Kind

Why Kindness Matters

When you head out for your morning walk, you take a bag with you and pick up trash that you find on your route. You leave a post-it note on the mirror in the restroom of a local restaurant that reads “You are amazing.” You donate books you’ve finished reading to your community library. All of these acts are examples of kindness and could make someone’s day a little bit brighter.

In 2021, Random Acts of Kindness Day is on February 17 and the week beginning February 14 has been designated Random Acts of Kindness Week. This day--and week-- is sponsored by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a nonprofit organization started in 1995 and sustained by financial contributions from an anonymous donor.

The “Helper’s High”

According to the Random Acts of Kindness website, being kind to others is good for your health. Seeing or performing a kind act increases the production of serotonin, the “love hormone.” This boosts self-esteem and optimism, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiovascular health. Kindness also results in higher serotonin levels, which improves sleep, lessens anxiety and depression, and contributes to bone density. In addition, those of us who volunteer or make a point of being kind to others have reported that they have more energy and are happier. Researchers at Emory University found that when you do something for someone else, the brain’s reward and pleasure centers activate. This occurrence is called the “helper’s high.” In addition, performing acts of kindness could even cause you to live longer.

Performing acts of kindness reduce physical pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure, according to the Random Acts of Kindness website. Pain is lessened because acts of kindness stimulate the production of endorphins, which are considered “the brain’s natural painkillers.” Those of us who volunteer in our communities or make it a point to be kind to others have a 23% lower level of cortisol (the stress hormone), resulting in less perceived stress. In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder performed a minimum of six acts of kindness per week. After one month, this group had a more positive mood, indicated more satisfaction with their personal relationships, and showed less social avoidance. A professor at Case Western Reserve says that doing good for others decreases depression and improves feelings of overall well-being. And finally, being kind to others lowers our blood pressure because of increased serotonin levels.

Turning Your Focus Outward Can Aid Recovery

Performing acts of kindness for others can also help us in our recovery from substance use disorder. When we were drinking, using drugs, or engaging in other harmful addictive behaviors (gambling, for example), we were thinking almost exclusively about ourselves and our addiction. Our focus was on our next drink, wondering where we would get the money for more meth, hoping someone at the party had ecstasy, or whatever our craving was. Our focus was inward. When we perform an act of kindness or service, our focus turns outward to other people and their needs.

Doing good deeds can also help us form connections with other people and with our communities. If we are volunteering as part of an organization, we can bond with others who choose to support the same cause, be it holding a clothing drive to aid people who are returning to the workforce after being homeless, cleaning cages at an animal shelter, or spending a week building a home for a family through Habitat for Humanity.

If you are fairly new to your recovery, you may find yourself feeling bored and with time on your hands. Boredom can lead to relapse, so it is important to have activities to fill the time that you used to spend drinking or doing drugs. Doing a good deed, be it for an individual or a group, will give you something else to think about and to do while helping someone else at the same time. Volunteering with an organization whose mission you believe in can give your life structure and an additional sense of purpose, which will aid your recovery.

Kindness and Service in Recovery Groups

If you are in recovery from an addiction, you are probably in a support group. The most common are the 12-Step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, to name a few) and SMART Recovery. Both organizations provide free support to people struggling with or in recovery from substance use disorders on an international level and rely on volunteers. In both groups, volunteers facilitate meetings, both in-person and online. If you are volunteering with your support group, whether you are running the meeting, making coffee, or setting up chairs, it’s a great way to perform an act of kindness and connect with other people. Serving in this way also means that you have made a commitment beyond going to meetings, and this can get you to a meeting when you don’t feel like going, and that can support your recovery.

Performing an act of kindness for someone else, no matter how large or how small, benefits the giver as much or more than it does the recipient.

Random Acts of Kindness Day--and Week--celebrates acts of kindness large and small. As it turns out, doing good deeds is good for your physical and mental health and being of service to others is part of the 12-Step tradition. At Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, service opportunities are built into some of the healing modalities that we offer. For example, in the horticultural therapy modality, patients participate in the work of the organic farm that supplies the produce for the center. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. We will individualize treatment for you based on your own unique needs. The treatment we offer includes talk therapy and support groups as well as a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and equine therapy. If you have been trapped in a life controlled by drugs and alcohol and are ready to break free, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Reduce Anxiety

“The Sky Is Falling”: Anxiety and Addiction

Most of us are familiar with the old folktale about Chicken Little. In one of the more familiar versions, an acorn falls from a tree and hits Chicken Little in the head. Chicken Little decides that the sky must be falling and that the king needs to be warned. He (or she in some versions) sets out, proclaiming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Along the way, he meets other animals who join him. Different morals have been drawn from the fable, among them that you have to have courage and that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.

The term “Chicken Little” has come to refer to a person who is unreasonably anxious or afraid and who spreads unreasonable fear or anxiety to other people. In psychological terms, Chicken Little was probably suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and had a tendency to catastrophize--that is, to always expect the worst possible outcome from a situation.

What Is Anxiety?

Everyone gets anxious or nervous from time to time--you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t--but an actual anxiety disorder is not just something you experience from time to time and it doesn’t just go away. People who suffer from anxiety tend to be easily irritated and to think the worst of any given situation. They frequently have trouble sleeping, difficulty in making decisions, and are plagued by self-doubt. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety can interfere with daily activities and can have a negative effect on job performance, school work, and relationships. Several types of anxiety disorder have been identified. People with generalized anxiety disorder worry excessively about everyday concerns including their health, work, and social interactions. Symptoms include irritability, feeling restless or edgy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and a general feeling of worry. Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person has recurring, unexpected panic attacks. Symptoms include heart palpitations, pounding or accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, feeling short of breath or as if you are choking or smothering, and a general feeling of impending doom. Panic attacks can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack and people who have had panic attacks tend to become afraid and worried about the panic attacks themselves.

Phobias are described as “an intense fear of a particular object or circumstance,” but the fear the person experiences is out of proportion to the actual danger. Examples of phobias include fear of heights, flying, spiders, or snakes. If a person has a phobia of a particular object, say spiders, the person will worry a lot about encountering a spider, take extreme measures to avoid spiders, and become extremely and immediately anxious if they come across a spider. Agoraphobia is a specific phobia in which the person is very anxious about two or more of the following situations: using public transportation, being in an open or an enclosed space, crowds or lines, or being alone outside of his or her home. Social anxiety disorder is a fear of being in social or performance situations, and if a person has separation anxiety disorder, he or she will be very fearful of being away from the person that he or she is attached to. Although separation anxiety disorder is often associated with children, adults can suffer from the disorder as well.

Can Anxiety Lead to Addiction?

Anxiety disorders are commonly associated with substance use disorder. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you might turn to alcohol or drugs in an effort to lessen the anxiety and make the symptoms more bearable. You may get relief that way, but only in the short-term. In the long-term, drugs or alcohol can actually increase your anxiety, so you can find yourself in a repeating circle: You feel anxious, so you have a few drinks; the alcohol (in the long-term) increases your anxiety, so you have a few more drinks, and on and on it goes. You could end up with two problems--the original anxiety disorder and a resulting alcohol use disorder. A study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) interviewed more than 43,000 people who had suffered from anxiety in the previous year and found that fifteen percent of them met the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, about twice the rate for the general population.

Treatment for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are usually treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is frequently used in treating anxiety because it helps people to see the ways in which their thinking is unhelpful or distorted. Clients learn ways to reframe their thinking with respect to their phobia. 

Treatment for anxiety can also include mindfulness exercises and meditation, both of which calm our minds. Breathing exercises can bring us back to a calm place very quickly. These techniques can retrain our brains, so we realize that we aren’t in actual danger--that the snake dozing in its habitat at the local pet store probably won’t break the glass, escape, and destroy everything in its path.  

Like Chicken Little, when an acorn falls on our head, we need to realize that it’s just an acorn. The sky is not falling.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder as well as an alcohol or drug addiction, both conditions need to be treated. If only the addiction is treated and not the underlying anxiety, it will be very difficult for treatment to be successful. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that we can treat substance use disorders and the mental health issues that so often accompany addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We offer traditional talk therapy and many alternative therapies, including yoga, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, art and music therapy, sound therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. We customize treatment for each client and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just the addiction. We are located near the southern New Jersey shore. If you are seeking recovery and relief from addiction and anxiety, please 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.

 


Treating Co-Occurring Conditions

Treating Co-Occurring Conditions

Addiction is all-encompassing and touches every area of our lives, from our work and our interests to the health of our relationships and our ability to feel at peace. Addiction doesn’t function in a vacuum; it impacts and is affected by all of the other issues in our lives. Very often when we’re living with addiction, we’re also struggling with other deeply rooted mental, emotional and physical issues. When our conditions occur at the same time, they’re referred to as co-occurring conditions. To heal from one, we must work to heal from all of them. The underlying issues behind our addictions are often contributing factors to our other illnesses, and vice versa.

Healing ourselves from addiction is not as simple and straightforward as abstaining from our addictive substance or behavior. When we don’t work to heal from all of the issues causing our addiction, our recovery isn’t as profound or as thorough as it needs to be in order to really prevent us from relapsing. Many of us living with addiction are also coping with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Just as many of us haven’t sought out help for our addictions, we also haven’t gotten help for these very pervasive and destructive mental illnesses. Our ability to cope with daily life is often impaired. We struggle to function in our regular lives. Our health declines. Our relationships suffer. Our ability to care for ourselves falters. When we are deeply depressed, we often retreat inwards and isolate ourselves, making us even less likely to reach out for the help we so desperately need. Many of us struggle with some form of social anxiety, where our fears of people and social situations keep us from interacting with other people or asking for help when we need it. Our depression can cause us to feel so hopeless that we give up on ourselves. We don’t see any point in getting help. We’ve lost faith that we can recover. We’ve lost all belief in ourselves.

Successfully recovering from our addictions means treating our co-occurring conditions with as much care and attention as we place on our sobriety. What trauma do we have yet to heal from? What fears are still unaddressed that are driving our behaviors? Asking ourselves these important questions is part of the healing process. Many of us are afraid to venture this deep into our emotional problems, because it’s very scary terrain. Our recovery depends on our courage and our willingness to face these very difficult issues. We can’t grow to heal and love ourselves without doing so.

The programs at Enlightened Solutions treat co-occurring conditions along with addiction, to help you achieve true recovery. Call us today: (833) 801-LIVE.