How to Build Habits: Maintenance Tips

Recovery is a process, and you're most likely still somewhere on the spiral staircase. As you start to feel better, build the tools that work for you into habits to maintain your progress. If sleep helps you feel better, for example, try not to pull all-nighters just because you're feeling better. You want your recovery to last. Maintenance, or the art of staying recovered, has two parts. The first piece is identifying which recovery tools are making a difference for you. And the second part is looking for ways to make those tools a regular part of your life. Below is a summary of some healthy habits that you'll probably want to maintain. 

Stay connected to your healthcare provider

Once you start feeling better, you may be able to talk with your doctor or mental health professional about the length of your treatment. Medications can often be scaled back or discontinued after six months, and talk therapy usually has a set duration, but please don't make those decisions without talking to your provider. She or he will help you create a customized plan to scale back your treatment when the time is right. Stay in contact with your caregiver throughout the treatment process, and update him or her on your recovery.

Keep taking care of your body

One of the best ways to keep yourself from spiraling back into depression or anxiety is to listen to what your body needs.

Exercise is always healthy, and now that you're feeling better, you can even set new goals for yourself – try to lengthen your walking or jogging distance, or increase the intensity of your at-home workouts. Most of all, remember to stay physically active in some way or another. Sitting all the time can make anyone feel tired, and that brings up depressed or anxious thoughts. Keep moving and get those positive thoughts flowing.

Sleep is another huge part of self-care. It's fantastic that you're feeling better, and we want you to stay that way. It's tough to see the positives if you feel like a jet-lagged zombie. Don't worry if you still wake up during the night now and then. Everyone's sleep goes up and down, and you don't need to get stressed about the exact amount, but if you start missing lots and lots of sleep, or getting way off schedule, don't hesitate to try to some sleep tools, or talk to a healthcare provider for advice. Sweet dreams!

Nutrition may not be as huge as exercise or sleep, but food is fuel for your body and brain. Stay healthy by remembering to eat, and by sticking to mealtimes, so you strike a good balance. It can also help to buy more whole fruits and veggies and less processed foods. Keep a container of fresh-chopped vegetables in your fridge, so it's easier to grab some with meals.

Continue your healthy thought processes

As you get better, positive thoughts will come to mind more easily. But don't forget to keep looking for the bright side of life. Your brain is continually growing and changing, and every positive thought that you reinforce, or negative idea that you confront, makes healthy thinking more natural in the future

Mindfulness isn't just for days when you feel anxious or down. Even on good days, a few minutes of focus on the moment can help you to appreciate the beauty around you. Try to set aside time each day to use your five senses and think about the present. If you like, you can even follow it up with a prayer thanking God for the beautiful moment you just experienced.

Positivity strengthens healthy brain pathways and banishes depressed or anxious thoughts. Practice finding the silver lining to something that happens at least once per day. Keep using cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, and watch out for negative thoughts. Keep confronting distortions until they aren't a habit anymore. Building healthy habits is hard work, but once the things you've been doing to recover become a natural part of your day, they'll take a lot less effort. Plus, you'll be well on your way to a happier and healthier life.