Tag Archives: mindfulness

Find your strengths to cope with grief during addiction recovery

siluette of person feeling freedom from addiction

How to cope with grief during addiction recovery:

The grief of losing someone close to you is difficult for anyone. For someone who has struggled with addiction, the feelings of sorrow after someone passes away may seem like too much to bear. But, you know that having a relapse can be lethal. So, you must find your strengths to cope with grief during addiction recovery. Then, find the help you need to heal from the emotional damage without returning to your destructive behaviors.

The death of a friend or loved one can leave anyone feeling dangerously low. HealthVista, Inc  has some helpful information on its website about grief, including a checklist to show you how normal responses to grief can vary. Many coping strategies to help you during those difficult times of bereavement during addiction recovery can be found in this blog post below:

Tap into your strengths

Remember that the same inner strength and resources that helped you fight addiction can help you get through the pain of grief. If you’ve been through a recovery program, you’ve probably learned some highly useful strategies. Realize that your personal strengths can help you. Now’s the time to use them, because giving into addiction will only make a bad situation worse.

Find support

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The most important thing is to stay with your detox treatment plan.  People who are close to you can help a lot you as you recover from loss. Feeling supported and loved by your family and friends can help you resist the strong urges to turn to drugs or alcohol. For many addicts, family is a powerful source of strength. Consider making efforts to reconnect to family, friends, and your spiritual supports if you have been apart. Remember, one of the primary lessons of substance abuse treatment is to surround yourself with positive people.

Get professional help

 You may need some counseling following the death of someone close to you. Counselors can help you avoid falling back into drug use, alcohol abuse, or other unhealthy addictions. Grief counselors teach strategies for coping with depression and the hopelessness that can be part of bereavement.  Substance abuse therapists and support groups can keep you focused on preventing a relapse.

It is hard to find a counselor that can help you through both your grief and addiction, although many therapists excel in one or the other. They are both important as you cope with grief during addiction recovery.  Grief counseling addresses the loss of a very real and physical person while substance abuse counseling helps you through the loss of your old ways. Even as you get healthy, you may miss things that you don’t want to admit.

Finances are another concern when seeking professional help. If you have yet to re-establish a career and get yourself back on your feet, paying for the help you need can seem impossible. Ask about any sliding scale services that can work with your budget or your insurance.

Let go of guilt

Not everyone can easily turn to their family, friends, or loved ones for help. In the early days of recovery, you may find it difficult, especially if they are the same people you hurt when you were under the influence. Asking for help may be hard, even among your peers. You or your fellow addicts may have done unspeakable things to fuel desires. It’s hard to face that and open yourself up again to uncertain emotions.

Recovery often involves confronting the feelings of guilt and shame for your past actions that may have affected the people you love. It is a complex emotion that you  can learn more about from this handout  or by watching this Mananaging Guilt Powerpoint . When the someone you’ve hurt has died, you may never have the chance to make amends. This can make it even harder to grieve their death since a part of your atonement died with them.

Guilt is hard to overcome. Lingering guilt can feel all-consuming and keep you trapped in your addiction even if you haven’t been using anymore. If you never get the opportunity to rectify your actions, you may find yourself locked in a pattern of wanting to move forward and heal, but not being able to because you never got to truly redress your wrongs. Learn to let go of the guilt, because holding on to it can increase your risk for relapse.

Get enough sleep

If you don’t take care of yourself physically, it can also make it harder to avoid relapse. A lack of sleep can trigger depression in anyone, but sleep is doubly important for addicts, who need to feel refreshed and strongly fortified against addiction. Being unable to sleep is not unusual when someone is grieving, but and it can weaken your self-control. Try to establish a regular sleep pattern by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. If sleep deprivation persists, consult your doctor or counselor.

Eat healthy foods

Good nutrition is also essential for addicts who have gone through recovery. You probably learned to that a variety of foods and nutrients is needed for your physical and mental health. Renew your efforts to improve your nutrition, if needed. Try eating balanced meals each day, emphasizing foods that you like, plus fruits and vegetables. See your doctor if you have a persistent lack of appetite, or anemia.

Find a creative outlet

Positive and healthy distractions are effective ways to help overcome depression. Spend some time indulging your creative side with activities that engage your mind completely, such as music, writing or journaling, drawing, or gardening. Creativity can help you express your emotions, give you a sense of accomplishment, and a somewhat different perspective on a troubling situation. Going for a walk outdoors or participating in sports or exercise can also be very healthy both physically and mentally.

Set goals

This might also be the perfect time to examine goals you might previously have put on the shelf. For instance, you could take steps toward further educational goals. You might even decide to get serious about advancing your career or starting your own business. With online classes, there are more flexible programs available. Starting college later than usual can give you more experience in the real world, and make you uniquely equipped to handle the challenges!

Spend quiet time for relaxation

It’s important to understand your emotions in order to get then under control. Meditation and relaxation techniques can help quiet the mind and help us let go of the things we can’t control. Learning to cope by using meditation, mindfulness, or other ways of relaxation can reduce the confusion and grief after  loss and bereavement.

While your instinct can be to shut everyone out, it’s important to stay socially connected after someone dies. Whether it’s an addiction counselor, a grief counselor, a solid family member or a good friend, you’ll know who you can turn to. It won’t be easy, but the influence of family members, friends, and counseling professionals can keep you grounded and on the right path.  Grounding techniques can also help you fight the strong urges and cravings that are common during recovery from addiction.

Plan for a solid recovery and avoid relapse

Use your strengths and your supports. Seek clear and practical health information to develop and promote a plan for healing both your body and mind. Explore the many resources and the Recovery Workbooks at Health Vista to improve your mental health as you recover and manage addiction.

Blog Post #28 added 12-29-21 by guest contributor Gwen Payne of invisiblemoms.com .  Edited by Mary Knutson of Health Vista, Inc.

 

Photo courtesy of Pexels

A Great Way to Plan Ahead: Use a Coping Plan!

Thoughtful woman looking toward a bright path

Your path ahead looks uncertain, and it will be full of ups and downs.  Most people struggle with how to cope when their emotions may tend to get out of control.

What is a Coping Plan?

I would like to share a simple worksheet that was developed to help with that.  It will guide you to put some thought into what “triggers” you, and what warning signs would be seen by others when you are upset.

It also helps you explore what is helpful and what is not helpful if you feel like you are losing control.   The Coping plan can be shared with others, so they understand more about you and your needs. And, you will be able to be more prepared  for successful coping if you plan ahead.

How to Use a Coping Plan

Please go to to my Coping Plan webpage to read more about using the worksheet and about Trauma-Informed Care.  It was developed to help prevent people from being re-traumatized because of the reactions of others to their behaviors. To summarize:

Trauma can shape people’s mental, emotional, spiritual
and physical well-being.  Nearly every
family is impacted in some way.  Instead of asking “what is wrong with you?” ask “what has happened to you?” Reduce the blame and shame that some people feel. Build understanding of how the past impacts the present and help you progress
toward healing and recovery

The original link used for the information above was:

WI Dept. of Health Services. (2012). Wisconsin State Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)
Educational and Media Campaign. Retrieved 7-15-12 from
http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mh_bcmh/tic/index.htm 

A current link for more information about Trauma-Informed Care is https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/resilient/trauma-informed-practices.htm

You will probably also learn that your behaviors are not so different than many other people who we interacted with as we developed the worksheet.

The coping plan worksheet is available here >>>

Find successful ways to cope

My goal is to help people who are struggling with anxiety, anger, depression, addiction, or other behavior problems to cope better.  There are lots of ideas on the worksheet!

Share your coping plan with people around you

Allow  family, friends, and community be able to help you more.   Things usually seem easier when they are discussed ahead of time and they know what to expect.  Stronger relationships can happen with better coping.

Hopefully,  life’s path will look brighter as you feel more prepared and in control.  I hope this information is helpful to you!

 

Blog Post # 20  written 6-25-20 by Mary Knutson

Emotions and Eating

angry toast
Person holding a piece of burnt toast in front of his face with a sad smiley face cut out of it

Emotional Eating during the Holidays and beyond:

After the holiday season many of us find our pants fitting a little tighter and our bellies looking a little rounder. The holidays are an amazing time filled with family, fun, friends and of course food (especially the kind that we try to avoid all the other times of the year). Emotions and eating can be connected, making it difficult to avoid overeating during emotional times. Either good or bad emotions can contribute to emotional eating.

Once the holidays are over and reality kicks back in we can take a step back and work harder to avoid overeating. Then, start fresh as you leave behind the holidays and the emotions that they bring. But it can be difficult to avoid emotional eating all year long.

Connections between emotions and eating:

Food and feelings go together. We tend to link food with enjoyment, affection, and nurturing. Food is usually part of emotion-filled events, either happy or unhappy ones. Eating for comfort is a common behavior that comes from a deep connection within us. However, many people eat in response to emotions rather than hunger. If you are overweight, ask yourself if emotional eating is an issue for you.

How to improve control of emotions and eating:

Mindfulness and other cognitive skills (the way that you think) can help limit emotional eating. It can help a lot if you learn to cope better with the ups and downs of daily life, and don’t think that everything needs to be perfect.

Learn how to eat healthier to improve your well-being and your mood. Recognize and avoid any “triggers” you have. A trigger food can set off a “binge” of eating, no matter what your mood is. Examples include ice cream, cookies, nuts, potato chips.

Eat when physically hungry and stop when you are full:

We often respond to the sight of food with the impulse to devour it – whether or not we are actually hungry. We miss the subtle feelings of hunger and fullness if we don’t slow down to finish chewing and swallowing before we pick up the next bite. It takes 20 minutes for your body to signal its fullness. By eating fast, you are likely to overeat.

Try eating mindfully by savoring the sight, smell, texture, and color of the food. Think about the connection to the outside world, the taste and feel of the food as you eat it slowly.  Stop eating when you are satisfied, even if you haven’t finished what is on your plate. You can put it away and eat it later when you are hungry again,

Work to understand the connection between emotions and eating, to help you succeed in maintaining healthy habits and a healthy weight.

Blog #9 by Mary B. Knutson of Health Vista, Inc.

Updated  5-25-20

Reflections on Emotional Eating

Red geranium flowers on white outdoor background

Wanting to eat when not physically hungry:

I have a problem with emotional eating. I have the urge to taste almost any food that is around, and to eat too much of the “comfort foods” that I love. Sometimes when I am upset, I have been known to have a “binge” by eating way too much of something. In the past, I have eaten several servings at a time of cereal, chips, pizza, candy, or cookies. I used to take a bag of chocolate chips, out of the freezer to eat.

But I can control it better now that I recognize what is happening and I cope with the problems that are making me feel like bingeing.  I also avoid keeping “trigger foods” in the house.  Those strategies  helped me to lose weight and to stay at a healthier weight for several years.

This Emotional Eating Handout describes what I learned about how your mood can affect what you eat.

Food and feelings go together:

  • We tend to link food with enjoyment, affection, and nurturing
  • Food is usually part of emotion-filled events, either happy or unhappy ones
  • Eating for comfort is a common behavior that comes from a deep connection within us
  • Some people eat in response to emotions rather than hunger
  • If you are overweight, ask yourself if emotional eating is an issue for you

Mindfulness skills can develop ways to cope:

  • Cope better with the daily ups and downs of daily life
  • Recognize and avoid black-and-white thinking (where things and actions are looked at as being good or bad, right or wrong)
  • Avoid thinking that things should be perfect
  • Use coping skills for self-control when dealing with food temptations and relapses
  • Get the help you need for problem-solving

Mood and weight changes:

    • Food choices affect mood in positive or negative ways
    • Learn how to eat healthier to improve your mood
    • Hormones affect mood – Examples are cortisol (from adrenal glands) or estrogen (a female sex hormone)

For a more wide-ranging discussion of nutrition, also see https://7nsf19.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ExploringNutritionIcebreakersDiscussionGuide.pdf

“Triggers” for emotional eating:

  • Recognize and avoid any “triggers” you have
  • A trigger food can set off a “binge” of eating, no matter what your mood is – Examples include ice cream, cookies, nuts, potato chips
  • Trigger foods are not the same as favorite foods, comfort foods, or food cravings
  • A trigger feeling is an emotion, good or bad, that leads to overeating – Any available food will do
  • A trigger environment is a specific place or setting that leads to overeating – Examples include movie theaters, buffet restaurants, sporting events or social gatherings
  • Eating triggers do happen – They are a sign to stop and think about how you can avoid them from happening in the future

Understand the connection between emotions and eating, to help you succeed in maintaining a healthy weight

Weight Watchers Research Department. (2009). Emotional eating, Mind skills for lasting weight loss, Mood and weight, and Eating triggers retrieved from www.weightwatchers.com

Mindfulness instead of emotional eating:

People tend to eat mindlessly most of the time. When “chowing down,” we are usually thinking about other things and not really tasting our food.

We often respond to the sight of food with the impulse to devour it – whether or not we are actually hungry.

We miss the subtle feelings of fullness if we don’t slow down to finish chewing and swallowing before we pick up the next bite

It takes 20 minutes for your body to signal its fullness. By eating fast, you are likely to overeat.

Try eating mindfully by savoring the sight, smell, texture, the color and light on the food, the connection to the outside world, the taste and feel of the food as you eat it slowly.

In mindfulness retreats, the meals are usually served in silence. That way, you can think about the food and the efforts that went into growing and preparing it.

You may feel satisfied without eating as much food as you have been eating. You can practice mindful eating when you eat alone or in silence.

Siegel, R. (2010). The mindfulness solution: Everyday practices for everyday problems, p. 261-264. New York: Guilford Press

Being mindful and aware of emotional eating can really help you make healthier habits. Call a friend when you feel like bingeing. If there is something upsetting you, figure out what to do and write it down (or do it). Take a walk or do some exercises. Take a bath or shower. Get busy doing something that takes your mind off your cravings.

You can get past it if you resist for a few minutes.  If you are physically satisfied and no longer hungry, push away from the table and put the food away.  The urges will weaken and go away.  You are more in control than you think!

Blog #6  By Mary Knutson RN, MSN for Health Vista, Inc.

Updated 5-25-20

 

Resources for Recovery

Recovery Resources:

Many of the recovery resources were written while working with psychiatric patients. However, they were made to be helpful for recovery from other kinds of illness, or for general wellness or well-being.

Many presentations and learning activities are shared in Health Vista’s resources for recovery.  They are organized under the seven elements of recovery, the same framework used for Recovery Education lessons.

Elements of Recovery:

  • Hope
  • Security
  • Support/Managing Symptoms
  • Empowerment
  • Relationships
  • Coping
  • Finding Meaning

Find resources for recovery from Health Vista

When I was working in Inpatient Behavioral Health, I started developing and writing simple but engaging and effective patient education and learning activities.

Through the years, I also collected a wide variety of free resources for recovery include Powerpoints and many other links for health education and motivation. I wanted to make them available for others to use. Although not all of the Recovery Education lessons are posted online, many of them are.  More may be added in the future, so check back often. Here are some examples:

You can find the Hopelessness to Hope Lesson handout here.

Click to see the Finding Hope Pathfinder. That recovery lesson was made into a video YouTube to help you toward the first step to recovery.  You can also use the Positive Words Discussion Guide.

Finding Hope Pathfinder narrated video

Click the title to watch  Finding Your Way to Recovery

Recovery Workbooks:

I wrote many simple, clear, and short workbooks to share. I have donated some to community groups, but the cost of printing is too high to make them all free.  The workbooks have a cost, but they are on the healthvista.net website. Topics include Managing Pain,  Managing Long-term Pain, Managing Depression,  Managing Anger, Managing Addiction, Managing Illness, Managing Mental Illness, and Coping with Trauma.

Contact me by e-mail if you want to ask if some prices can be changed.  The following coping workbook is available free of charge:

Your Recovery Workbook: Coping and Relaxation  [.pdf] can be downloaded free and printed out. 

As you will see, my website contains many free, but very valuable resources,  Please browse and explore the lessons, handouts, learning activities, and links at https://healthvista.net/health-resources/recovery-resources/

I suggest that you start by Exploring Mindfulness . Then, begin  Taking Recovery Steps:

  • Ups and downs are to be expected – It is best to handle them as calmly as possible, using help and support to get back on track
  • Take small steps – You will get to where you are going (no matter how long it takes) if you go in the right direction
  • You feel more in control when you take the recovery steps at your own pace
  • In life, there is always hope, but sometimes you have to change what you are hoping for.
  • Be open to learning and change as you start your recovery journey

“I am not interested in the past. I am interested in the future, for that is where I expect to spend the rest of my life.”  – Charles F. Kettering

Updated 5-27-20 by Mary Knutson