Stay Strong: 7 Ways To Maintain Mental Strength After Treatment

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    Once your teen completes mental health or substance use treatment such as an intensive outpatient program or short-term residential treatment, it’s important that they maintain the mental strength they’ve built up so they can continue their healing process. To help them along, share this blog post, which has seven tips for the next phase of their well-being journey.

    After working so hard on your mental health in a treatment program, it’s important you take care of yourself. Because your emotional well-being is so crucial to every aspect of your life, including your physical health, your relationships with others, your ability to perform well at work or school, and your overall happiness, you need to take steps to keep the mental strength you found when you began your journey of healing and recovery.

    Here are seven tips to help you continue that wellness journey and what to do if you’re struggling.

    1. Follow Your Doctor or Therapist’s Recommendations

    From attending individual, group, or family therapy sessions — or a combination of those options — to taking prescribed medication to help manage a mental illness, follow your continuing-care plan. You may have also been advised to make specific changes, such as decreasing your work hours to reduce your stress levels and avoid burnout or joining a club at school so you can connect with peers in a fun setting. Acting on your provider’s recommendations will help you stay on track with your recovery and increasingly build mental strength.

    2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

    According to a Psychology Today article, sleep is critical to your well-being because during sleep, your body and brain repair themselves, which boosts your immune system — a system that is closely tied to mental health. This improves your stress response and ultimately helps regulate emotions. So, how much sleep should you get? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that teens ages 13-18 get eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

    3. Eat Healthy

    Eating healthy foods is a great daily habit and is especially important when you’re taking care of your mental health. In fact, healthy ways of eating, such as the Mediterranean diet, are associated with better mental health than unhealthy ways of eating, according to research published in The BMJ. Dr. Mark Hyman, a family physician and functional medicine advocate, recommends a primarily whole food, plant-based diet with unprocessed proteins.

    4. Exercise Regularly

    According to the CDC, exercise helps children regulate body weight and reduce body fat; improves attention and memory; and reduces the risk of depression. This means you can work out your physical strength and mental muscles at the same time. The CDC recommends children ages 6-17 exercise at least one hour each day, with most of that time spent on aerobic activities like walking and running. Muscle-strengthening activities such as pushup reps and bone-strengthening activities such as jumping are also recommended.

    5. Practice Self-Care

    As the National Institute of Mental Health shares, self-care can help you maintain your mental health and support your recovery process. NIMH offers several tips to get you started. For example, you could try a relaxing activity, such as meditation or journaling; use goal setting and prioritization to determine what has to get done now and what can wait until later; and practice gratitude by reminding yourself each day of specific things you’re grateful for, perhaps by writing them down. If you opt for meditation and need help getting started, several podcasts and apps are available. Check out Verywell Mind’s picks for the best meditation podcasts and the best meditation apps.

    6. Maintain Your Support Network

    According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that social support networks have benefits including improving your ability to deal with stressful situations; promoting good mental health; enhancing your self-esteem; and helping you stick to a treatment plan. Your network may include family, friends, teachers, neighbors, therapists, and spiritual leaders. Keep in touch with these key people in your life. Spend time with them, and reach out when you need support.

    7. Check In With Yourself During Difficult Situations

    Sometimes difficult situations happen that are out of your control and that test your mental strength, such as losing someone close to you or a divorce in your family. When these stressful life events result in uncomfortable emotions, you need to check in with yourself every day. Ask:

    • How much sleep did I get? Did I sleep too little or too much?
    • Am I overly tired?
    • How is my mood?
    • Did I eat too little or too much?
    • Do I have symptoms of anxiety or depression?
    • Am I experiencing cravings or triggers that make me want to use substances like drugs or alcohol?

    You may not be able to answer these questions the way you would like, as you may be having more negative thoughts than positive ones, which is not your goal. However, knowing the answers will help you take action if needed.

    When To Take Action

    If you’re concerned about your well-being, reach out to your therapist, doctor, or both and share how you’re feeling. They can help you assess how you’re doing and identify next steps. Perhaps there’s an adjustment to your treatment plan that will help improve your mental health. Or, you may need a higher level of care, such as an intensive outpatient program instead of weekly therapy sessions.

    If you’re having a mental health emergency, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for immediate support by calling, texting, or chatting 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the country to talk with a trained crisis counselor.

    Maintain and Increasingly Build Your Mental Strength To Protect Your Mental Health

    Following your doctor or therapist’s recommendations, getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly, practicing self-care, maintaining your support network, and checking in with yourself during difficult situations will help you maintain your mental strength, one day at a time. Sometimes, you may need to ask for help, and that’s OK. It’s your daily commitment to yourself that will help you nurture your well-being. At the end of the day, the steps you take now will make all the difference in your healing and recovery journey.

    *This article is for informational purposes only and not to be considered medical advice. If you’re having a mental health emergency, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for immediate support by calling, texting, or chatting 988. You can also text HOME to 741741 -the Crisis Text Line- from anywhere in the country to talk with a trained crisis counselor.

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    About the Author

    Embark Behavioral Health

    Embark Behavioral Health is a leading network of outpatient centers and residential programs offering premier mental health treatment for preteens, teens, and young adults. Dedicated to its big mission of reversing the trends of teen and young adult anxiety, depression, and suicide by 2028, Embark offers a robust continuum of care with different levels of service and programming; has a deep legacy of over 25 years serving youths; works with families to adjust treatment in real time to improve results; treats the entire family using an evidence-supported approach; and offers the highest levels of quality care and safety standards. For more information about Embark or its treatment programs, including virtual services, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), therapeutic day treatment programs, also known as partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), residential treatment, and outdoor therapy, visit