One of the fundamental skills for those in recovery is learning to put on the brakes when sliding down a slippery slope into relapse. When tiredness triggers, emotions internally eat away, and circumstances crowd their mind with maddening thoughts, what can be done? Left unchecked, these internal experiences can lead to disconnection, numbing behavior, and eventually relapse. So, having a handful of quick, yet powerful practices on hand can mean the difference between self-care and self-destruction. Here are six exercises for those who find themselves slipping mentally, physically, or emotionally. These simple interventions help reboot the brain, strengthen resolve, and reconnect those in recovery with what matters most.
- Urge Surfing & Mindfulness (8.5 minutes). This helpful audio exercise helps release tension, increase self-awareness & mindfulness, increase responsibility, and decrease reactivity to emotions and cravings.
- The Self-Compassion Break (7 minutes or less) – This audio explains an excellent exercise for caring for personal suffering, which can lead to a decrease in stress or a felt need to self-medicate.
- Spiritual Connection Exercise (5-10 minutes) – An exercise that not only provides a reminder of beliefs and values but also creates an emotional/spiritual connection can be another powerful tool. The video below provides an example of an exercise like this. It is from a Christian perspective, but it is recommended that those in recovery find something that fits their beliefs and connects them to their Higher Power, infusing them with strength and warming their heart with comfort. Another great exercise that someone could use regardless of their spiritual tradition is the guided meditation of “Connecting to Your Source of Compassion“.
- Letters to Self – (10 minutes) – Letters that strengthen inner resolve, increase mindfulness, remind them of who they are and who they want to be, and help them care for distressing emotions are wonderful tools for those in recovery. The Letter of Self-Compassion and Letter from Your Future Self are two recommended exercises.
- Physical Interventions (10-20 minutes)– Exercising intensely for 20 minutes, taking a 20 minute nap, or eating a healthy meal can provide a much-needed shift in mood, an increase in self-control, and can help manage cravings.
- Connection with others (10+ minutes)– Connecting with a friend or accountability partner, a romantic partner, a group, or a therapist can have a powerful shifting effect in a moment of distress or temptation. Experiencing empathy from another can be a very healing experience.
Many of the above exercises are simple ways to connect with self, one’s Higher Power, and with others. Real connection is protective for those learning to live a recovery lifestyle. It is my hope that these exercises will provide a much-needed jump-start for those who feel as though they are on the road of impending relapse. U-turns are always possible.
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