Healthy Ways to Cope with Depression After Quitting Drinking
If you experience depression after quitting drinking, you are not alone. The effects of alcohol can last long into withdrawal, which impacts your mental and physical health. Breaking free from addiction is a challenging process due to the emotional connections or reliances you may feel towards drinking. The growth required to move forward may leave you feeling depressed or discouraged at times. Luckily, there are healthy ways to address your thinking and cope in a way that lets you recover successfully.
Asking for Help
The effects of alcohol in the nervous system are complex and can last in the long term. Depending on your level of addiction, frequent alcohol use may result in brain damage or proclivity to mental health challenges. Depression can occur after quitting drinking if you haven’t yet processed your emotional attachment to alcohol or if you were using it as an unhealthy coping mechanism for feelings you avoid. Help is available if you feel your depression is hindering your recovery or functioning. A licensed therapist or treatment center are great resources if you need extra support.
You can ask for help by:
- Calling a hotline or helpline for depression
- Attending a support group
- Seeing your psychologist
- Going to a detox center
Your feelings of depression may arise if you feel isolated at the beginning of your addiction recovery. Perhaps your social life was centered around drinking, or your friends drink frequently. Finding ways to be social without getting drunk may require some creativity and optimism on your part. Perhaps you have a friend who can invite you to non-drinking hobbies or attend a support group for like-minded friends. Nurturing your sober support system will reverse the feelings of isolation that are contributing to your depression.
Other ways to get social include:
- Sober rehab centers
- Sober getaways or wellness retreats
- Fitness clubs or classes
- Trivia nights and similar events
Depression can sometimes occur when your brain is experiencing withdrawal and lacks nutritional support to let your brain cells recover. Eating as healthy as possible allows you to support your best mental health and be proactive against symptoms of depression such as low energy or lack of activity. Minerals such as magnesium are important to include in your diet as they support mental health and a positive mood. Be sure to also avoid processed foods when possible as they can cause “cloudy brain” symptoms which make depression worse. Do your best to cook clean meals and prepare your food in advance (or ask for help from a nutrition professional). When the food you eat is brain fuel, you are more likely to cope with depression in a healthy way.
Eat foods such as:
- Spinach, almonds, bananas, dark chocolate for magnesium
- Fruits and water-dense vegetables for hydration
- Citrus for a healthy immune system
- Dark leafy greens and plant protein for high energy
Creating a healthy workout routine can help you combat the aches and pains that come with depression and alcohol withdrawal. You will need to begin small, as your body’s energy levels are depleted when you are starting to recover. Hydration is also important since your brain and muscles are dehydrated after consistent alcohol intake. Whether it be stretching or challenging yourself to a fitness competition, setting achievable fitness goals will train your body to release endorphins (which fight depression) and give you the energy you need to function despite your withdrawal.
Ideas for a new fitness routine if you are in recovery include:
- Walking daily
- Stretching or yoga outdoors
- Fun fitness classes
- Races for mental health charities
- Weight lifting
Depression after quitting drinking is partially caused by the space your old urges to drink left behind. Learning to build your intrinsic motivation in recovery can give you fresh motivation to overcome the challenges that discourage you. Depression is heightened when you have no goals or belief in yourself, so be sure to explore your motivation to recover and use them as your daily reminder to take care of yourself. Prioritizing your success will help you see a bright future without addiction and drive you to take action to make it real.
Explore your motivation by:
- Journaling daily
- Brainstorming with your therapist
- Trying new things
- Helping others
Working through depression after quitting drinking is an emotionally and physically challenging process. Your body is tired and in withdrawal, but will begin to reward you immediately once you implement habits that let you feel incredible. Ask for help if you need the support early on and learn what motivates you so you can create a world after addiction that excites you. By implementing these healthy coping behaviors at the start of your alcoholism recovery, you can be confident in your journey past depression and move forward in a positive way.