5 Key Principles of Self-Care

Self-care is a concept that is often misinterpreted. Many mistakenly believe that engaging in self-care means treating yourself to a manicure and a pedicure, taking a long bubble bath after work, or curling up with a good book and shutting out the world. While these activities can be considered self-care, the true definition of the phrase as far as addiction recovery goes is taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health, and consistently doing what you need to do to prioritize your sobriety and keep yourself happy, stable and whole. Self-care is considered a necessary function, one that is completely controlled by the individual and must be self-initiated. As far as addiction recovery goes, engaging in self-care typically means keeping up with your program of recovery.

Why is Self-Care Essential for Mental Health?

This means doing what you need to do to protect your mental health (such as seeing an individual therapist weekly or attending monthly psychiatry appointments), and nourishing your physical body and your mind (through a combination of holistic treatment methods like yoga and meditation and engaging in daily exercise and a healthy diet). This generally also means continuing with a 12-step program of addiction recovery and working through the steps with a sponsor.

According to behavioral health professionals, there are five major principles of self-care.

Most Important Principles of Self-Care

The five key principles of self-care as described by numerous behavioral health professionals are as follows:

  1. Finding out what it is that restores you, and engaging and restorative activities. only you will know what it is that restores you, and this is something that you will find out over time with long-term sobriety. For some, restoration could come from getting enough sleep every night and starting the day with a healthy breakfast and a walk around the block. For others, restoration might look like communicating with a close friend daily and avoiding hours spent on the internet. Restorative activities engage your body and your mind and provide you with a healthy release.
  2. Sending and maintaining healthy personal boundaries. We can easily be spread too thin when we are trying to please everyone in our lives, and when we spend more time thinking more about them than we spend thinking about ourselves and our personal needs. while we may feel like setting boundaries has the potential to hurt the feelings of someone we love, we must ask for what we need. For example, if we have a friend who wants us to come over and spend time with them every day, there is no harm in wanting to spend some time alone and saying something like, “I appreciate the fact that you value our friendship so much. I am going through an interesting time in my life, and I found that I value periods of self-reflection. I’m happy to come over and spend time with you two or three times a week, but I’ve also really been enjoying taking time to myself. I appreciate your understanding.”
  3. Listening to your body, your mind, and the experiences that you have and what you feel when you experience them. Most individuals who are in early recovery are used to listening to their thoughts, first and foremost. While our thoughts do have the ability to guide us in the right direction, we must get used to listening to our gut. It is important that we get used to listening to our intuition comprehensively.
  4. Try to move away from being a reactive person, while you actively move towards being a creative person. If something upsets you, your first inclination might be to scream, pull your hair out and run in the other direction. Rather than reacting to certain situations, start noticing how you react and take a moment at the beginning of the day to set an intention – one that you will call upon before you respond to the situations that present themselves throughout the remainder of the day.
  5. Allow yourself to feel good and go after what you want in life. One of the main plights of men and women who suffer at the hands of substance abuse is their inability to feel deserving. they might feel as if they are bad people who have done bad things, and because of this, they do not deserve any of the goodness that life has to offer. Allowing yourself the space to feel good and go for what you want in life we’ll take time, energy, and ample practice. However, practice makes perfect. This is truly the pinnacle of self-care.

About Voices of Mental Health

For more information on self-care or for more information on Voices of Mental Health and our dedication to helping men and women of all ages overcome their obstacles and go on to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, feel free to reach out to us at any point in time.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Cayla Clark, BA

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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