Life Skills for Young Adults During Addiction Recovery
Addiction recovery is about far more than simply abstaining from using drugs or alcohol. Rehab is focused on improving all areas of life so that drugs or alcohol are no longer needed to cope with stress, negative emotions, boredom and other triggers for substance abuse.
Four Dimensions of Recovery
There are many pathways to recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA.) An individualized treatment and recovery plan is central to successful recovery. Individualized treatment addresses your unique needs and issues and builds on your inherent strengths and values. Regardless of the pathway you choose, there are four major dimensions that support successful recovery, according to SAMHSA:
Good physical and mental health is central to recovery. When you don’t feel well, you’re more likely to engage in unhealthy habits in an attempt to feel better. Healthy habits in recovery promote other healthy lifestyle choices. Even small positive changes in your habits can lead to other positive choices that support good physical and mental health. Skills needed for good health include self-care skills. When you’re actively addicted, you tend to neglect self-care, and this perpetuates the substance abuse.
Having a safe and stable living environment is an important factor for successful recovery. Living in chaos or squalor fosters unhealthy habits and can lead back to using. Domestic skills are essential for creating a living environment where you feel at ease and in control of your life.
Having a purpose in life helps remove the need to use drugs or alcohol to find inspiration and a sense of meaning -or mask the lack of these. Likewise, having the independence, resources and finances to fully participate in the community leads to greater involvement in society an in your own life. Goal-setting, vocational and other skills help you identify purpose and enjoy a sense of meaning in your life.
Healthy relationships and a solid social network offer love, support, friendship and a sense of belonging. Community helps prevent feelings of isolation, loneliness and boredom that can quickly lead back to using. Good relationship skills are crucial for developing healthy relationships that will be central to successful recovery.
Take Care of Your Health
A high-quality treatment program helps you develop the skills you need to gain control over all areas of your life, realize your full potential and embrace the major dimensions of recovery. There are multiple best practices for recovery and valuable skills learned in treatment that help achieve long-term sobriety.
Adequate sleep is also central to good physical and mental health. During sleep, your brain and body do important work, including repairing damage to cells and compartmentalizing memories. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night for good overall health. Good sleep habits lead to a sharper focus and better mood during the day. It reduces stress and promotes optimal immune function.
Sleep hygiene is the collection of habits and practices that promote good sleep. Good sleep hygiene includes:
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
- Sleeping in a clean, safe environment.
- Engaging in bedtime rituals that prepare mind and body for sleep.
- Limiting screen time before bed.
- oping with insomnia in healthy ways.
- Creating an optimal sleep environment, which should include a comfortable bed, a dark, quiet room and a cool temperature.
Poor self-care is a major cause of relapse, according to an article published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. Self-care encompasses skills that promote good physical and mental health. Taking good care of yourself ensures you have the strength, clarity and energy it takes to stay sober.
Reduce Your Stress
Stress is a major factor for relapse, and a great deal of attention is given in treatment to reducing stress. A healthy diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise go a long way toward keeping stress levels under control, but for some people, these aren’t enough to effectively keep stress levels low throughout the day. Stress reduction skills include learning techniques for reducing stress on the spot and helping your body learn to better respond to external stressors. Effective methods for reducing stress include:
- Deep breathing exercises.
- Visualization and progressive relaxation techniques.
- Daily meditation.
- Regular yoga practice.
Mitigating the stressors in your life is also helps to keep your stress under control. Common stressors include financial troubles, relationship problems, workplace challenges and how to.
Practice Good Nutrition
Good nutrition improves feelings of well-being. It helps repair the damage done to your body by addiction, and it promotes a range of other healthy lifestyle choices. Nutritional therapy during treatment helps you understand the impact of good nutrition on your body, mind and spirit. It teaches the mechanics of good nutrition, including how to shop for and prepare healthy food. A healthy diet improves your life in recovery in a number of ways. It:
- Helps you maintain a stable mood.
- Promotes overall good physical and mental health.
- Helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduces cravings.
- Keeps your blood sugar levels stable.
A healthy diet is mostly plant-based and includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins. It includes drinking plenty of water throughout the day to improve the function of your body’s systems and promote mental clarity.
Regular exercise is an important part of self-care. Exercise helps improve your mood and reduces stress and anxiety. It helps maintain a healthy weight, and it helps prevent a wide range of diseases. Daily exercise also fosters other healthy lifestyle choices that promote successful recovery. Experts recommend you get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you can break your daily exercise requirements into three 10-minute increments and get the same benefits as a full 30-minute workout. You don’t have to belong to a gym to get the exercise you need. Some great ways to get moving include: walking, jogging, swimming, biking, playing sports, rollerblading or dancing.
Develop and Practice Coping Skills
Coping with negative emotions, cravings, stress, boredom and discomfort is central to successful recovery. A high-quality rehab program puts a strong focus on helping you develop the range of emotional coping skills you need to prevent a slip-up or relapse.
Mindfulness is a state of awareness of the present moment. The present moment is where you experience emotions and physical sensations. Being present in these emotions and sensations enables you to take action to reduce negative thoughts and feelings that can lead to relapse. A number of traditional and complementary therapies in treatment address mindfulness. They help you develop skills that help you stay rooted in the present rather than being focused on the past or worried about the future.
Relax, and Have Fun!
A high level of self-care will include plenty of time for fun and relaxation each day. Kicking back and having fun improves your quality of life and reduces the need for alcohol or drugs to relax and have a good time. But fun and relaxation don’t necessarily come easily to everyone in early recovery. Learning how to enjoy yourself is an important skill in recovery. Developing interests and hobbies are important for fun and relaxation. During treatment, you’ll explore a variety of ways to unwind and enjoy the sober pleasures of life.
A safe and stable living environment offers a place away from the world where you can relax and feel at ease. Your home is your haven from the stressors and challenges you face each day, and it should be a place where you enjoy spending time. It should promote a healthy lifestyle and reflect your interests. Developing the skills you need to maintain a safe, stable home is essential for making the living environment a special, relaxing place where you can recharge and rejuvenate.
Keep it Clean
A clean, orderly home is a healthy home. Your surroundings can have a profound impact on your mood, and a dirty, messy living environment can lead to stress and avoidance behaviors. The old saying, “Chaos in the home is chaos in the brain” is true, and maintaining a tidy living space will ensure your time at home is enjoyable and relaxing.
Maintaining a clean home requires organizational skills so that everything has a place. It requires the ability to stick to a routine, and the motivation to keep things clean even when you don’t feel like it. A simple trick to encourage regular cleaning is to set a timer for 10 minutes and commit to cleaning until the timer rings. Frequently, once the timer goes off, the desire to continue cleaning will be present, if not, then you can feel good knowing you stuck to your commitment to clean.
Each member of the household should do his or her fair share of keeping the shared living spaces clean. This requires good cooperation, communication and conflict resolution skills since household duties are often a bone of contention in a shared household. Resentments can build up, reducing the safety and stability of the home.
Learn to Cook
Eating healthy foods that you prepare at home helps to ensure good nutrition, and it’s far less expensive than eating out. During nutritional therapy, you’ll learn great tips for maintaining healthy eating habits. Armed with information about what to eat, you can create a wide variety of tasty, healthy meals with some basic culinary skills.
A residential treatment facility or sober living home will often leave meal preparation up to residents, which nets them experience with planning and executing a meal. With a little practice, many people come to enjoy cooking and find it a relaxing and creative hobby.
Planning your meals ahead of time for the week requires good organizational skills. Thinking ahead helps prevent time conflicts that can interfere with healthy eating. On evenings when you know you’ll be busy or tired after a long day, choose something simple to make. Prepare the week’s meals ahead of time for convenience. Make a big pot of pasta to take for lunch or an egg casserole for breakfast. That way, you won’t be tempted to hit the drive-thru on your way to or from work or school.
Learning some tips and tricks for grocery shopping will help you make good choices at the store. It will also save you a lot of money.
Life skills classes and the practical experience you gain from inpatient treatment or sober living help you make the most of your trip to the grocery store. The fewer trips you make to the store each week, the more money you’ll save. This requires planning ahead and staying organized.
Build Community and Relationship Skills
Healthy relationships serve as a foundation for successful recovery. A number of skills come into play in both ending old relationships and developing new ones. These include social and communication skills like:
- Responding appropriately.
- Cooperating and compromising.
- Learning to trust others.
- Controlling emotions.
- Being aware of social cues.
Setting boundaries is a crucial skill for enjoying healthy relationships, and it will serve you well in many other aspects of recovery. Healthy boundaries help prevent you from being abused, manipulated or taken advantage of. They help you establish mutually beneficial relationships and improve your existing, non-toxic relationships. Healthy boundaries include:
- Respecting yourself and others.
- Honoring your personal beliefs and values even if others disagree with them.
- Taking responsibility for the things you say and do, but not for what others say and do.
- Taking full ownership in defining who you are.
- Understanding that nobody has to agree with you.
- Setting limits for how far others can go and being assertive when they cross the line.
- Understanding that it’s okay to say no.
Develop Healthy Friendships
Good communication skills, self-compassion and self-esteem are essential for developing healthy relationships. Learning how to get to know someone and how to develop and maintain mutually supportive relationships will lead to friendships that are beneficial and helpful in recovery.
Repair Damaged Relationships
Addiction can lead to a number of relationship problems with friends, family and co-workers. Repairing damaged relationships is an important focus in treatment, and it revolves around developing healthy conflict resolution and communication skills. Honesty and empathy are important skills for repairing damaged relationships.
End Toxic Relationships
Letting go of old, unhealthy relationships is hard, but it opens the door for a life enriched by supportive and loving people. Social relationships are important, but only if they’re healthy. Unhealthy relationships with non-supportive people can quickly lead you back to using.
Toxic relationships leave you feeling drained. They can be volatile and stressful, and they cause resentment and other negative emotions. Ending relationships is never easy, but cutting toxic people out of your life leaves you with more time and mental space to develop healthier friendships.
Get Financially On Track
Finances are one of the most common stressors in America, and effectively managing your finances is important for reducing stress in early recovery. Financial fitness classes help you develop basic financial skills that will go a long way toward ensuring you have the financial know-how to manage your spending habits and keep money-related stress at bay.
Develop a Budget
Sticking to a budget ensures you have the money to cover your essential expenses during the month, including putting some money in savings. Money left over can be added to savings or used for other things you want or need. Budgeting your money and sticking to your budget requires thinking ahead and exercising self-control when it comes to spending.
Get Financial Counseling
For those who need help with their finances, an individualized treatment plan will include financial counseling. A financial counselor helps you assess your spending habits, create a realistic budget, develop a savings plan and get out of debt.
Improve Your Credit Score
Addiction can lead to financial neglect, and a resulting low credit score can prevent you from getting loans, renting an apartment, hooking up utilities or even getting a job. Improving your credit score takes a little time and patience. It requires staying on top of your credit report, getting current with creditors, reducing credit card balances and paying your bills on time.
General Life Skills
A number of general skills can help you improve all areas of your life. Below are important skills to get you back to living your fullest life.
Managing your time effectively leaves plenty of time for both getting things done and enjoying essential leisure time each day. A daily routine helps fill the time with productive pursuits, and it promotes healthy habits in recovery. Time management skills taught in a life-skills setting will likely include:
- Understanding the importance of routines and learning how to develop an effective routine.
- Strategies for keeping track of appointments.
- Finding healthy, productive and enjoyable ways to spend free time, such as engaging in hobbies, volunteering or returning to school.
- Setting goals and incorporating working toward them into your daily schedule.
Appropriate self-expression is essential for improved self-esteem, self-efficacy and healthy relationships. Brain changes caused by addiction can limit self-expression and lead to relationship and personal problems. Healthy self-expression helps you maintain a stable mood, reduce negative emotional episodes and combat feelings of anxiety and depression. Self-expression is a channel for synthesizing experiences and emotions, engaging in self-reflection, expressing creativity and working through life’s problems. Self-expression is an important life skill that’s gained through a variety of traditional, complementary and experiential therapies. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health cites a large body of research showing that art and music therapy and other arts-based therapies are highly effective for learning healthy ways of self-expression and increasing self-awareness. Hobbies and a broad range of interests are avenues for self-expression that also lead to enjoyment, purpose, fulfillment and the development of healthy relationships.
Everyday life is full of decisions, from what to eat to what to do with your life. Making good choices is crucial for successful recovery, but effective decision-making is a complex skill. Effective decision-making depends on a range of other skills, including:
- The ability to delay gratification.
- Coping skills for relapse triggers.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Self-confidence and self-awareness.
- Weighing the potential benefits against the potential negative consequences of an action.
- Selecting the best choice that aligns with your values.
- Living with both good and bad consequences.
- Positive risk-taking.
Good decision-making requires a healthy mindset and a lot of practice.
Leadership workshops provide skills that will serve you well on many fronts. Leadership skills learned in recovery include:
- Working well with others.
- Applying a positive attitude.
- Going the extra mile.
- Learning and growing from defeat.
- Controlling attention.
- Thinking accurately and realistically.
Life Skills Contribute to Authentic Happiness
Authentic happiness is a concept from positive psychology that is addressed through a variety of therapies in a high-quality addiction treatment programs. Authentic happiness develops, in part, from having the life skills you need to make positive changes in your life that draw on your inherent strengths, values and talents.
Life skills classes deliver explicit instruction on a wide variety of skills that improve your life in many ways. A variety of therapies help you develop coping skills that you can put into practice right away to help improve your mood, resist cravings, repair relationships and reduce practical stressors in your life.
Treatment is all about empowering you to live a rich, enjoyable life full of awesome people, meaningful work and engaging hobbies. A high-quality treatment program offers a highly individualized, holistic approach to treatment that leads to better functioning on many fronts and a higher quality of life for the long-haul.