By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.
Contrary to what some believe, self-love does not equate to selfishness. In fact, learning to love oneself often prevents it. After all, to fully love others, one must first love oneself.
With regard to active addiction, love of self is typically completely lacking. The reasons vary, but the reality is the same and it is one of chronic self-sabotage. In other words, active addiction is a means of self-destruction, not an exhibition of self-love.
For these individuals, making a decision to seek help is the first step toward self-preservation and self-love. And, for the record, since active addiction is the acute situation, that particular step is most vital. It must be taken before any other efforts toward self-care or love of self can be employed.
That said, once treatment for active addiction is sought, the biggest and hardest step has been taken. As such, those in active recovery have already moved from a place of self-destruction to one of self-care. And, with that in mind, congratulations and a moment to reflect on that uplifting reality are in order.
But, as we know, the journey doesn’t end there.
For that reason, it is important to find ways to continue to practice self-love throughout recovery. Love of self is vital to relapse prevention and key to successful relationships, as well as holistic wellness. And, as with recovery, the practice of self-love is one we can employ one day at a time.
Let the first day be today by employing these five ways to love yourself:
Get rest and relaxation. Sleep is necessary for holistic health. Physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health rely on rest and plenty of it. Relaxation is also key to overall wellness. As such, making sure you get a good night’s rest (ideally, 8 hours) or find time to nap in an effort to compensate for any sleep lost due to situations out of your control is first on the to-do list. Finding ways to relax—taking a hot bath, going for a walk, yoga and meditation, etc.—throughout the day needs to accompany this step, as relaxation leads to a restful mind and body.
Take time for mental health. Whether you can afford to take the day completely off—no school, no work, no appointments of any kind—and enjoy a mental health day, or simply find an hour to devote to doing nothing, it is necessary to take time to let your mind unwind. Zoning out to music, watching a beloved movie, reading a book, etc., are all great options for “vegging out” and giving yourself a break from the stressors of everyday life.
Get moving. Exercise gets the blood flowing, stagnate energy moving and endorphins kicking in. All of the above are vital to overall wellness. It keeps you physically healthy and typically makes you feel better about yourself, all while relieving stress and promoting relaxation. Additionally, exercise is prevents and effectively helps reduce depression and provides a great distraction when and if cravings become an issue.
However, as with anything else, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Distraction is a temporary fix, not a permanent solution. As such, remember; the purpose of exercising is to maintain holistic health as a practice of self-love, not self-destruction. If you’re reasoning is based on self-loathing or insecurities, be sure to address this with a helping professional. Exercise bulimia is a dangerous reality and should not be taken lightly.
Get moving, but don’t get a substitute addiction.
Feed your body and mind. Food is necessary for survival. Healthy food is vital for quality of life. Making the time to prepare or acquire a healthy meal, at least three times a day, with healthy snacks throughout the day improves if not ensures physical and mental health.
Food for thought is also necessary, especially with regard to successful recovery. Employing daily affirmations, positive quotes and so on at the start or end of the day is a great way to feed the mind and nurture the self.
Get quiet. Quiet time is something we needed as children, and that does not change when we become adults. Getting quiet means turning off all background noise—no tv, radio, computer, video games. Nothing. Complete silence. Whether you choose to get quiet via the practice of meditation at a local yoga studio or decide to do so by simply sitting in the silence of your own home, finding ways to get quiet offers opportunities to sit with, face and lovingly embrace yourself.
These five steps don’t require much extra effort. Sleeping and eating is something we should already be doing, so employing the proper amount and method should be simple enough. However, if there is resistance to any of the above, that is not an abnormal experience. If self-love came naturally to us, addiction would have never been an issue.
The truth is self-love is not easy for the majority of individuals, mainly because it is not something we are taught. It’s something we generally have to teach ourselves. And, more to the point, it requires us to be our own best parent—setting boundaries and instilling norms and expectations we don’t always initially like. But, as with our need to access treatment and get recovery, the need to further our journey of self-love is a reality and one we will find gets easier and more fulfilling as we move along.