• Exercising Self-Care When You’re an Addict: It’s More Than Exercise

    This is a Guest blog post by Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com.

    You already know that exercise is good for you but it can also be helpful if you’re battling addiction. This article discusses ways that exercise can help you form good habits and feel better, physically and emotionally.

    The first thing exercise can do is help you replace bad habits with good ones. Developing a fitness routine can help lessen the impulse to do something else with your time. Doing things that feel good physically releases endorphins into your body that help you to remain in a stable mood and resist urges to use. The “natural high” that exercise releases can offset cravings for chemical stimulation.

    The next thing exercise does is help you feel better physically, which helps you feel good about yourself emotionally. When you’re at your lowest, punching a bag or running a long distance can change your mood and help you feel powerful. Your self-esteem rises, along with your energy levels and you feel more in control.

    Finally, exercise can help you socialize. Exercising with others creates bonds that help you build relationships. If you’re on a team, you will feel responsible to them for showing up and participating. If you’re in a class, having supportive members around you is good motivation. In both cases, your support system will help keep up with your good behaviors.

    A caveat: If you have an addictive personality, there is a chance you might exercise too much. Also, excessive exercise can be damaging to your health. If you’re doing it as an avoidance mechanism in order not to feel pain, guilt, or grief, you won’t get positive benefits. Those feelings come in quiet moments and you can’t avoid them forever so you need to work on other ways to deal. In other words, though exercise is mostly healthy, you don’t want to overdo it.

    The thing to remember when exercising, as in all things, is that you’re trying to strike a balance between enough and too much. Like food, exercise can be good or bad, depending on how much you get. Your goal should be to make yourself strong and healthy, not to be obsessive about it instead of whatever you were addicted to before. Part of finding balance is knowing that there are many ways to make yourself whole and happy, and sometimes that means being quiet and still. Excessive exercise can be avoidance, which is not a healthy response in your battle against addiction.

    Whatever you enjoy, find a way to make it a healthy form of exercise that you’ll stick with. Self-care also means making time for friends or family, whoever is supportive of you. The road to recovery is long, and there are many bumps along the way. If you’re adding exercise to your routine, you’ll make a head start in helping yourself to be healthy.