Distinguishing Between Self-Care and Aftercare

December 14, 2022

Written By: Buena Vista Recovery

Self-care is a necessary component of effective addiction recovery. Embracing new strategies that empower each person to focus on their physical and mental health, manage their energy, and create a balanced lifestyle can be truly transformative changes. However, aftercare is just as important as it helps individuals recuperate from stressful events and focus on their sobriety, even following intense challenges. While aftercare and self-care are interconnected, they are still distinct. Distinguishing between self-care and aftercare can help individuals in recovery foster a balance for the most effective addiction recovery efforts.

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care is any act that focuses on an individual’s personal needs. Any action taken to improve a person’s physical or emotional health can be a powerful act of self-care. For those either preparing to challenge the effects of addiction in their lives or who are continuing to navigate the stresses of ongoing recovery, self-care is an essential part of daily life.

Self-care is most effective when incorporated as part of a routine. Likewise, self-care should be personalized to fit each individual’s unique interests. For example, some may consider creating a schedule that allows for a morning walk. For others, self-care may involve engagement in personal hobbies, working on an artistic project, or even taking a moment to watch a favorite show and detach from the stresses and responsibilities of the day. Effective sleep schedules and hygiene routines are also crucial parts of an effective self-care routine.

Self-care is also proactive – being most effective when it is ingrained in daily routine. Whether an individual is celebrating personal accomplishments, managing stress, or feeling the challenges of addiction recovery, self-care provides a necessary and personalized outlet.

The Differences in Aftercare

Aftercare, while important, does not operate in the same way as self-care. To summarize, self-care is proactive and involves routine implementation. Aftercare, on the other hand, is a specific set of strategies used to react to current stresses to improve an individual’s resilience, or the ability to “bounce back” after a stressful event. Challenging feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, and more is inevitably difficult. But having dedicated coping strategies to resituate amidst these stresses is instrumental in overcoming these feelings while maintaining sobriety.

While self-care and aftercare are intimately connected, with many strategies being able to be employed either proactively or reactively, this can also cause confusion about how to effectively engage with each one. Engaging in effective coping strategies or activities to address an individual’s physical or mental health only after a stressor has manifested can result in an individual solely reacting to stresses rather than taking the necessary proactive stance.

Aftercare also does not help an individual prevent difficult feelings from manifesting. Rather, it only helps to further process and work through these feelings. Relying solely on aftercare as a coping strategy, rather than continuing to adhere to a dedicated daily routine of consistent self-care, can result in unnecessary exposure to additional stresses.

Balancing Recovery

Effective recovery practices will employ effective strategies for both self-care and aftercare, with each playing a distinct role. Engaging solely in self-care practices, while important, can leave an individual ill-prepared to cope with unforeseen stresses or challenges that may manifest. Likewise, relying only on aftercare strategies can leave a person constantly reacting to stresses rather than taking action to prevent these tumultuous emotions in daily life.

Working alongside professionals and peers alike to explore effective self-care and aftercare techniques and create effective schedules that best adhere to these practices is crucial. Balancing recovery means adopting a plethora of strategies to address each individual’s physical and mental health in equal measure.

Having a physically active outlet personalized to each person’s interests – whether it be engaging in a sport or simply going on a walk with a dog – are just as important as emotional outlets. Artistic or musical practices, writing, journaling, or any other form of expression that helps an individual acknowledge and release pent-up emotions are crucial for an effective recovery plan. 

Adapting for Continued Success

Embracing an array of recovery strategies is crucial. However, this doesn’t mean that all strategies will be equally as effective for each individual or that each person will continue to reap the same benefits at all phases of recovery.

Self-care and aftercare techniques can always be adjusted to best match a person’s sober needs and goals. Moving from a home exercise routine to a gym membership can help an individual continue addressing their physical needs while incorporating a social component. Similarly, exploring new forms of writing or yoga can keep coping practices fresh and effective. Working with peers and clearly outlining the different strategies between self-care and aftercare can ensure that each person maintains a healthy, balanced lifestyle ready to best cope with any continued stresses of their recovery journey. 

Both self-care and aftercare are important parts of a comprehensive, effective recovery plan. At Buena Vista Recovery, we understand that recovery is an ongoing, personal journey, and we are committed to helping you navigate each step of your care in a personal and profound way. Our trained, caring staff can help you embrace effective self-care strategies throughout your time in detox, residential, or as a part of our intensive outpatient program, with aftercare programs available to help you continue to engage with effective support and understanding. We can also help address the unique way addiction has affected your life as we personalize your program based on your unique needs, goals, and experiences. For more information, call (480) 741-9414.