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Everyone experiences anxiety and stress at specific points in their life. Although these feelings are perfectly natural, they can become unhealthy if you spend too much time and mental energy feeling stressed about events you cannot change or control. 

Mindfulness is a useful tool for refocusing on the present moment to avoid feeling overwhelmed. According to BMC, “Mindfulness practice can help to improve attentional control, depressive symptoms, anxiety…social skills, and stress.” West Coast Recovery Centers uses multiple modalities, including mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), to help clients manage their symptoms and learn healthier ways to cope. Recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) requires active participation in treatment. The techniques taught in MBSR can make it easier to focus on positive changes and avoid falling back into maladaptive thought patterns. 

What Is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction? 

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a form of meditation therapy that uses various exercises and techniques to help clients focus on the present nonjudgmentally. The treatment generally lasts eight consecutive weeks with several hour-long sessions each week. 

According to the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, during MBSR, “Participants receive training in formal mindfulness meditation techniques involving simple stretches and postures.” You can use the exercises to manage the symptoms and side effects of SUD. 

MBSR decreases anxiety, depression, and stress by helping you do the following: 

  • Focus on sensations, movements, or thoughts you have in the moment
  • Avoid fixating on irrational or negative beliefs, ideas, and behaviors
  • Regain self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Improve objectivity and self-awareness 

Lowering your stress levels through relaxation techniques and improving focus provides you with more opportunities to heal and grow. MBSR can enhance the effectiveness of other treatment modalities by making it easier to actively participate in daily individual and group therapy sessions. You can engage more fully in other therapies if you give yourself time to relax and recenter yourself during MBSR. 

Common Conditions We Treat With MBSR

The previously mentioned research in BMC reported that “SUD-specific problems, such as emotional self-regulation and craving[s], have been shown to improve through mindfulness-based approaches.” A few common co-occurring conditions we treat using MBSR include: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Chronic stress 
  • Chronic pain 
  • Mood disorders 
  • Trauma 

Reducing anxiety using mindfulness techniques can make recovering from trauma, chronic stress, and other mental health issues easier. Most people start noticing a positive change within a few sessions; the effects can last weeks or months. 

Additional Benefits of MBSR Therapy 

Most rehabilitation programs focus on relapse prevention, symptom management, and mood stabilization. According to a research study reported in Substance Abuse, “[Mindfulness-based relapse prevention] participants demonstrated greater decreases in craving[s], and increases in acceptance and acting with awareness.” Fewer cravings and greater self-awareness lower the risk of relapse and decrease the severity of specific symptoms, including: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Lack of focus 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Low self-esteem
  • Maladaptive behaviors
  • Negative thoughts

MBSR also prioritizes self-care making it an excellent tool for recovery. You can use the meditative techniques to cope with withdrawal symptoms, chronic pain, and side effects of mental health disorders. Facilities like West Coast Recovery Centers offer MBSR to help clients achieve a state of relaxation and meditation during treatment. The skills you can learn will help you stay focused and move forward in your recovery. 

3 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Practice Daily

Many people incorporate meditation and mindfulness-based techniques into their routines. Below are three examples of mindfulness-based exercises you can practice daily.

#1. Focused Mindfulness During Everyday Tasks 

You can use focused mindfulness during everyday tasks to lower anxiety and decrease stress. For example, while washing the dishes, you can focus intently on the feelings of the water and dishes, the sounds, repetitive motions, and the smell of soap. By allowing yourself to narrow your thoughts down to the act of washing dishes, you decrease any anxiety you may have been feeling about unrelated things. Focused mindfulness can also help reduce cravings and intrusive thoughts during continuing care.  

#2. Deep Breathing to Release Tension 

Increased awareness of your breathing can automatically decrease stress and release tension in your body. One of the most common deep breathing exercises involves inhaling for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, and then exhaling for a count of four. Repeating the pattern for several minutes can decrease stress and anxiety while improving mental focus. During breathing exercises, it is essential to clear your mind and focus on the sensation of breathing. 

#3. Meditative Yoga 

Becoming more aware of the mind-body connection can decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness. If you often feel distant or unplugged from the world, then meditative yoga or other physical relaxation exercises taught in MBSR can help you learn to reconnect with yourself and others. During this exercise, you move through whichever yoga poses feel most comfortable for you while remaining focused on the moment and the sensation of your body’s movement, including breathing and muscle tension. 

Substance use disorder impacts all areas of a person’s life and can interfere with personal and professional relationships. Rehabilitation programs like West Coast Recovery Centers offer a wide range of evidence-based and alternative therapies, including mindfulness-based stress reduction. Research has proven that mindfulness can significantly increase the effectiveness of individual and group therapy. Learning to focus on the present can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. You can improve your mental health and decrease the risk of relapse by learning mindfulness-based relaxation techniques like deep breathing or mindful actions. MBSR offers various tools you can use during and after rehabilitation to cope with distressing or uncomfortable situations. The dedicated team at West Coast Recovery Centers uses MBSR alongside other therapeutic methods to help clients find relief and manage symptoms during the treatment process. Find out more about our programs by calling us today at (760) 492-6509.