Three Essential Exercises for Addiction Relapse Prevention
A strong focus of any high quality addiction treatment program is on relapse prevention strategies. Relapse is a recurrence of the addiction, and it can happen very quickly if you use drugs or alcohol again after a period of abstinence. In addition to addressing the underlying causes of the addiction, treatment promotes developing essential coping skills and strategies for preventing a relapse. These exercises for relapse prevention can go a long way toward keeping you in recovery for the long-term.
1. Breathing Exercises for Relapse Prevention
Stress is a major trigger for relapse. It often leads to cravings, and if you used drugs or alcohol in an attempt to reduce your stress, your cravings may be intense during stressful periods. Stress reduction exercises are important relapse prevention strategies, because they help lower blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for the increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature that come with stress.
Breathing exercises are excellent for reducing stress hormones on the spot. They leave you feeling calmer and more relaxed in minutes. One of the most effective breathing exercises for stress relief is 4-7-8 breathing. To do this breathing exercise:
- Exhale through your mouth with a whooshing sound.
- Inhale silently through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth, making the whooshing sound, for a count of eight.
- Repeat three or more times, until you feel calmer and more relaxed.
2. Mindfulness Exercises for Relapse Prevention
Mindfulness is the act of being aware of the present moment and all it holds. It means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations in any given moment. Mindfulness in recovery helps prevent relapse through being aware of early relapse signs, which include negative thoughts and feelings, mood swings, and a lack of self-care. Successful recovery requires constant mindfulness, and two of the best exercises for relapse prevention are yoga and meditation.
Yoga promotes body awareness and mindfulness through combining deep, rhythmic breathing with body movements. During yoga, you’re in the present moment, focused on how your body feels and how your breathing fuels each movement.
Meditation promotes mindfulness through a deeper connection with your subconscious. During meditation, you’re focused on the immediate moment, characterized by the breath moving in and out of your body. After some practice, meditation becomes easy, and it actually changes the physical structures of the brain. In addition to improving mindfulness, meditation is a potent stress reducer that helps you not only lower your immediate stress but also help your body cope with stress better in the future. Relapse prevention group meditation can help you learn to meditate
3. Physical Exercises for Relapse Prevention
Getting plenty of physical exercise is essential for successful recovery. Exercise improves your overall physical and mental health and increases body awareness and self-awareness. During exercise, your brain releases feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which helps keep your mood stable–an important factor for relapse prevention. Exercise also increases your energy and promotes other healthy lifestyle choices.
You don’t have to go to the gym or lace up your running shoes to get the exercise you need. Any physical activity–dancing, walking, swimming, biking, playing sports–counts. The more you move, the better off you are in recovery.
If you don’t like solo exercise, get together with people from your relapse prevention group for some company while you exercise. Take a hike, start a sports league, or find a gym buddy. The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting a half hour of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
Using the relapse prevention strategies you learn in treatment will go a long way toward helping you stay sober for the long-term. Engage in these exercises for relapse prevention every day, and you’ll improve your mood, reduce your stress, and increase your mindfulness for a higher quality of life and a better chance at recovery for the long-haul.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.