Nature is everywhere and available to everyone. Nature can also present itself in many different forms, such as lakes, rivers, oceans, forests, rock gardens and potted plants. There are unique healing benefits that promote overall physical, mental and spiritual health with each form of nature. While living in a time where people have become so tech-centric—especially while navigating a pandemic—you might have moved away from considering using nature as a tool for your recovery. However, many therapeutic wilderness programs recognize the healing properties of nature. Nature has also been shown to relieve stress, depression and anxiety. It also promotes confidence, empowerment and connection with yourself and your surroundings. The best part is that you don’t necessarily need the outdoors to get your nature fix.
Nature Brings Renewal
Managing a substance use disorder (SUD), redefining your life and discovering your true self is essential to maintain lasting recovery. Additionally, part of this change is achieving a sense of renewal. Nature can teach someone recovering from a SUD that each new day offers a fresh start, despite what has happened the day before. Nature is resilient and can find ways to restore itself. Whether byway of hiking, looking after a plant or gardening, or taking in the views from your porch or vicariously online, nature is powerful in its ability to show us regrowth. Much like recovery, while you will encounter setbacks and challenges, you, too, can restore your life.
Nature Speaks to the Soul
When you choose recovery and begin managing your SUD, you likely understand how difficult times can get when you remember or relive memories of past experiences before seeking treatment. You also probably know that the road to recovering yourself emotionally and physically takes patience, pain, and persistence. Therapeutic treatments such as counseling, group therapy and nature therapy will help you discover ways to find solutions for coping with your emotions.
At New Hope Ranch, we believe that one’s surroundings can significantly impact one’s spiritual needs. The outdoor venues and experiential therapies help our patients discover their true selves and find skills that, in turn, help them make more significant connections with themselves and others. Through these group activities in nature, the goal is to build trust in yourself and others, which are vital factors in early recovery. However, these spiritual self-discoveries also instill life-lasting tools. Nature not only engages your senses but offers you the time needed to reflect, meditate and soul-search on the aspects of your life that are either affecting you or inspiring you.
It is no secret that a long-term SUD can negatively impact your health. After an extended period of using substances, you might lose confidence in your ability to participate in physical activities. If not treated, these beliefs could hinder you from ever reaching your greatest goals. Unlike other activities, connecting with nature can be unassuming and, therefore, less stressful. Because there is so much to take in, a hike in nature that offers breathtaking views could distract you from the fact that you have hiked a challenging trail or traveled the distance you have. Whether it’s biking, hiking, running or rafting, participating in activities in nature can help repair the body.
Scientific studies have shown that being around trees, water and other forms of nature positively affects social, physical and mental well-being. This is not only because oxygen levels might be higher in natural areas, but the visuals in nature can promote happiness. Even if you live in a city or are confined to being indoors, you can still access these benefits by looking at pictures or watching videos of nature. You can also participate in nature trails while using a stationary bike or treadmill at home. Additionally, you might take up starting a small indoor garden or placing plants around your living space. Plants are calming to look at and caring for plants can promote feelings of peace. If you cannot go outdoors, get creative and bring nature to you.
Spending time in nature has a number of physical, mental and spiritual benefits that can help while in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. Located near Austin, Texas, New Hope Ranch can help you overcome substance use disorders and co-occurring mental issues in a beautiful natural setting. New Hope Ranch offers a range of evidence-based treatment modalities, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and SMART recovery. We also offer art, music, yoga and other recreational therapy programs to help give you the tools and skills you need for lasting recovery. If you are interested in learning more about how New Hope Ranch can help you or someone you love overcome addiction, or to talk to caring staff, call us today at (737) 600-8565.
It is no question that the current pandemic has transformed the landscape of how people interact, work, travel and manage their health. While the transition into this “new normal” has been trying for people worldwide, it has been especially troubling for those struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD). Many of the precautions needed to protect yourself from COVID-19 directly negate the principles of recovery. This has left many people very vulnerable to succumbing to isolation, depression, negative behavior and risk of relapse. Understand how the pandemic has impacted those with alcohol or drug addictions and how to help them get through this unprecedented time.
4 Implications of COVID-19 on Those with Addictions
This pandemic holds serious implications for people with an SUD, including long-term socioeconomic and public health effects. There is no telling just how detrimental this can be to those struggling with SUDs and other mental illnesses over time. Here are four ways that explain how COVID-19 is directly impacting those struggling with an SUD.
Taking drugs or drinking alcohol usually starts with others, in a communal environment. Eventually, using easily moves into a more isolated setting. With the stay-at-home orders and ask to be socially distant from others during this time, this act of self-isolation can perpetuate substance use and cut those off who likely tried to help the ones the love overcome their addiction.
This pandemic has financially affected most people in the United States because many people are forced to leave jobs, enroll for unemployment or look for new work. Those with SUDs typically find themselves with limited financial resources, possibly unstable housing and partial access to resources they need to protect themselves.
Using drugs over a long period can often influence or perpetuate other underlying conditions, from mental health disorders such as post-traumatic (PTSD), anxiety and depression, to physical ones such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Often, when someone is abusing drugs, they develop what is known as a comorbidity, which is the culmination of the effects of multiple disorders happening within the brain and body. Since comorbidity is prevalent among those with SUDs, they are linked to more severe symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms could lead to serious complications, healthcare needs and even fatalities, especially if the person suffering requires consistent treatment and medication.
While telehealth services and treatment centers are working to accommodate the needs of many who don’t have access to the internet or phone, those with an SUD might continue to struggle. Face-to-face interactions with a therapeutic practitioner are often ideal for a person’s recovery. Some struggling, especially elders, are at higher risk because they do not have access to or utilize technology in the same way that younger generations do. Their primary access might be the telephone. However, even having access to a phone can be limited to some with SUDs. Additionally, if someone struggling has relied on in-person meetings, they might have limited social outlets to help them transition into the digital realms.
How to Help
The implications here are just some things that people with an SUD likely may experience during this pandemic. If you know someone who is struggling, help might best come in the form of checking in with this person on a regular basis. For a loved one who is older, help them figure out how to utilize technology so they can get in touch with various resources. Offer to go grocery shopping for them so they are less exposed to the virus and you can help get foods with more nutritional value than if they were to shop for themselves. Lastly, if you know your loved one really needs help, talk to them about getting treatment for their addiction. It could be life-changing and lifesaving.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected and disrupted the lives of many in the U.S. and around the world. Social distancing requirements and limited access to healthcare are especially disruptive for people with substance use disorders.
Not all hope is lost. New Hope Ranch is open during these tough times and takes every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of patients and staff. We offer a comfortable setting and connect you with staff that will work to create a treatment plan that meets your individual needs. If you or someone you love needs help, call us today at (737) 600-8565.
Thanksgiving is here. It is a time to gather with family or friends we consider family. It is a time to look back on the year and reflect on what we are thankful for.
Yet for those who are in recovery or are actively struggling with substance use, Thanksgiving can be a difficult time. It is filled with stress from complicated family situations or no family at all. Financial struggles can often be overwhelming during this time, too. And with 2020 being like no other year, it might feel hard to find things to be thankful for. Many people may not even be able to gather with their families or friends because of what is going on with the pandemic. A study on PubMed.gov about the correlation between COVID-19 and substance use suggests that there has been a surge in drug and alcohol use during this time. As a result, Thanksgiving may be especially stressful this year.
Why Is Thanksgiving So Hard?
There are several reasons for why someone relapses or increases the use of drugs and/or alcohol during the holidays. One reason, according to Psychology Today, suggests that returning to a familiar place can trigger underlying issues that are the cause of the substance use issue. These triggers can be more powerful than re-experiencing the drug and/or alcohol. It is also possible that other family members are unaware of the substance use and the added need for secrecy increases stress and sometimes brings on the desire to use. Other family members or friends are another source to trigger stress and can increase cravings if they are around. Understanding what triggers substance use behaviors is an important tool for recovery.
Avoiding Triggers During Thanksgiving
It is not impossible to get through the holidays clean and sober. It requires a lot of preparations and a few alternate coping strategies to help keep you on the right track.
- Have a plan: Being prepared is the best way for you to avoid the temptation to use drugs and/or alcohol around this time. Make sure you have the contact information for your sponsor and a backup person to contact if they are not available. Having this information available and easily accessible can help avoid excuses for not calling. Heading out of town? Bring along some reading material to help keep you engaged. It is important to also have information on available AA or NA meetings near your destination. If you are staying in town, attend a meeting before seeing your family and friends. Staying accountable can make a difference should you be tempted to use.
- Get there early and leave early: Choosing to arrive early allows you to interact with everyone as they arrive as opposed to walking into a room full of people, which can be stressful and overwhelming. It also helps to cover any frustration later in the evening when you choose to leave early. Oftentimes the “real party” starts after everyone has enjoyed their meal and any children have been put to bed. Being able to leave before the party gets started allows you to avoid reverting back to using any substances.
- Bring your own drink: Don’t undervalue the importance of bringing your own drink. By having your own drink at the gathering, you have more control over what you consume. It allows you to politely decline an offered alcoholic beverage from other attendees. It can also keep you safe from having your drink spiked by someone else.
- Plan your escape: Having an escape plan is important if you start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated. Planning how to bow out of the party if needed can help make it easier for you to leave and not get wrapped up in potentially bad choices. You are never obligated to stay somewhere when you are ready to leave, no matter how much pressure someone else may put on you.
Stress Less this Thanksgiving
It is not anyone else’s responsibility to help you stay sober so you have to figure out ways to put yourself first, which means putting recovery first. If you have a plan in place, arrive early and leave early, bring your own drink and know when it’s time to exit a gathering, then you are on your way to a less stressful Thanksgiving. You can enjoy yourself more and not have to worry as much about making a bad choice.
The holidays can be such a stressful time of year. If you or a loved one is struggling not to use drugs and/or alcohol this Thanksgiving, New Hope Ranch is here to help. We are located on a ranch just outside of Austin, Texas. We are a drug and alcohol treatment facility offering full mental health assessments and treatment plans set up specifically to meet your needs, even during the holidays. Get the help you deserve and call (737) 600-8565 today.
Servicemen and women oftentimes face unique challenges when leaving active duty. Readjusting to civilian life is often met with anxiety, stress, depression, anger and isolation. It can be hard for a veteran to re-establish their role within the family. Additionally, these men and women sometimes struggle working civilian jobs. For some, it could be their first job if they had enlisted right out of high school. It can be a difficult adjustment, to have more freedom to make their own choices instead of being given instructions for how to do things and like when experienced in the military.
Sometimes, veterans return with a compromised state of mental health due to what they witnessed while on duty. Among the most prevalent ailments is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is sometimes difficult for veterans to come to grips with PTSD and it can be especially difficult for their loved ones to understand the gravity of the situation. That’s why it is important to educate yourself on what a soldier undergoes after returning home. While you might have heard of PTSD and other related disorders such as stress, anxiety and depression, it varies greatly when in relation to the military. Identifying and deciphering these differences will bring you that much closer to helping yourself or a loved one support military-related mental health issues and any drug or alcohol problems they have developed because of it.
PTSD and the Military
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD is a disorder that develops after witnessing a shocking, scary or dangerous event. For military personnel, their trauma likely stems from what they have witnessed at war—not only in regard to being in situations that cause them to question their mortality but having to witness the mortality of fellow soldiers. Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD is more common among U.S. soldiers than the general population. Further, the report shows that upwards of 20% of Iraqi Freedom soldiers will experience PTSD and 30% of Vietnam War veterans have or will develop PTSD. What is it like for a soldier to experience this?
According to NIMH, for many servicemen and women, PTSD begins with flashbacks to the event—these could be thoughts that interfere during the day or dreams that happen at night. As a result, avoidance symptoms might develop where they purposely distance themselves from thoughts and events that trigger their memory. If you notice your loved one beginning to avoid certain situations, this could suggest PTSD and they should seek help. Likewise, when their episodes of fear, anger, sadness, guilt or anxiety become more intermittent, and they turn to substances to cope, they are in a state of needing treatment.
Helping a Veteran Who Struggles with Mental Health
While it can be difficult to approach your loved one when they need help, you should also be aware and track their behavioral patterns. This way, when your loved one does seek treatment, you can provide the doctor with as much information as possible. Always try to work with your loved one—don’t further pressure them prematurely. However, you should also not wait for them to open up to you. Educate yourself on PTSD and other mental illnesses surrounding veterans. While some signs might seem obvious, like anger, sadness, tension, etc., other signs are more subtle, like being passive, lazy and unmotivated.
Often, intimacy problems arise within relationships, causing the unaffected spouse or partner to feel unloved or rejected. Remember to practice patience and never take anything personally. It is their illness that has altered their behavior, not you. Try to respond with positivity and optimism. This will remind you and your loved one that you offer your support and understanding and that they are loved. Remember to maintain support.
Next would be offering to get them outside help. This could include therapy or counseling, either one-on-one or in group sessions. You could even consider family therapy so that everyone can work through this together. If you feel at a loss on where to start, you can reach out to other local veterans who share similar experiences to ask for direction regarding where to get help. Whenever choosing a professional, it is suggested that you choose a qualified specialist who works with veterans. Reference their credentials and qualifications, their treatment approach and how they initiate an introductory meeting.
Veterans Affairs Services
You can specify your search by referencing The Guide to V.A. Mental Health Services for Veterans and Families. This will educate you and your loved one further on the treatments available through the Department of Veterans Affairs. You can reference what kind of medications are used to treat different illnesses and you can also research how treatment differs for veterans and long-term or intensive care. While eligibility depends on various factors, it generally accepts those who have completed active military service in one of the U.S. branches of the military who are honorably discharged.
It is important to understand and advocate for military service members who are struggling with mental health disorders. These servicemen and women serve to protect us so it’s only right to look out for them. If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with addiction, whether or not it’s due to a mental health disorder, treatment is available for you. At New Hope Ranch, our mission is to treat and advocate for all people in need. We offer a specialized program for veterans who have made so many sacrifices, and we want to give back by helping them receive the treatment they need when they need it. To learn more, call us today at (737) 600-8565.
November is National Caregiver Month. It is a time to honor to those who have sacrificed their time, money, and physical and emotional strength in service of another. The theme this year is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” This simply means caregivers often give of themselves and rarely take the time for self-care.
These caregivers are mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, nurses, etc. They are someone who shops, bathes, cleans houses and comforts others in need. Some do it for work, but most do it because they are taking care of a friend or family member and it is often unpaid. It can be difficult and taxing, especially if the caregiver is also working a full-time job. This month is used to raise awareness about the important role of a caregiver in our community and that they also need to be taken care of. If you are a caregiver, remember to take care of yourself, too, so you can continue to give to those you love.
Being a caregiver to a loved one with a substance use disorder provides its own set of challenges. The National Alliance for Caregiving posted a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics that shows over 1.3 million children are part of the caregiving community. They care for family members who suffer from physical and/or mental illness, along with substance abuse. Caregivers often provide personal care, money assistance, management of symptoms related to the illness, and making sure their loved one receives treatment and sticks with the treatment plan. They can also find themselves dealing with the consequences associated with the addictive behavior of their loved one, some taking on emotional or physical abuse.
Suggestions for Taking Care of Yourself as a Caregiver
Taking care of yourself when taking care of another is quite frankly a thankless job. The demands of your loved one’s life can seem greater than your own. Choosing to prioritize your needs will help you be more available to meet someone else’s needs. It can also help you avoid burnout. Here are some simple ways to make your life a little easier.
Schedule “You” Time
Managing your time is important, so make sure you are prioritizing your schedule. Doctor appointments are not only for those you are caring for; if you aren’t healthy, how are you going to take care of anyone else? Aside from making sure you’re physically well, take time to watch a movie, make a date with a close friend or take a long walk some place scenic. Put these activities on your schedule and do everything you can not to reschedule them for next time. If you put them on the schedule, you are less likely to let time slip by and not do it.
Use Technology as a Resource
Cell phones, apps and websites can be your biggest resources as a caregiver. Embracing technology can help you in many ways because there are so many things you can do that make life a bit easier, such as managing medication or scheduling appointments. Being able to schedule notifications and having everything in one place can be a lifesaver when you are caring for others and yourself.
Being rested is an integral part of being healthy. If you are lighting the candle at both ends, burnout is just around the corner. Rest can look like a lot of things, sleeping being the obvious one. A 20-minute power nap is known to lift mood, mental alertness, increase reaction time, boost memory and reduce fatigue. If napping just isn’t for you, sitting quietly reading a book or meditating could be an alternative way to get a bit of rest during your day.
It may feel, sometimes, as if you are the only person able to care for your loved one. However, it is important to reach out for help and accept it when it is offered. Sources of help can come from other family and friends. You can also hire a professional to provide respite care once or twice a week. This would allow you to schedule time to take care of your needs.
Taking care of someone else, including yourself, can be overwhelming. Paperwork can pile up and get missed, appointments forgotten, medication misplaced, etc. Taking the time to have the paperwork in order and in a safe place can save time when it is needed. Pill holders for medication can help avoid a missed medication or forgetting to order more when they are going to run out. It can provide some peace of mind and calm in the middle of what can sometimes feel chaotic.
Caregivers deserve to have the support they need when they need it. Access to care is one of those needs. If you are a caregiver to a loved one of someone who is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, New Hope Ranch is here to help. You don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed of the circumstances and challenges you are facing. We understand and are here to help. We provide thorough mental health assessments to plan out the right, individualized treatment for you or your loved one. We have several therapies available to our patients on our beautiful ranch in Manor, Texas, just outside of Austin. You do not have to do this alone—reach out to New Hope Ranch at (737) 600-8565.
Tips to Enjoy Halloween During Recovery
Cooler weather is here and Halloween is around the corner. Though this year may be very different from Halloween’s past, it can still be a tough one to get through for those who struggle with drug and/or alcohol addiction or those in recovery, it can be a difficult time. Temptations can be overwhelming, especially if they attend a gathering where drugs or alcohol are present. There can also be situations that can trigger the need to use. It’s important to have a safety plan in place.
Possible Holiday Triggers
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests there are several triggers associated with trauma, such as certain songs, scents and rituals.. Holidays, in general, can be stressful with an increased pressure of family obligations or the opposite and a person doesn’t have family and/or friends to spend time with during this time of year. There are triggers everywhere, big and small, and avoiding them can be difficult. Take time to reflect and figure out what your triggers may be. Knowing what they are is a big step to staying sober on Halloween.
Tips and Tricks to Staying Sober During Halloween
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), creating a plan can help keep you and/or your loved one safe, maintain sobriety, and still have some Halloween fun.
Attend a local drug and/or alcohol support group. These groups are likely to have an increase in meetings during the holiday season. Attending regular meetings, in-person or virtually, is important for you or your loved one’s recovery and can be especially helpful before and after attending a party.
Be accountable to yourself as well. Schedule or make plans for the day after a Halloween get-together. It can act as a reminder that you have something to do the next day and avoid staying out all night. It is also a way out if anyone asks you to go to another party or stay out later than you planned.
Avoid Past “Haunts”
You might feel the pressure to visit old friends. These friends may still be deep into their addictions. Steer clear. You should avoid family members who may have parties full of alcohol and places that can induce stress or make you feel more comfortable to join in. Try something new and fun rather than revisiting your past.
Take a Friend and/or a Family Member
Know you are headed to a party or that you may end up at a party? Take a close friend and/or family member, someone who knows the struggle of your sobriety. If you don’t have anyone, invite your sponsor or someone from your group. Find someone there to support you and celebrate your recovery.
Plan an Escape
No matter how good your plan is, things can always go wrong. Have an escape plan in place, should things get out of line. Take your own car. Be mindful of how you are feeling. Are you finding yourself wanting to give in to the temptation? If you are feeling unable to fight the need to use or feel yourself heading out of control, leave immediately.
Supply Your Own Drink
Providing your own drink at get-togethers can help you avoid unwanted temptation. Keep it in your hand as much as you can. It can deter someone else from offering you a drink. This also prevents something unwanted ending up in your drink.
Practice Your Refusal
How are you going to say no when someone offers you a drink? Have a game plan. You could write out a script and tell it to yourself in the mirror. Practice with a friend and most importantly, know your lines.
Take Care of Others
Maybe this year, you could try something different. Instead of hitting that party, you could dress up and leave wrapped candy in front of neighbors’ doors—a reverse trick-or-treat. Think of something that would make you feel good about yourself and do it.
Halloween is a special time of the year but more often than not, alcohol or other substances tend to show up at certain functions. Being able to navigate those situations is important to staying substance-free. However, if you or a loved one is struggling during this time of year or you have had a relapse, New Hope Ranch is here to help. Contact us today at (737) 600-8565. You don’t have to face this time of year alone.