Respectfully Saying

Respectfully Saying "No": Setting Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries with others can be difficult; however, setting healthy boundaries can improve our overall wellness and mindset. Learning to respectfully say “no” to the requests or demands of others can help us build resolve and find focus in our own lives. We may have learned to say “yes” and put the needs of others ahead of our interests.

One important aspect of recovery is building the resiliency and the strength to view our own needs as being just as important as the needs of others. During recovery from addictive behaviors, we may need to limit our time with those who may trigger our behaviors or who bring out the worst in us.

We may also develop new goals and appear to change to those around us. Setting healthy boundaries will help us maintain our focus and remain on our path to recovery.

Saying “No” Feels Selfish: Putting Ourselves Ahead

We may struggle with setting boundaries. We may feel like saying “no” to the requests or demands of others is selfish. Many of us in recovery may not feel comfortable putting our needs ahead of others. We may not have the confidence to state what we want or we may have been told that we must care for others first. While we may feel conflicted about saying “no,” learning to set healthy boundaries is not selfish!

Failing to set healthy boundaries can lead to us committing to things we do not want to do. We may find ourselves lost in fulfilling the needs of others as if we are dragged along in life rather than seeking our interests. Learning to take care of ourselves is not selfish and saying “no” to things that go against our best interests is one of the healthiest things we can do for our mental wellness.

When we set healthy boundaries with others, we reinforce the idea that we also matter. Sometimes, we may be tempted by others to engage in behaviors we know may lead us astray in our recovery. Others may be asking us to go out for a few drinks, making us feel like we are being rude when we decline. When we start recovery and we begin to grow, the people in our lives may not be able to cope with our change.

They may not understand our change or they may say that we are a completely different person. Even when we change for the better, others may not understand. They may also feel like they have lost a friend or a drinking companion. However, if we do not learn to care for ourselves and advocate for our interests, we may be swayed from our growth and improvement. After all, if we do not stand up for ourselves, who will?

Standing up for Yourself: Boundaries and Self-Advocacy

Setting boundaries is one of the first steps toward self-advocacy. When we give in to the requests and the demands of others that go against our health and well-being, we are essentially saying to ourselves that we do not matter. We are relenting and telling ourselves that we are unimportant and that our goals are not as significant as the needs of others.

We need to learn to stand up for ourselves! We are important and our goals do matter! Beginning recovery from addictive behaviors is one of the first steps towards self-care. We seek out self-improvement and know that our lives are important. We start to establish healthy routines and set goals for ourselves. We start to lead our lives rather than going with the flow at the whim of the demands of others.

Recovery begins with recognizing that we need help and that we wanted something better. We are moving forward from old habits and taking charge of our lives. Saying “no” to others can be a critical step to moving forward. When we know what we want out of life, we will find saying “no” to others much easier. Once we establish some goals for ourselves, we will begin to recognize what goes against our self-interests.

Remember that caring for our own needs is not selfish! The best way to help others is by caring for ourselves first. Setting healthy boundaries can seem difficult at first. However, once we begin to see how much we can grow by recognizing that our needs also matter, we will begin to soar in recovery! We will be able to free up our time to focus on things that are important to us by respectfully saying no to every demand that goes against our growth and well-being.

What are your goals in recovery? What do you want to accomplish? What is important to you? These are questions that will help to guide you along your recovery journey. When you begin to grow and change, others around you may have a difficult time letting go. They may have preconceived notions of who you are and struggle with the new you. They may try to pressure you to engage in former addictive behaviors that led you toward your recovery journey. Learning to say “no” to others can help us establish healthy boundaries and can remind us that we matter! Your recovery goals are important and if you do not stand up for yourself, who will? You are not alone in your experiences and your recovery. Sometimes, we may need to seek others for guidance and positive feedback. Enlightened Solutions is here to help you with your recovery journey. Call us at (833) 801-5483 today!


Meditation Isn’t Just One Thing

Meditation Isn’t Just One Thing

In the past 10 years or so, meditation has gone mainstream in a big way. Half the articles you see online about health and wellness are accompanied by a picture of someone sitting cross-legged with their eyes closed, looking very centered. This is due partially to the increasing popularity of yoga. Scientific research showing the benefits of meditation for both mental and physical health also validates it.

Meditation has increasingly been incorporated into treatment for addiction and other mental health challenges by forward-thinking therapists and treatment programs. However, there are also a lot of popular misconceptions about meditation. One is that meditation is one specific thing and there’s only one right way to do it.

In reality, there are many different meditation techniques and each one has different effects. Furthermore, many approaches to meditation combine different elements and different contemplative traditions emphasize different methods. If you’re incorporating meditation into your recovery plan, the important thing is to be aware of your own needs and how meditation can serve those most effectively.

Just relying on one method is a bit like going to the gym and just doing one exercise. For some people, that’s fine, especially if it’s a complex exercise, but it all depends on what you want out of it. The following are some common types of meditation and how they might help you when recovering from addiction.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is probably the most popular kind of meditation in the US today. It has been widely studied and incorporated into therapeutic methods, such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). It’s fairly easy to start learning and it has a lot of potential benefits in the context of addiction recovery.

While mindfulness itself really comprises several different techniques, the core of the practice is to bring your attention to the present moment and whatever you’re experiencing. This typically involves either focusing on your breath, scanning your body for physical sensations, or paying attention to something in your environment—typically sounds or some object in front of you—such as a flower or candle.

As noted, there are several ways mindfulness can aid your addiction recovery. Perhaps the biggest is that by keeping your mind in the present moment, you are not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness also lets you practice observing your thoughts and emotions nonjudgmentally, which diminishes their power to make you miserable.

For example, learning to simply observe feelings of shame rather than trying to push them away or bury them gives those feelings less control over you. With some practice, you may be able to treat drug and alcohol cravings in a similar way and “surf” them rather than feeling controlled by them.

Focused Attention

Focused attention is probably what most people think of when they think of meditation. This is the closest idea to the notion that meditation is “clearing your mind.” In reality, it’s almost impossible to “clear your mind” but you can learn to focus totally on your object of meditation—typically the breath—that you have the ability to exclude all other thoughts.

Few people develop their skills to this point, especially among casual practitioners. However, practicing this kind of meditation can help improve your concentration. There are two ways this can support your recovery. The first is if you have co-occurring ADHD, which is fairly common. Learning to better focus your attention can help reduce distractions and jumping thoughts and help you stick to important tasks.

Second, a lot of people find that when they first begin recovery, their concentration is terrible. There may be a number of reasons for this. If you’re quitting stimulants, for example, you may feel like you’re underwater and unable to focus.

Or, if your brain is mainly primed to look for drugs and alcohol, other things may just not seem that interesting and it’s harder to focus on them. By practicing focused attention meditation daily—such as feeling the breath as it passes in and out through your nose—you can gradually train your brain to focus.

Open Awareness

Open awareness is just what it sounds like: you accept whatever happens in the present, whether it’s an itch on your scalp or the sound of a truck outside your window. You let these sensations come and you let them go without judging them or following the train of thought they stimulate.

This sounds pretty easy, but it’s actually a more advanced mindfulness practice because it’s easy to start daydreaming and forget about the meditation entirely. If you can manage it, open awareness can be very good for helping reduce chronic pain and for becoming less sensitive to counterproductive thoughts.

Mantra

Mantra meditations involve reciting—either mentally or out loud—specific words or phrases. In a way, the mantra becomes the object of meditation and excludes other thoughts. However, there are two important ways mantra meditation is different.

First, when you are reciting a mantra—which, in some traditions is called a prayer—the parts of your brain that produce speech are busy, so it interferes with your mental chatter. If you struggle with critical thoughts or rumination, mantra meditation may be a way to turn down the volume of those.

Second, when you recite a mantra, even mentally, it tends to slow down your breathing patterns. One study found that participants who recited a mantra or the Ave Maria in Latin tended to stabilize their breathing at around six breaths per minute: an ideal rhythm for creating a sense of calmness and wellbeing.

Loving-kindness

Loving-kindness meditation, or metta, is one that tends to fall through the cracks but it can be very powerful. The idea is simple: you practice cultivating feelings of compassion for yourself and others. This has many benefits, including reducing stress, improving sleep, improving mood, and improving your relationships. You start by thinking of someone close to you, someone you feel genuinely grateful is in your life.

It could be a best friend or a relative. You direct positive feelings toward that person, perhaps with a thought like, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe,” and so on. You can notice whatever feelings this evokes and sit with those feelings for a few minutes. Then gradually try to apply those same feelings to people you feel less connected to, such as a work friend, someone you’ve seen but never spoken to.

Finally, you try to apply those feelings to someone who you find hard to like. There are a number of reasons this practice is excellent for addiction recovery, but perhaps two stand out among the others. First, you should be directing compassion toward yourself at some point in the process, and self-compassion is something many people with substance use disorders desperately need.

Second, having a strong support network is one of the most important aspects of recovery, and feeling genuine compassion for the people around you is one of the best ways to create that sense of connection. Keep in mind that any kind of meditation technique is just using your brain in a certain way and the more you use your brain in that way, the better you will get at that specific task.

This can help you overcome whatever weaknesses you happen to be dealing with. If you can’t focus, try a focused-attention technique. If you’re feeling isolated, try loving-kindness. The most important thing is for you to pay attention to your own needs and goals and figure out what works best for you.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that recovering from a substance use disorder is bigger than just abstaining from drugs and alcohol; it’s about living a more joyful, more fulfilling life. That’s why our program treats the whole person, using a variety of methods, including meditation and yoga. To learn more, call us today at (833) 801-5483.


What To Do When You Feel Another Episode of Depression Coming

What To Do When You Feel Another Episode of Depression Coming

Depression is one of the most common mental health challenges worldwide and it’s a major risk factor for addiction. For example, one study found that among people with major depression, 16.5 percent had an alcohol use disorder and 18 percent had a drug use disorder.

Those are both much higher than the incidence of substance use disorders in the general population. Furthermore, if you have had one episode of major depression, you are likely to have another. About half of people who have had one episode will have another and about 80 percent of people who have had two episodes will have a third one.

The good news is that you can often lessen the severity of a depressive episode or avoid it entirely if you are aware of the symptoms early and respond appropriately. Early symptoms can be any of the common symptoms of depression but are especially likely to include irritability, fatigue, rumination, disturbed sleep, changes in appetite, and isolation. If you notice any of these symptoms, take the following action:

Make Sure You’re Sticking to Your Treatment Plan

If you have received treatment for depression in the past, you likely followed some course of treatment that helped you through it. This might have included therapy, healthy lifestyle changes, changes in thinking patterns, and possibly medication.

Typically, as you start to feel better, you are more inclined to let these things slide. So if you feel symptoms of depression coming back, review whatever helped you overcome your last episode and make sure you’re still doing those things, or resume doing them if you’ve stopped.

Make sure you’re eating healthy and getting regular exercise. You can also consider resuming therapy if you have met with a therapist before.

Take Care of Yourself

In addition to eating healthy and exercising, there are additional ways to take care of yourself that will help you in your healing from depression. Find ways to turn down the dial on your chronic stress, perhaps by managing your schedule better, saying no to new responsibilities, or delegating existing responsibilities.

Make sure you’re taking a little time each day to relax and have fun in whatever ways work for you. Spend time with people you care about. All of these things will help to reduce stress and anxiety, which are common triggers for depression.

Talk It Over

When you feel like your mood has taken a wrong turn and your thoughts start getting pretty dark, don’t bottle it up. Talk to someone. Ideally, you should talk to a therapist because it’s possible that you’ve slid back into some unhealthy thinking patterns and your therapist can help you correct the course. However, it can help to talk to someone you trust or someone who supports you and will listen without judgment.

It’s especially important to be able to discuss your feelings with your spouse or partner since it’s easy to take irritability and a persistently foul mood personally. An important thing to remember is that communication is key. It helps prevent alienation and just talking about what you’re going through will probably help you feel better.

Connect with Others

It’s also important to stay connected socially in general. Often, one of the earliest signs that a relapse of depression is approaching is that you want to be alone. You cancel plans, decline invitations, or just don’t show up to things. However, this is one of the behaviors that can make you spiral down more quickly.

Spending time with people you care about reduces stress and improves your mood and the less you feel like it, the more important this kind of connection is. Be sure to accept invitations and actually show up. Reach out to people, even if it’s just a text or email. Keep in mind that no matter how much you are dreading getting together with friends, you will probably enjoy it once you drag yourself out of the house.

Change Your Mood

If you’re in the depths of a depressive episode, the idea that you can just cheer up by listening to music or watching some funny videos is absurd. However, if you’re just starting to feel early symptoms of depression, these kinds of activities are powerful because they can help keep you from spiraling down.

Funny or uplifting music, videos, movies, TV shows, and books are all great ways to change your mood quickly. Exercise, even a short walk, is an especially powerful way to improve your mood in a matter of minutes. Talking to certain friends might help, as might something like cooking your favorite meal or going to your favorite restaurant.

Even just a change of scenery might get you out of a funk. Try going to a place with natural beauty, as nature has been proven to improve your mood. Even a few minutes sitting in a nearby park can lift your spirits.

Accept Your Feelings

If you have already experienced an episode of major depression, you know how bad it can get. When you feel another episode approaching, you might feel overcome with dread or even panic. You might think, “Oh no, not this again! I barely made it through the last episode and I don’t have time for this right now.”

Unfortunately, that kind of thinking makes you feel even worse. You’re adding to your misery because you feel bad about feeling bad. A much better approach is accepting your feelings. We all have bad days or even bad weeks. Instead of panicking, you can say to yourself, “I feel pretty bad today.

That’s fine; it’s normal to feel bad sometimes.” Then just sit with the feeling. It will likely pass. There is even research suggesting that the more people are able to accept challenging emotions in times of stress, the less likely those emotions are to turn into depression.

If you are attuned to your emotions and if you are aware of your patterns and triggers, it’s possible to avoid or at least reduce the severity of another episode of depression. The keys are to take care of yourself; talk it over, especially with a therapist; connect with others, particularly those you trust; manage your mood, especially early on; and avoid compounding your symptoms with worry or anger about your symptoms.

If you suddenly find yourself in emotional distress, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or use their chat feature. You don’t have to be suicidal to call.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that substance use is often just the tip of the iceberg. Most people who struggle with addiction have other issues as well, including major depression. Managing your mental health is a key component to a strong recovery from addiction, which is why our treatment program includes evidence-based treatments for co-occurring mental health issues, as well as lifestyle changes to promote holistic healing. To learn more, call us today at (833) 801-5483.


Is Fear of Change Holding Back Your Recovery?

Is Fear of Change Holding Back Your Recovery?

There are many reasons people fear getting sober. They fear the pain of withdrawal, they fear they’ll be lonely in treatment, they fear being vulnerable during therapy, and so on. Another common fear is the fear of change. It may seem like if your life is falling apart because of drugs and alcohol, you would welcome change. And you may really want to change but you can still be afraid of it. What if you fall back into old habits? What if being sober means you’ll no longer have a way to cope with painful emotions? What if people expect too much from you when you’re sober?

There are many possible reasons you might fear change. There may also be no particular reason at all. The unknown is scary. Many people prefer a bad but familiar situation to an unknown situation. The subconscious reasoning is, “My situation is bad, but at least I’m alive and I know what to expect. Who knows what will happen if I change something?” Fear of change can create a lot of friction when you need to be making substantial changes pretty quickly. If fear of change is holding you back, the following strategies might help.

Acknowledge What You’re Feeling

Often, fear of change shows up as resistance. It might be that you’re procrastinating on some important action, such as seeing a therapist or researching treatment options. Or maybe you get angry with a loved one when they raise certain topics. You might not recognize that you’re actually experiencing fear of change. When you experience these moments of procrastination, indecision, or friction, ask yourself if fear of change might be the cause. If so, accept that what you’re feeling is normal.

Identify Your Assumptions

Typically, it’s our thoughts about a situation that upset us, not the situations itself. Fear of change is no different. When you fear change, there is typically some unidentified assumption behind it. For example, you might imagine that if you get sober, you will turn into a kind of person you don’t like. You might even have a specific image in mind, like Ned Flanders, or something.

However, that is a cognitive distortion, most likely all-or-nothing thinking. Or you may have some vague belief like “It would be awful if I couldn’t drink with my friends.” Even when things we worry about actually happen, they’re almost never as bad as we expect them to be and we can typically cope. Identifying the distorted thinking behind your fear makes it easier to manage your fear.

Let Go of Perfectionism

Some people’s fear of change is rooted in their perfectionism. They want to do everything just right or not at all but whenever you try something new, you won’t do it very well at first. Fear of change is just one of the many ways perfectionism can make you miserable. If you’re afraid of doing something badly or looking foolish, you’ll never try new things and you’ll never grow. Accept that there will be a learning curve but that if you keep working on it, you will inevitably get better.

Approach Change with Curiosity

For most people, fear of change is rooted in their natural fear of the unknown. As noted above, we often prefer the certainty of a bad situation to the unknown. The unknown always causes anxiety because you don’t know what challenges you might face. One way to deal with this anxiety is to treat it like excitement, which, physiologically, is nearly identical. Instead of fearing the unknown, be curious about what will happen, and be excited to find out. Treat change like an experiment that might allow you to unlock new knowledge and skills.

Separate Behavior from Identity

To some extent, nearly all of us need a sense of identity. This is often complex, woven from our personal histories, our friends and family, our likes and dislikes, our skills, our interests, where we’re from, our political affiliation, what sports teams we support, and on and on. For many people, drugs and alcohol are woven into their identity. They affect how they relate to friends and themselves.

They are just as much a part of their identity as they are part of their daily routine. As a result, changing that behavior can threaten your sense of self. However, it’s important to realize that your behavior is not your identity. At best, it’s a small part. One way to minimize the sense of threat of change to your identity is to write about your core values. Research shows this makes you less defensive and more open to positive change.

Focus on Process

When people think about making a life change, they typically have a mental model of either transforming into someone else or arriving at a destination. You’re sort of letting go of what you are in order to become something else. That feels threatening for the reasons discussed above. A more accurate way to think about it is acquiring a skill. For example, when did you change from a non-reader to a reader?

The question doesn’t really make sense because you gradually learned to read better through years of daily practice. You can think of other changes in the same way. You’re not changing from a person with a substance use disorder into a sober person; you’re practicing the skills involved in staying sober for as long as you want to.

Remember that No Change is Permanent

Part of the fear of change has to do with your implicit assumption that you can’t go back or that you’re stuck with whatever change you make. In reality, change is inevitable. Sometimes changes are reversible and sometimes they change into something else. Either way, you’re almost never stuck with any change you make. In fact, sustaining a new behavior takes quite a bit of work at first and for most people seeking help for a substance use disorder, the real challenge is making positive changes last. The good news is that whatever you fear about change will be transient at best.

Change is always hard because we like the familiar and predictable. Even when it’s bad, we know what to expect and how to deal with it. However, when we fear and resist change, we also cut ourselves off from many great possibilities. You can overcome your fear of change by acknowledging it, examining your assumptions about change, and replacing your faulty assumptions with more objective thinking. This isn’t easy and may require help from a therapist, as well as a lot of practice, but it will be worth it in the end.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that overcoming a substance use disorder will probably be the hardest change you ever have to make. We use many evidence-based methods to address the challenges of recovery on many fronts, including the latest therapeutic methods, family involvement, spiritual development, and transitional support. To learn more, call us at 833-801-5483.