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depression in early recovery
April 12, 2021

Depression in Early Recovery: What You Can Do

Despite all the scientific and societal strides we have made in understanding mental illness, depression remains one of the most prevalent health challenges in the U.S. For many people, mental health challenges and substance abuse go hand in hand, and simultaneously addressing both disorders is crucial. However, despite all the progress you can make in inpatient treatment, you may find yourself struggling with depression in early recovery. Why does this happen, and how can you address it?

Depression Is a Multifaceted Issue

Depressed people are not merely sad or disinterested; they have a pervasive condition that affects all aspects of their lives. People may tell you to “shake it off” or “snap out of it,” not understanding it’s far more than a short-lived bad mood. Depression is as genuine as any other physical disorder or illness. Even simple activities like showering or getting out of bed can feel like a nearly insurmountable challenge in the depths of depression.

You may be more vulnerable to depression in early recovery because of how long-term substance abuse affects the brain’s ability to produce dopamine. Over time, your brain will produce less of this feel-good neurotransmitter on its own, and once you are sober, a lack of natural dopamine can make life feel less pleasurable. Consider these ways to combat depression in early recovery.

1. Find a Fulfilling Hobby

By choosing to get sober, you are ending a long-term relationship with alcohol or drugs. As dysfunctional as that relationship was, it gave you a sense of purpose – albeit a misplaced one. Many newly sober people find that “breaking up” with their substance of use leaves them feeling aimless or hopeless. You will need to fill that space with something meaningful that motivates you. For example, try volunteering in your community, which will allow you to pay it forward by offering a helping hand to those who need it. Volunteering for a cause you believe in can be extremely rewarding and bring a range of mental health benefits, including a sense of connection to something larger than yourself.

2. Make New Connections

Surrounding yourself with positive people who understand your sobriety goals is essential for managing depression symptoms. In some cases, you might need to end your relationships with people who do not support your new lifestyle, but you can’t go it alone – isolation can be a relapse trigger for many people. To help you handle the emotional ups and downs of depression in early recovery, find new friends to spend time with. These might be people you meet in your inpatient treatment program or 12-step group.

3. Spend Time Outside

One simple way to improve your mood is by spending time in nature. Even a few moments of soaking up sunshine and breathing in fresh air can lift you up and combat depression in early recovery. For even more benefits, try combining your time outdoors with activities like exercising, gardening or meditation.

4. See a Therapist

If you have completed an inpatient rehab program, you have experienced the benefits of counseling. Continuing to work with a therapist after your discharge from treatment can help manage symptoms linked with depression in early recovery. For example, a mental health professional trained in cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you how to change thought patterns and adopt a more positive mindset.

5. Eat a Balanced Diet

Some foods might help you cope with depression without relying on medication. Eating various healthy foods like whole grains, lean proteins, beans, nuts and seeds will enrich your diet with essential nutrients like B vitamins, antioxidants, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.

In Recovery, Your Best Self Awaits

What could you achieve without drugs and alcohol holding you back? At Beach House, we have been helping people discover new, substance-free lives without drugs and alcohol since 2016. As one of the nation’s leading addiction treatment centers, we rely on evidence-based, clinically excellent practices to show people the way out of the cycle of substance abuse. To learn more, contact our admissions counselors today.

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