Importance of Mental Health Awareness

It wasn’t too long ago in human history that mental health was poorly understood. Depression was just a matter of needing to make yourself happier, while other debilitating disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia were written off as someone being “crazy” and not worthy of society. We know much better now, but better mental health awareness is still needed. 

The truth is, mental health issues and disorders like addiction often go hand-in-hand. Sadly, there is a lingering negative stigma associated with both addiction and mental illnesses in modern-day society. As a result, the majority of people suffering from mental health issues do not receive the care and treatment they need. For many, this leads to unsafe self medication and trying to cope through drug and alcohol abuse. 

The good news is that spreading awareness and education about mental illnesses can help end the stigma. And by better understanding mental illnesses and their effect on the human body and behavior, we can work to treat them and better the lives of people everywhere. 

Taking Mental Health Seriously 

A mental illness isn’t just feeling sad or anxious — it is a physical illness manifested in the brain that can affect a person’s ability to function and lead a normal, healthy life. We still have a lot to learn about mental illnesses, but modern research has revealed that they are most commonly the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Other contributing factors are genetics, brain structure, trauma, and even other health conditions. 

When mental illnesses are left untreated, they can lead to unhealthy behavior (like drug abuse and addiction) and also result in poor work or school performance, feelings of suicide and social struggles. Many people with undiagnosed mental disorders also rack up high medical bills from self harm or even physical symptoms that are reminiscent of other illnesses. 

Common Mental Illnesses 

There are more than 200 different kinds of classified mental illnesses. However, there are two classes of mental illnesses that are particularly common and have a close correlation with drug abuse and addiction:

  • Anxiety Disorders Anxiety disorders manifest themselves in many forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and intense phobias.
  • Mood Disorders – Depression is one of the most common mood disorders and can have debilitating effects on sufferers when left untreated. Another common mood disorder is bipolar disorder (including bipolar depression), characterized by intense mood swings and challenges in keeping mood regulated.

Now, it’s important to know that just getting diagnosed with a mental illness does not automatically mean you are going to start engaging in substance abuse. Instead, it’s best to avoid using substances and seek professional treatment for your mental illness to prevent an addiction from forming. 

Promoting Good Mental Health

Spreading awareness about mental health and the benefits of treating its disorders is the first line of defense in the battle against mental illness. However, there are many other things you can do to look after your own mental health and decrease the chances of developing mental illness:

  • Get plenty of sleep – Underlying mental illness can be significantly worsened when lack of sleep is involved. 
  • Exercise regularly – Exercise will not only help keep your body healthy; it also releases energizing endorphins. This natural hormone helps stabilize your mood. 
  • Work out your brain – Just as it’s important to keep your muscles limber, it’s important to keep your brain sharp. Research has shown that reading and doing activities that involve critical thinking (like puzzles) help keep cognitive thinking clear and can help prevent mental illnesses from forming.
  • Eat a balanced diet – Practicing good nutrition goes a long way in keeping your mood regulated and cognitive thinking clear. Making sure you are meeting your daily vitamin needs will also help.
  • Get plenty of Vitamin D – Make sure you are spending time outdoors and in the sunshine for a natural source of Vitamin D for a mood booster. Fresh air and brightness have also been shown to help keep your brain’s chemistry regulated. 
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking – Research has shown that even small amounts of alcohol, drugs and smoking can have a negative effect on mood. 
  • Maintain your social life – Having good relationships with family and friends is crucial in keeping yourself in a good place mentally. Though everyday life is often busy, try to set some time aside each week to spend with the people you care about. 

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Works for Both Mental Health and Addiction

At Principles Recovery Center in Davie Florida, we understand the close link between mental illness and addiction. This is why we offer dual-diagnosis treatment, which focuses on assessing and treating both mental health and addiction at the same time. By doing so, we can get to the source of the addiction problem and greatly reduce the risk of future relapse. 

Neither mental illnesses nor substance abuse discriminates among demographics or social backgrounds. Our family-focused treatment program offers services to people from backgrounds, and we believe in the importance of spreading awareness among all. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our program! 

Why We Should Be Grateful in Recovery

None of us come into recovery because we want to be here. For many of us, our lives have completely fallen apart, and we are at our worst, our bottom. We cannot fathom that our lives could get better. All we can see is the hurt, the shame, and the broken relationships we have left behind.

Recovery Heals Us

Many of us struggle with feelings of guilt or shame for what we have done, not only to ourselves but to those closest to us. Our thoughts are filled with negativity and put-downs, and we can’t see a way to improve things. The disease has taken our self-esteem and self-worth.

Recovery introduces us to a Higher Power, something greater than ourselves, that offers grace and forgives our wrongdoings. This Power will erase all the negative thoughts and feelings inside us and replace them with love and forgiveness if we surrender to it.

Once we have surrendered to this Power, our life begins to change. We feel the love from our Higher Power and from those around us in recovery. The negativity becomes less, and we begin to forgive ourselves and heal the hurts we have hidden. We are grateful for our Higher Power and the grace we have received in our sobriety.

Recovery Allows Us to Mend Broken Relationships

Recovery gives us a chance to start fresh, make better decisions, and learn how to repair the hurt we have caused. This starts with changing our thoughts to focus on other people, not ourselves.

At first, we see others who have what we want, and we do what they tell us to do because that’s what they did. Soon, we feel relief from the obsession, if only for a short time, and we are thankful. We wake up to a new day, still sober or clean. We have gratitude for what our Higher Power has done in our lives – that which we could not do ourselves.

As we continue to recover and learn about the disease of addiction, we begin to forgive ourselves for our behaviors and the damage we’ve done. We can see ourselves more clearly, with compassion, and we can face the truth of our shortcomings. We are grateful for the program that allows us to look at ourselves honestly, perhaps for the first time.

With our Higher Power’s help, we can admit our faults and do our best to make amends to those we’ve hurt. Even if our amends are not accepted, we can forgive ourselves and move on to the next steps in our recovery.

Gratitude Makes Us Happier

An attitude of gratitude is much more enjoyable than only seeing the negativity in the world. We aren’t talking about looking at the world through rose-colored glasses or sticking our heads in the sand. We are choosing to pay attention to the things that are going right, and not the things that aren’t.

Once we begin looking at our life from this new perspective, things begin to change on the outside. Not everything will go our way, but more positive things will begin to happen. Then we have more things to be grateful for, and the cycle continues.

Gratitude Can Keep Us Sober or Clean

There are no guarantees in life but having a grateful heart can help us stay away from those behaviors that destroyed us. As we focus on all that we have gained through our recovery, it becomes more difficult to throw that away with a relapse. However, we must work vigilantly to keep “our side of the street clean,” so we don’t give way to resentments and negativity.

When negative thoughts or feelings do arise, we can now turn them and the situation over to our Higher Power and concentrate on what we can change and what our part is in the problem. Honesty about our feelings and our contribution to the problem will help us find a solution if it is something within our control. We don’t have to give in to the negative self-talk, guilt, and shame that we used to live with, nor do we need to escape from those feelings by using or drinking.

Grateful for Recovery

Gratitude is about much more than just making a list of things you are grateful for, although that can be a useful tool to help us be aware of the good in our lives. It is a genuine feeling of thankfulness for all that you have been given, even the tough stuff, even your recovery.

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” Brian Tracy

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, reach out to us at Principles Recovery Center. Contact us today to speak to an addiction professional to help yourself or a loved one get the treatment that is needed.

How to Handle Triggers in Sobriety

Learning what triggers your desire to drink and getting a handle on it comprises one key to staying sober. You need to address both levels of trigger – the obvious and the underlying.

Emotional Triggers Defined

The term emotional trigger refers to anything that provokes you to a strong emotional reaction and that your brain sees as a threat. The trigger causes a reaction in you.

You need to recognize two things – the trigger itself and that you pick the reaction. If you are in meetings or rehab right now, prior to this, your trigger reaction has been to drink as a reaction. You can pick another reaction though, like going for a run or reading.

Types of Triggers

As Psych Central explains, a trigger sets off a memory that transports you back to the original trauma that led you to drink or use. A trigger can be external or internal. There are many types:

  • emotional,
  • physical,
  • people,
  • places,
  • things,
  • situations.

Emotional triggers like anger, fear, humiliation, joy, loss, resentment or stress can lead to the desire to drink because, at some point, you learned to numb emotions with alcohol. Physical triggers include things like a fear of intimacy – thinking that you cannot have sex without drinking first. It also includes pain, a major physical trigger.

Situations like celebrations, sports events and holidays can trigger drinking. Think of spending Christmas alone or of the festive huge family party each year. Both can trigger the desire to drink in different people and do nothing in others. For some people, the trigger is certain people, like the friends you once drank with or with whom you went through school. If drinking together was a large part, or the only part, of your time together, those people can trigger the desire to drink. Running into your old dealer or the manager of your favorite liquor store can do it, too. Things like seeing a bottle of alcohol on the table at a bistro or a friend’s house can do it. Your trigger might be the club where work held its semi-annual pep/morale meetings. There’s no way to skip it and the memories make you want to drink.

The Deeper Trigger

Once you know what exposure triggers your desire to drink, you need to know why it triggers that desire. There’s something deeper than psychology and counseling help you reach. You need to discover the underlying trigger and deal with it.

Rehab followed by recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous only go so far. You also need counseling that helps you deal with things on a deeper level. This addresses the trauma that triggers takes you back to that draws you to alcohol.

Long-term Strategies for Dealing with Triggers

While you identify and explore and discuss your triggers at counseling and meetings, you also need to explore and develop a healthier you. Three things you can begin at any time can help – exercise, journaling and meditation.

Walking and running top the easy exercise list. You only need a pair of track shoes to start. The activity releases endorphins that cause what is called the “runner’s high,” a physical rush that, in the brain, resembles what drug manufacturers craft in a lab. Exercise provides a natural high.

Journaling provides a self-help method of exploring your emotions, needs, triggers, and history. It only requires a few minutes of your day, a pen or pencil and paper. You can take your journal with you to counseling sessions to refer to while talking. It can help to ensure you do not gloss over details and help you honestly confront problems.

Meditation does not have to be goofy “om”-ing sitting Indian style. Yoga, Pilates, and prayer all count as meditation. Simply sitting in a chair or lying on the floor with your eyes closed and relaxing each body part also counts as meditation. The point of meditation is to release your thoughts and become aware of your body and breathing.

You can identify and learn to control your triggers. Your trigger does not control you. You can learn to control your triggers and your addiction. You can learn to manage it. You can remain sober one day at a time.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, contact us today. At Principles Recovery Center, we know the road to recovery isn’t easy and it isn’t something you should have to do alone. Let us help today!