It took me a few years to figure out just what I need to stay mentally healthy with no risk of relapse. I had been on the road to recovery so long that I forgot how important all the things I do every day are. I learned the hard way that I need to stay on my plan indefinitely or it will be very difficult to get back on track.
This past summer, I went on a well-deserved, long-awaited, five day vacation. I hadn’t been on that long of a vacation in years. My mistake was to discard my routines for that whole week. I tried to plan ahead but the circumstances that occurred on this vacation caused me to ditch all of my routines. I did not exercise, eat clean, stay away from alcohol, get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night, and even skipped a day of medication. Oh boy, was I a hot mess! I have now realized how important it is (especially on vacation) to stick with your routines as much as possible. Here is my formula for my recovery (my routines) and includes some tips about going on vacation.
Routine One: Medication
Take your medication. This is the most important. If we were talking buildings, this would be the foundation. Most people cannot start their recovery without this vital part. And do NOT skip a dose on vacation, period.
Routine Two: Sleep
Get plenty of sleep. I know that you might be tempted to stay out late because friends or relatives want to socialize but ignore this temptation. One night out of the week would be fine but every night could cause problems. Plan to spend time with relatives during the day or early evening so that you’re in bed at your regular time.
Routine Three: Exercise
Get regular exercise. Going from working out every day to walking a little every day was not sufficient to help regulate my mood. Make sure you have a plan when you go on vacation to get the regular exercise you need to stay healthy, physically and mentally.
Routine Four: Eating Healthy
Make sure you eat healthy. When going out, I was tempted to eat junk wherever I went. Make sure you prepare yourself ahead of time when you eat out to find the items on the menu that are the healthiest. Stick with vegetables and protein. Stay away from the pastas, food with sauces, fried foods, and especially the desserts. Going from clean eating to mostly junk food was problematic for me. Also, eating out every day for almost every meal was stressful for me because I was constantly worried about my finances which leads to my next routine.
Routine Five: Budget
Create a budget and stick to it. As the sole provider of three people, I’m under constant stress to make sure to stretch my dollar as far as it can go. If you have this worry, make sure that you have a budget for each day of vacation. Ask yourself if you really need this item before you purchase it. Also, get rid of the credit cards. Those things are bad news. Make a budget, stick with it, and it will be a lot less stressful.
Routine Six: Support System
Make sure you have a good support system. There were events that occurred on my vacation that I had no control of and my significant other (my support system) was not with me. The phone was not an adequate replacement unfortunately. Make sure if you will be going on vacation for a long period of time, that you have a support system in place if something goes wrong.
Routine Seven: Avoid Alcohol
Stay away from alcohol. I am a social drinker so going out every night turned into drinking every night. Even though it was only a few drinks a night, it really affected my mental health especially since I don’t drink very often. There are two important reasons why I have to stay away from alcohol. Number one is that my medication is not as effective when drinking. Number two is that alcohol is a depressant and affects my mood negatively.
So those are my daily routines for a successful road to recovery and a relaxing, fun vacation. Even though I detoured off my road to recovery, I knew what I needed to get back on track. I was able to get back on that road within a couple of weeks after I got home. Accomplishing all of them on a daily basis is hard but attainable. Start with one and add another one each week until you are accomplishing all of them every day. Start small and keep a positive attitude. It’s not going to happen overnight. If you fall off that road like I did, don’t get discouraged. Just keep trying and you will get there. You can do it!
In the end, there were a lot of positive things that came from this vacation blunder including a deeper understanding about myself and other people. I wouldn’t change this detour for a moment. Every mistake is a learning experience.
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