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When Recovery Plateaus

A cliché that comes to mind when pondering recovery is “Recovery is not linear.” Although this saying may be overused, there is some truth behind it. Mental health recovery isn’t a straight shot from rock bottom to the mountain top. There are going to be times that bring you back to that feeling of the depths — every mountain has peaks and valleys. Progress is made and you think you’re improving, but sometimes you can slip, leading to a momentary set-back. Relapses are often accompanied by the shame of falling back into old habits after you had been doing so well for so long. This embarrassment often prevents the person recovering from seeking help. If you’ve gotten help before, you have already done the hardest part. If not, there is always room to start now.

There are times in between rock bottom and the goal of being fully recovered. This stagnant period — a plateau — is often overlooked. One day, you find yourself doing well and keeping up with your self-care; but, then you realize that you’re going through your routine just because you should. Your routine has become so predictable that you begin to go through the motions. You do it for no other reason than to get it done — it’s a box to check off before you officially begin your day. For this reason, you may be unable to see the plateau. This plateau could even be the beginning of a relapse. What’s key is to recognize when things become too monotonous. Have you found yourself going through the motions? Are you giving self-care no extra thought and then checking off the box and forgetting about it until tomorrow? The whole point of it is to be meaningful. If it’s not meaningful, why are you doing it? Self-care is for you. For example, if you are practicing mindfulness or doing yoga for someone else, then you’re doing it wrong. If you have become bored with what you’re doing, that’s okay. However, find a new practice or challenge to implement into your lifestyle. If you’re tired of breathing exercises, try walking outside. Feel the sun on your face and the grass under your toes. If the downward dog pose has become too easy, lace up your shoes and ride your bike. There is no shame in shaking up a routine for the betterment of yourself.

The plateau means you’re comfortable, and comfort isn’t always a good thing in recovery. Comfort means you back off, begin to settle, and slip into a plateau. Don’t give in to comfort and don’t allow yourself to be complacent. Settling for “good enough” will only be a detriment in the long run. There is always room to improve in recovery, so make a conscious effort to keep moving forward and upward. You may not be able to keep your recovery linear, but don’t allow it to veer away from your goal.