk about it. The survivor may appreciate hearing your memories of the person who died. Take your conversational cues from them.

Respect the survivor’s healing process, which will take time. It is not helpful to tell them that they need to “get over it,” or that it’s “time to move on.” There is no schedule for grief, and the survivor will never completely “get over” the loss. With time, however, the grief will lessen.

Be a support system for the long haul. The suicide survivor will need support for a long, long time. The days following a death are very busy making arrangements. Many people will call, come by, or send flowers or food. Then after the memorial service, it can get very, very quiet, and lonely. Immediately after the death, the survivor may be in shock, or emotionally numb. In a few months following the death, the full impact of the loss will begin to be felt.

 

If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, help is available:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-(800) 273-TALK (8255)

TTY 1-(800) 799-4889

911 (emergency response)

Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741

 

Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center located on the coast in the southern part of New Jersey. We are also licensed to treat the co-occurring mental health disorders that frequently accompany substance abuse disorders. Mental health disorders, like depression, often accompanies or leads to substance abuse and can lead to suicide. We offer a range of treatment options, which are tailored to the needs of each individual client. These services range from traditional talk therapy, both one-on-one and in a group setting, within the framework of the 12-Step philosophy. We also offer a number of holistic treatment modalities including art and music therapy, yoga, and chiropractic treatment. We focus on treating the whole person. If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please call one of the numbers listed above. If you or a loved one is struggling with addictive behaviors, please call (833) 801-5483.

 


Young woman enjoying nature

Nature: An Important Tool in Addiction Recovery and Improved Mental Health

It would be hard to find a person who didn’t enjoy being outside or who had never been awestruck at some aspect of the natural world. Perhaps it is watching the total eclipse of the sun and being amazed as the moon inexorably moves across the face of the sun, blotting out the light, causing the temperature to drop and the animals to settle in for the night, and then to reverse itself and become day again. Or maybe you’ve been moved emotionally as you walk through the majestic old-growth redwood trees on California’s northern coastline. Or perhaps it’s smaller. Perhaps you are a person who can look at a flower and really see the textures of the petals, the subtle or not so subtle shadings of color. Or perhaps you love the sound of the rain on the roof. Whatever it is, most of us have been awed by nature at some point. But did you know that nature is also good for your health?

Health Benefits of Nature

The health benefits of nature are numerous and range from decreasing blood pressure to improving mood to relieving depression. A study conducted at the University of Queensland in Australia found that spending 30 minutes in nature could reduce blood pressure by as much as nine percent and reduce depression by seven percent. The study also found that exposure to sunlight helps to regulate sleep. Another study found that being outside for 120 minutes per week causes positive changes in mood for people. In all, spending time in nature can elevate mood, lessen heart disease, improve asthma, lower anxiety, prevent migraines, improve the ability to focus, improve memory, boost creativity, relieve depression, and help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

How Nature Can Impact Your Brain 

A recent study found that being in the sun increases serotonin levels in the brain. The increased serotonin helps with elevating mood and can be a deterrent against depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In another study, one group of people walked in the forest while the other group walked into the city. The group that walked in the forest had a 16% drop in cortisol levels (a stress hormone,) a two percent drop in blood pressure, and a four percent drop in their heart rates. Researchers in Korea used functional MRIs to watch brain activity in people viewing different images. When people looked at urban images, the MRI showed increased blood flow in the amygdala, the part of the brain concerned with fear and anxiety. When the subjects looked at nature scenes, areas associated with empathy and altruism were more active. A study at Stanford showed that people who walked in nature for 90 minutes “showed decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain linked to depressive rumination.” That is to say, people who spent more time in nature were less apt to beat themselves up. And finally, a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that people who took a 50-minute walk in the arboretum had improved executive functioning skills. 

Spending Time in Nature Is an Important Part of Addiction Recovery

In Psychology Today, therapist Sarah Benton discusses the emphasis that current society places on technology and electronics. “The key to recovery...is ‘balance,’ ” she writes, “and therefore it is important for our mind, body, and spirit to counteract our high-tech lives with nature.” Spending time in nature through hiking, camping, backpacking, and the like can give people a sense of self-confidence and belief in their own abilities. Spending time outdoors and connecting with nature could be viewed as a way of practicing the 11th Step in the 12-Step tradition (“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out”). Most people feel a sense of awe when in nature that they don’t feel in an urban setting. A part of recovery is reawakening the senses and becoming mindful of one’s surroundings, and spending time in the natural world is an excellent way to do this. 

Ways to Make Nature a Part of Your Life

Spending time in nature is good for everyone, especially people recovering from addiction or living with mental health issues. An easy way to do this is to take your exercise routine outside. If you live anywhere near water, a walk on the beach or along a stream is good for the body and soul. You can find hikes in your area. Join the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society. Check for “meet-ups” in your area that get you outdoors. If you have children, go outside with them. Take the dog for a walk. Go for a horseback ride. Become involved with wilderness preservation organizations. Go camping with your family and friends. Check out sports-related businesses. Many local bicycle and running stores have information on rides and runs, and your local REI will have information on numerous activities that you can join. 

Find ways to make nature a bigger part of your home. Plant a garden or become part of a community garden. Keep cut flowers or potted plants in your home. Plant an herb garden in your kitchen. Even something as simple as displaying photos of your favorite natural locations or listening to nature sounds can work to reduce stress and aid in your recovery.

 The staff at Enlightened Solutions, located on the shore in New Jersey, is keenly aware of the healing power of nature. Many of the holistic treatment modalities offered at  Enlightened Solutions get people outside. For example, the treatment center has a farm that provides produce for the treatment center. The farm uses organic sustainable methods, and people who are in recovery at the center have an opportunity to work on the farm as a part of the horticultural therapy program. The farm also supplies the Enlightened Cafe, a cafe run by the center that uses its profits to provide scholarships for people who can’t afford treatment. The center also has an outstanding equine therapy program. In addition, Enlightened Solutions offers stand-up paddleboarding, surfing lessons, tubing, and the occasional football or volleyball game against other treatment centers. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse issues, call (833) 801-5483.

 


Hiking for addiction recovery

Exercise Your Way to Mental Health

Participating in an exercise program has many health benefits, both physical and mental. Regular exercise helps with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, weight management, and many other health issues. Regular exercise is also highly beneficial for mental health. Ask a runner why he or she runs and you will often hear about the “runner’s high”--a feeling of euphoria combined with reduced anxiety and a lessened sensitivity to pain. Endorphins have long been connected with the “runner’s high” and researchers in Germany have found that the brain’s endocannabinoid system may be involved as well. An endocannabinoid called anandamide has been found in people’s blood after they run. This endocannabinoid can travel from the blood to the brain.

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

According to an article published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, aerobic exercise, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood. Exercise improves self-esteem and cognitive function and can also help with social withdrawal. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise three to five days a week is all you need, researchers say. The benefits include improved sleep, stress relief, increased mental alertness, and an overall improved mood. Regular exercise also leads to greater self-confidence, more social interaction, and is a healthy way to cope with stress. 

Mental health professionals usually recommend that people struggling with depression and anxiety exercise regularly, provided that the client doesn’t have a health problem that precludes physical exercise. A young psychiatrist once said that if he could put the mental health benefits of exercise in a bottle, he would become a wealthy man!

Exercise in Addiction Recovery

Because of the mental and physical benefits of exercise, many treatment facilities include fitness in their programs. As one fitness specialist said, he works with clients to help them start an exercise program or get exercise back into their lives. According to a blog on an addiction site, an exercise program provides structure to a person’s day and can be a vital part of recovery. Exercise takes up time and is a healthy way to spend the time that used to be spent drinking or using. A blog on the Harvard Health website said that exercise can be a powerful tool to distract a person in recovery from cravings and can help people to build positive social connections. According to the blog’s author, Claire Twark, M.D., organizations are cropping up to promote physical activity for people in recovery. One of these is The Phoenix, which has locations across the country and also offers classes online. The Phoenix offers CrossFit, yoga, rock climbing, boxing, running, and hiking, and is open to anyone who has been sober for 48 hours, as well as their support groups.

Starting an Exercise Program

While mental health professionals recommend exercise for their clients, for someone suffering from depression, the task may seem overwhelming at first. To start, figure out what type of exercise you want to do. You may like exercising alone or you may prefer the dynamic of a fitness class. You may like to pick a couple of different activities to mix things up a little. You could decide that you will jog three times per week and go to a yoga class on two days. Or you may start out by taking a friendly dog for a walk.

After you have identified an activity or activities that you think you will enjoy, enlist some social support. Maybe you have a work-out buddy or maybe you report on your exercise program to a therapist or life coach. Exercising with a friend may be a motivator on days when you just don’t feel like working out or you might want to have something to report the next time you talk to your therapist.

Whatever exercise you have selected, it's important to start off slow to prevent physical injury and burn-out. Your ultimate goal may be to run a marathon, but you need to start off slow and gradually increase the distance you run. It's also important to set reasonable goals. If you haven’t exercised in a number of years, deciding that you are going to go to an exercise class six days a week probably isn’t realistic. A more reasonable goal might be to go to class three days a week and after a few weeks add another class to your schedule.

Decide what time of day you will work out. Some people love to start the day with a brisk walk or a swim, while other people prefer to work out later in the day. Whatever you choose, put it on your calendar and make exercise a priority.

A positive mind-set will help you with your exercise regime as well. Try not to think of exercise as a chore or as one more thing to add to your daunting to-do list. Try to think of your exercise sessions as something that you get to do for yourself, something that you look forward to. If you aren’t logging the miles you anticipated or making it to class as often as you had planned, take a little time to figure out what’s holding you back. Also, be prepared for setbacks and obstacles and figure out how to solve them. If you are a runner, there might be days when you run indoors on a treadmill because of the weather, for example. You may have to switch from running to walking to give an injury a chance to heal.

Whether you are struggling with depression, an addiction, or just want to experience the mental and physical benefits of exercise, find a physical activity that you enjoy and move your body. As Nike says: “Just Do It.”

Exercise is a vital part of an addiction recovery program and a huge help to people struggling with depression. Many treatment facilities include fitness among their alternative therapies because of the many physical and mental benefits of regular exercise. An important part of the recovery journey is creating a healthy lifestyle to replace the lifestyle of addiction. Exercise is a healthy way to cope with stress and the painful feelings that have been numbed by drugs or alcohol. In addition to the mental health benefits provided by exercise, exercise offers many physical benefits as well, including weight management, improved cardiovascular health, a lower incidence of diabetes, stimulating the immune system, and lowering the risk of developing some types of cancers. Fitness is one of the holistic treatment modalities that Enlightened Solutions offers to clients. If you or someone close to you is struggling with depression or an addiction, call (833) 801-5483.

 


Art Used as Therapy

Art as Therapy

Humans have been creating art for many thousands of years. The earliest artwork discovered so far are cave paintings found in Spain. The paintings consist of hand stencils and simple geometric shapes and are approximately 64,000 years old. In a piece that ran in Psychology Today, Nathan Lents speculates about why humans create art. Art, he writes, is a visual recall of past events or emotions, and relies on “some knowledge and experience that is common between the artist and the audience…stored memories and associations in the brain.” Art can be an expression of beauty and can cause the viewer to have an emotional response. It is the link between art and emotion that has caused art therapy to be viewed as an important tool in the treatment of addiction and mental illness.

What Is Art Therapy?

In art therapy, a certified art therapist works with an individual client or group. The artistic form used can be painting, drawing, creating a collage, sculpting, or another visual arts technique. The client works on their artwork and afterward the art therapist will ask questions designed to encourage the client to think about the emotional and psychological aspects of their work: was creating the piece easy or difficult; any feelings about the process; any thoughts, feelings, or memories while working on the piece. According to Psychology Today, the therapist will guide the individual or group members to “decode the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in these art forms, which should lead to a better understanding of their feelings and behavior so they can move on to resolve deeper issues.” This form of therapy can be a powerful tool to help clients unlock their emotions and process feelings. It is especially beneficial when clients aren’t ready to talk about their feelings or experiences.

Using Art as a Therapeutic Tool

According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is integrative in that it involves the mind, body, and spirit. Art therapy is “kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic.” It uses alternative modes of reception and expression, and “circumvents the limitations of language.” When art is used in a therapeutic setting, many benefits have been observed. Art therapy is particularly good at reducing stress. A 2017 research paper in the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy reports that the act of creating art lowers the cortisol level in the brain, known as the stress hormone. The act of creating art can give clients a sense of mastery and accomplishment, and that sense of mastery can carry over into other aspects of their lives. Similarly, working on a piece can also help develop emotional resilience—the ability to stick with something when it gets difficult.

According to an article in Psychology Today, art therapy improves symptoms of depression and anxiety and can help clients to deal with physical illness or disability. In addition, art therapy can reawaken memories which can help clients to deal with experiences that they may have repressed. The process of creating art is about “the association between creative choices and the client’s inner life.” One therapist noted that some people aren’t comfortable with talk therapy at first, and that their brains, in effect, shut down. Art therapy is great for these clients because they don’t have to talk right away and the art itself gives them something to talk about. Therapists working in clinical settings have also noted that art therapy can promote relaxation, improve communication, increase mindfulness, improve immune system function, and increase engagement in meditative practices.

Art Therapy as an Aid to Addiction Recovery

Art therapy is an important tool in addiction recovery. According to an article by David Sack, M.D. in Psychology Today, “addiction stifles creativity, but creativity can play an important role in recovery from the disease…Creative approaches such as art therapy…allow people to express difficult thoughts, memories, and feelings without being constrained by words.” Addicts struggle with guilt and shame, which can be “difficult to put into words,” notes Sack, while “Creative approaches can help them process these feelings so they don’t trigger a relapse.”

Sack also notes that art therapy offers clients a “chance for vicarious healing,” in that a client can experience healing through someone else’s artistic expression. Art therapy can be a “stepping stone to eventually talking about pain instead of [using] drugs or alcohol.” Sack also notes that art therapy is fun and increases a client’s sense of playfulness, as well as giving them more control over their environment. In addition, clients can experience the sensation of flow as they become lost in creating, leading them to feel more present and fulfilled.

Art therapy can increase someone’s motivation to stay in treatment and can ease the feelings of loneliness and boredom that people can experience when they are newly sober. Also, creating art gives them a tangible reminder of their time in treatment for their addiction and can provide someone a new passion or connect them to a hobby they used to enjoy before drugs or alcohol took over their lives. As a part of an aftercare plan, people can be encouraged to create art during the time that they would use to drink or use. As an article that was published on www.

crisis prevention.com states, “Art therapy is all about replacing a negative coping technique with a positive one.”

An effective addiction recovery plan addresses the needs of the whole person, not just the addictive behavior, with a variety of holistic treatment modalities in addition to traditional talk therapy, 12-Step meetings, and medically assisted detox. An important part of recovery is finding healthy coping mechanisms to manage the difficult and painful feelings that are an inevitable part of life without returning to drugs or alcohol. Also, the time that a person used to spend drinking or using must be filled with better activities. Art therapy is a powerful holistic treatment modality in recovery--it reduces stress and muscle tension, boosts immune system function, and increases self-esteem and self-awareness. Creating art is an excellent way to fill the time that used to be spent drinking or using. If you are interested in exploring art therapy and other alternative therapies as part of your recovery journey, call Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-5483.

 


coping with stress

Managing Stress: A Key Element of Addiction Recovery

Your heart beats faster. Your breathing becomes more rapid. Your muscles tense and you start to sweat. This is the body’s response to a perceived threat or stress. If you are faced with a physical threat--like fleeing a burning building, scaring away a mountain lion, or lifting a car off a child--the body’s flight-or-fight response can be life-saving. In day-to-day life, however, the stresses we face--deadlines, bills, jam-packed schedules--don’t require the same burst of adrenaline, and yet our bodies respond in the same way. In the long term, chronic stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, and a host of other health issues. In addition, we may use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress and this use can become an addiction. Part of recovery from any substance abuse problem includes learning healthy ways to cope with stress.

Deep Breathing and Body Scanning

Any number of deep breathing techniques can be used to de-stress quickly and a few are detailed below. For any of these techniques, it helps to get into a comfortable position.

  • Falling out breath: In this technique, inhale deeply and fill your lungs with as much air as possible. Exhale with an audible sigh.
  • Box breath: To use this technique, inhale for a count of four. Hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and then hold your breath out for four counts.
  • Emptying breath: For this breath technique, inhale for a count of three and exhale for a count of six. Release as much air as possible. 

Body scan techniques can also reduce stress. To try any of these techniques, get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. In the first technique, start at the top of your head and mentally work your way down your body. Notice and release any tension you may be holding in your muscles. You may be surprised at where your body holds tension. In another method, you would begin by tensing up your right foot as tight as you can, hold the tension for a few seconds, and then release. Next tense and release your right calf, then your right thigh, and so on until you have tensed and relaxed every part of your body. In a similar technique, you mentally travel through your body and imagine that each part is being filled with warmth. (Note: These techniques can also be used to help you drift off to sleep.)

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress. You can opt for guided or unguided meditation. If you are interested in guided meditation, you can find a teacher or use an app like Headspace, Calm, or MyLife Meditation. If you prefer to meditate on your own, there are many techniques for you to try. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath. Don’t control your breath, just notice it. As thoughts arise (and they will), notice that you are thinking and let the thought drift away. Another method that some people find calming is breath counting. Count your breaths, going up to 10. Repeat, as many times as needed, until you feel tranquil. You could also try a moving meditation. In a walking meditation, for example, focus on each foot contacting the ground. Notice how the ground feels beneath your feet. Notice the sensations as your heel hits the ground,  rolls to the ball of your foot, and then to your toes. As your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to walking. These techniques allow your body to relax and your mind will follow.

Exercise

Exercise, in any form, is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety and elevate your mood. The key is to find a type of exercise that you enjoy. You could go for a walk or a run, or you might prefer swimming or bicycling. You may enjoy the dynamic of an exercise class. You could take up tennis or golf. Yoga, in particular, is a great stress reliever. No matter what you choose, make it a point to exercise several times per week. This will have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Nature

Spending time out of doors helps to relieve stress as well. Researchers in the field of ecotherapy suggest that being outdoors can elevate your mood, lower your anxiety, improve your ability to focus, improve your memory, boost creativity, relieve depression and anxiety, and help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Being outside for 120 minutes a week causes positive changes, and the time doesn’t need to be continuous. So go for a stroll on the beach, take a walk in the park, or a hike in the mountains. Plan a camping trip. Plant a garden. Take your work outside. Bring the outside in by keeping cut flowers or potted plants in the house. Use natural materials to decorate. Plant herbs in your kitchen. Arrange a comfortable seating space near a window with a view. Even something as simple as displaying photos of your favorite outdoor places can help reduce stress.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but the good news is that many healthy ways of coping with stress are available to us. While we cannot eliminate stress from our lives,  the techniques described above can help us manage stress, rather than stress managing us. At Enlightened Solutions, we focus on treating the whole person, not just his or her substance abuse. Using our multidisciplinary approach, we customize each patient’s treatment plan to meet his or her needs. We offer treatment for a wide variety of substance dependencies as well as mental health disorders that can co-occur with substance abuse. In addition to talk therapy and a 12-Step philosophy, we offer holistic treatment including yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture and chiropractic care, art and music therapy, and equine therapy. We provide our patients with the life skills they need, including stress management, to achieve their goals in recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, call us at (833) 801-5483 today.