The holidays are a time of family, friends, and fellowship. We get together, exchange gifts, go to parties, and celebrate our traditions. But for some people, particularly those who suffer from mental health issues, it can also be a time for considering residential treatment opportunities.
When we ring in the new year, we sometimes make resolutions – to lose weight, to make more friends, to try new things – and one of those can be to start taking care of your own mental health by seeking treatment in a residential facility. While people sometimes equate residential treatment with negative situations, it can actually be the best choice you make for yourself!
The best residential treatment centers focus on your whole person, not just the mental health issues you are addressing. In these programs, you will learn about how the mind and body connect, using that connection to increase your overall well-being, learning about self-care, and making a life plan that focuses on maintaining your optimal level of health and well-being.
When you start taking an accounting of your life, your physical health, and your mental health, at the beginning of the year, there are multiple things to consider. First, how does your mental health affect your physical health? Going to therapy can help you find the connections between mind and body.
Mind-body theory is actually a practice in modern therapy. Two of the most popular methods are intentional breathing and yoga. Intentional breathing is a form of breathing that requires taking long slow breaths, about five breaths per minute. Intentional breathing helps to calm the body as it affects the autonomic nervous system. Intentional breathing is an opportunity to calm the body as you focus on your breath.
The research regarding the effects of intentional breathing are just in the beginning stages; however, research so far has been promising. This type of controlled breathing can help patients with anxiety, insomnia, stress, depressive symptoms, immune system response, alertness, vitality, concentration, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit disorder. One study showed that levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) increased after a period of controlled breathing; GABA has anti-anxiety effects.
Yoga is another mind-body activity that can help increase levels of helpful neurotransmitters while helping you calm down and get a true sense of your body – the combination of slow, controlled breathing with stretching and balancing movements helps you become more aware of your body and helps you focus your mind on something positive.
The great thing about both intentional breathing and yoga is that you can do them for free at home to start your path to wellness! While having an instructor for advanced meditation or yoga would be recommended, most basic meditative practices and yoga positions can be learned from reading books or articles.
However, mind-body therapy goes so far beyond these simple techniques. While they are certainly useful, a directed program in a residential treatment facility will help you tap into the positive energies that surround us and draw them into yourself.
Harnessing Mind-Body focus in Residential Treatment
People of any age who battle disorders like addiction, depression, and PTSD often become detached from their bodies. This leads people to stumble through life, mistreating their bodies with addictive behavior, neglect, or toxic relationships. In addition to the physical disconnect, people struggle with never ending negative thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions that only serve to fuel their disease progression. The feelings that grow from these negative thoughts are often denied, further prolonging the detachment. Residential treatment programs need to include a rejuvenated connection between mind and body, allowing people to compassionately understand and positively care for themselves, participating in their lives in healthier ways.
We’ve already discussed yoga and meditation, so let’s examine the other options for mind-body therapy.
Somatic Experiencing (SE)
This type of therapy addresses relieving and resolving the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other forms of physical, emotional, or mental distress. “SE is based on the premise that PTSD symptoms or other areas of distress result from a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS, which is believed to be capable of self-regulation, is often impacted by traumatic events. SE focuses on restoring the ability of the ANS to restore self-regulation and regain equilibrium.” The therapists work with the patients in promoting awareness and release of the physical tension in the body caused by trauma. SE educates patients about the body’s stress responses and how to track the physical sensations that could indicate a panic attack or other stress-related responses in advance.
First designed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s used for stress reduction and a other mental health conditions. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements. When learned correctly and performed on a regular basis, tai chi can be a positive part of an overall approach to improved living. The benefits of tai chi, according to the Mayo Clinic, may include the following:
- Decreased stress, anxiety and depression
- Improved mood
- Improved aerobic capacity
- Increased energy and stamina
- Improved flexibility, balance and agility
- Improved muscle strength and definition
So, not only does tai chi used as therapy in a residential treatment center help with stress and anxiety, it has the bonus of making your body more flexible and resilient. Tai chi is truly a benefit for your overall health.
Chi Nei Tsang
Chi Nei Tsang is translated as working the energy of the internal organs. It is “an ancient Chinese healing touch therapy that focuses on deep, gentle massage of the abdomen.
It is believed that this form of massage may train the organs in the abdomen to work more effectively, thereby improving the quality of one’s physical and emotional wellbeing.” Chi Nei Tsang hypothesizes that unresolved emotional issues may reside in one’s gut, thus resulting in ill health. Chi Nei Tsang aims to support the release of emotion, enable proper breathing, and boost the visualization and meditation skills of the patients.
It is clear that mind-body connection therapies are not only good for one’s mental health, but also good for the body’s physical health. This combined approach means that residential treatment can no only give you a greater sense of mental well-being, but also a healthier, more responsive physical well-being. Only when you have a balanced state of physical and mental health can you contribute to your own self-care.
The Benefits of Self-Care
Many times, people with mental health issues focus on not being a burden to others. They are also more likely to engage in unhealthy people-pleasing because of a sense that they are not well-liked (which is usually a feature of depression or anxiety). They may even determine that taking time for self-care is not a good thing – that it is selfish and takes away from their ability to help others. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In residential treatment, patients are taught about the importance of self-care for not only the duration of their stay, but for when they return home as well. Life is chaotic and we are under a constant barrage of things we are expected to deal with when we leave residential treatment. We have financial obligations, a career, a home we have to take care of, and family members who need our help. Then there is the social pressure about appearances, how should eat, and how we should behave.
But self-care is crucial to continuing your path to healing in the new year. Remaining on your treatment plan is the first step toward practicing self-care after leaving residential treatment. Without the commitment to your treatment plan, you will not take care of yourself. Don’t allow the fact that you are back in the real world as a call to abandon all concern for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Self-care is so important! Think about it. You are with yourself all day, every day. You make the choices that affect your treatment long-term. You are responsible for your own health and well-being. Self-care promotes health and wellness in every area of life. Shouldn’t you put forth the effort to build an awesome relationship with yourself so you can enjoy your recovery?
Physical health is vital to the success of residential treatment. We simply must take care of our bodies if we want to enjoy life. There are several ways to do this.
- Exercise. Get moving! Exercise promotes the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain, endorphins, which make us feel content. It also decreases the probability of illness and certain diseases, like diabetes or heart disease.
- Proper diet. Food is fuel. It gives our bodies the nutrients we need to operate at optimal condition. You can practice physical self-care by eating right. If you are uncertain about how to begin, do some research about healthy eating or ask your doctor about seeing a nutritionist. Each body is a different body. Your personal health conditions may necessitate a specific diet or change in eating habits.
- Healthy sleep. Doctors recommend a full eight to ten hours of sleep every night. This is crucial for our physical health. Make sure your bedroom is a sanctuary of serenity – not a den of distractions. Don’t have a television or computer in your room. Stay away from engaging with digital devices for at least an hour prior to going to bed. Make sure the room is as dark as possible and that the temperature is cool.
- Personal hygiene. When we are in the throes of our mental health issues, we tend to neglect personal hygiene. People with depression don’t care about brushing their hair or teeth, or even dressing in clean clothes. Those with bipolar disorder may simply forget about hygiene if they are in a manic state. Once you have left residential treatment, make personal hygiene a priority.
And physical self-care is just step one. You have to be intentional about total self-care. You have to make yourself a priority and set time aside to take care of you. Here are a few examples of how self-care might show up in your life:
- Taking a hot bath while listening to music
- Going for a nature walk
- Listening to your favorite music
- Enjoying a cup of coffee with a supportive friend
- Taking a mini-vacation to relax
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Taking a drive
- Fellowshipping with other recovering people
- Going to counseling
- Finding a hobby you enjoy
- Reading spiritual literature
Each of these options are great ways to give to yourself after residential treatment. Remember, the time in residential treatment is just a beginning. It’s a jump start to a new, better life you can make for yourself and your family. So, when you are ready to leave residential treatment, start off strong with a life plan already in place.
Making a Life Plan
Many people have things they’d like to change in their lives and wonder how to make a life plan. We often don’t make these change because of lack of focus or other factors; changing your life is often easier said than done. By creating a specific life plan and sticking to it, your reintegration into regular family life will be far easier, less stressful, and your chances of success will be far greater. If you slip off the path, simply refocus and try again. Here are simple and effective steps to take stock of your life and start on a new life plan:
Look at What’s Not Working – it helps to know what you want to change. Assess different areas of your life in list form, narrative form, created like a mind map, or in another format, but cover the areas of life that are most important to you.
Assess Your Values – work around your values–what’s important to you, and what you hope to maintain in your life. Sometimes people include activities in their lives that have little value to them without realizing it. Pay attention to how you actually apply these values in your life; be sure to include activities that fulfill those values.
- Look at the Future – it helps to plan not only months into the future but for years. Thinking about how you want the next few months, year, and five years to be and then working backward can really clarify what next you need to take next.
- Plan Your Steps – Looking at the future, the present, and how you can break down the path from “here” to “there” into small, manageable steps
- Eliminate Roadblocks – review your list of “what’s not working” and make the necessary changes. Cut out commitments, relationships, and other aspects of your life that drain you.
- Set Up Structures – Create systems in your life that will support your desired changes. If you want to relieve stress, commit to a regular stress relief practice and add it to your routine.
- Get Ongoing Support – Asking for help from others to keep yourself on track, delegating tasks that are overloading you, even signing up for free newsletters or joining social media pages on the topic of stress are ways you can get ongoing support.
Making a life plan isn’t just about making lists and following through; it’s about changing your lifestyle to include healthy activities, healthy relationships, and healthy structures.
Residential treatment is a great starting block to consider in the new year. It isn’t a way of admitting defeat – it’s a way of saying, “I’m tired of always being behind – I want to get ahead!” Use the opportunities of a new year by committing to residential treatment as a way of taking care of you.
If you suspect that your teen is struggling with mental health issues at any point around the holiday season, get them the help that they need today. Contact a treatment center like Beachside – where they can receive the attention that they need to manage their mental health and learn the coping mechanisms necessary to lead a productive, successful life.