Stress and addiction have long been intertwined. For some, addiction is often used as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. For others, the presence of stress can make it harder to resist the temptation of unhealthy habits. But regardless of which camp you may fall into, there is one thing that can help you: breathing and stress reduction exercises.
Breathwork can be used as a powerful tool in addiction recovery. Learning how breathing exercises reduce stress levels and how the different ways in which these exercises help us stay on the recovery path may help you achieve long-lasting sobriety. If you’re looking for ways to bring down your stress levels and keep yourself on track with your recovery journey, try breathing and stress reduction exercises as addiction treatment.
The Link Between Stress and Addiction
There’s a strong link between stress and addiction, but many don’t understand why. Put simply, stress increases your craving for alcohol and drugs, making it harder to resist taking them. On the other hand, using substances can cause you to become more stressed in the long run.
This creates a vicious cycle that can make relapse more likely, but it’s possible to break this cycle with breathing exercises and stress reduction techniques. By learning to manage your stress in healthy ways—like by getting enough sleep, exercising, talking to a therapist, and practicing relaxation techniques—you can reduce your cravings and improve your chances of achieving long-term sobriety.
Breathing exercises have been proven to be an effective tool for managing stress levels and reducing cravings for substances. By slowing down your breathing and focusing on your breath’s rhythm, you’ll be better able to relax both physically and mentally, allowing you to gain greater control over how you respond to triggers that lead you toward substance misuse.
How Breathing Exercises Help Reduce Stress
When it comes to managing stress, breathing exercises have been shown to be a useful tool because they can help you become more mindful of your body and its physical reactions. When you’re overwhelmed by emotions or cravings, taking a few minutes to focus on your breath and count each inhale and exhale is an effective way to relax.
Breathing exercises help reduce stress because they create awareness of what’s going on in the body—not just the mind—and allow for conscious control over one’s emotional states. They also help calm the central nervous system by reducing cortisol levels, which lower your fight-or-flight response and help restore balance.
In particular, research has found that breathing exercises increase heart rate variability, which is a measure of how well your body is able to adjust quickly to changing demands or environments. With addiction recovery being full of new experiences and triggers, developing this ability will prove invaluable for people who are trying to stay sober.
By engaging in regular breathing exercises, those with addiction can also experience improved relaxation and greater psychological resilience in the face of stressors or triggers that come their way. This makes it an invaluable tool for recovery from addiction in the long run.
4 Simple Addiction Recovery Breathing Exercises
Sometimes, managing stress can be even more of a challenge for people in addiction recovery than for the average person. There are several breathing exercises specifically designed to help with addiction recovery.
Deep belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is a great place to start. This type of deep breathing focuses on slowing down the breath and consciously expanding the diaphragm.
Every breath should move out from your chest and lower abdomen in a wave-like motion in and out; this is essential to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn calms your body.
The mechanism which manages stress within our body is out of balance during active addiction. Therefore, learning how to manage it and reset it is essential as part of an overall recovery program. Slowing down the breath and focusing inward helps to bring awareness to our bodies in a way that can reduce reactivity when we are overwhelmed and create space for new ways of responding instead of triggering old habits, such as substance use.
When it comes to addiction recovery, another excellent breathing exercise to consider is called the alternate nostril breathing. The breathing technique is simple. You use your thumb and index finger of your right hand to gently close off one nostril at a time while you inhale and exhale through the other nostril. This allows for a more controlled breathing pattern, which can help reduce stress levels and bring clarity to the mind. Alternate Nostril breathing exercise should be done for intervals of 10 minutes or more; however, if you feel fatigued in any way, take a break before returning to it.
Alternate nostril breathing has many benefits for those in addiction recovery, such as:
- Reduced anxiety
- Balanced energy levels
- Improved sleep patterns
- Improved concentration
- Stress reduction
The most well-known of the addiction recovery breathing exercises is the 4-7-8 breathing. This technique combines deep breathing with counting to help focus the mind while working through stress and anxiety. The technique is simple: you inhale deeply for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then release it slowly out of your mouth for 8 seconds.
This exercise helps slow down your thoughts and bring your attention to your breath instead. It also has many positive effects on the body, such as reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. It can be done anywhere at any time, making it a great choice for those in recovery from addiction who are trying to manage stress in their everyday lives.
Breath counting is a simple meditation technique that involves focusing on your breath while mentally counting each exhalation. When doing this exercise, you have to start by finding a comfortable and quiet place to sit or lie down. Then begin by taking a few deep breaths to relax your body and mind. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your body to release tension.
Once you feel relaxed, start counting your breaths. As you inhale, silently count “one” in your mind. As you exhale, count “two.” Continue counting each inhalation and exhalation, up to a count of ten. Repeat this cycle for a predetermined amount of time, such as 5 or 10 minutes, or as long as you feel comfortable.
Remember, the goal is not to control your breath but to simply observe it. Pay attention to the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body, focusing your attention on the counting and the feeling of the breath.
At AToN Center, we believe in holistic healing where we look at the full picture of your health and every aspect of your life. We use a multidisciplinary approach that includes evidence-based clinical therapies and breathing and stress reduction programs to help those struggling with addiction—which is very important when recovering!
The Benefits of Practicing Breathing Exercises for Addiction Recovery
You may not know it yet, but breathing exercises can provide numerous benefits for addiction recovery. For one, managing stress is an important part of the recovery process. Here are some of the benefits:
- Stress and Craving Management. Regularly practicing breathing and stress reduction exercises helps reduce symptoms of stress in individuals with addictions and helps them better manage cravings.
- Emotional Regulation. Regular practice of these techniques helps reduce anxiety and panic attacks associated with addiction and sobriety. This allows individuals to gain more control over their thoughts and feelings and stay on track with their recovery goals.
- Improved focus and mindfulness. Consistent practice of breathing exercises also enhances mindfulness and focus. This heightened awareness can help individuals stay present in the moment, make conscious choices, and avoid triggers that may lead to relapse.
- Better self-awareness. Breathing exercises cultivate a deeper connection with oneself. By paying attention to the breath, individuals can develop a heightened sense of self-awareness, recognizing triggers, emotions, and patterns that may contribute to their addictive behaviors.
- Physical well-being. Moreover, deep breathing also improves circulation throughout the body, which helps oxygen reach all areas of the body. It promotes overall physical health and aids in detoxification. Additionally, it can help manage symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and shallow breathing often experienced during withdrawal.
- Coping mechanism. Breathing exercises provide a healthy coping mechanism that can be used anytime and anywhere. They offer a simple, effective, and drug-free tool to manage stress, cravings, and other challenges that may arise during the recovery journey.
Find Relief at AToN Center
AToN Center is a private residential luxury drug and alcohol treatment center located in San Diego, California. We offer various services, including drug and alcohol rehabilitation, to help individuals overcome addiction. Our philosophy is based on the belief that individuals can overcome addiction with effective treatment and support from dedicated professionals. Aftercare is an important aspect of our approach, as it helps those who have undergone holistic healing or detoxification therapies maintain their sobriety and continue on the path to long-term recovery. Discover more about us. Contact us today!