If you’ve been to a yoga class recently, you might have heard your instructor talk about releasing tension. Holding a particular asana, or pose, for a few moments while breathing deeply helps release the tightness that inhibits flexibility. We create tension in our lives every day, and that tension gets into our bodies and into our minds. If you’re in addiction recovery, ongoing tension or stress will make it harder to maintain sobriety. And since we’re the ones who create the tension, we’re the only ones who can release it. Let’s take a look.
Putting Tension In
Wait, you might think. I didn’t put that tension in my life–my spouse did (or my children did, or my boss did, or the government did, or my on-its-last-legs car did)!
And it’s true – you might live in a home or work in a place in which tension flourishes all around you. Bills are due, kids are sick, to-do lists are never-ending, coworkers are toxic, etc. On top of that, you’re in recovery, so you’re always on guard against your own thoughts telling you all you need is a drink to make it all go away.
Life can be hard, there’s no doubt. People rarely behave like they should, our own bodies aren’t always reliable, and the world can seem like it’s falling apart with war, weather, and more.
Nevertheless, we have the ability to manage our attitudes, our reactions, and our well-being. So why do we so often add to everyday stresses by procrastinating, doomscrolling, over-exercising, not eating enough (or binge-eating), not sleeping enough, picking petty fights, letting ourselves spiral into negativity, and more? It’s complicated, but the bottom line is that it’s just easier to blame others or blame a situation for the choices we make that sabotage our own well-being.
And that’s okay–we all blame others; we all make unhealthy choices fairly regularly. The key is to recognize that it’s those reactions and those choices that create our tension. Once we accept that, we can focus on devoting a little time each day to getting the tension out.
While this blog post is focusing on ways you can release tension yourself, it’s important to recognize that getting help and outside support is a crucial first step. Your drug and alcohol treatment center, your therapist, your sponsor, and your recovery support group will give you the tools you need and hold you accountable for using them.
Even so, you can add self-care practices into your daily routine that will help you release both the physical and mental tension that build up day to day.
Releasing Physical Tension
What do our bodies need to release tension? They need a combination of rest and movement. Seems easy enough, right? You move during the day, and you rest at night. But when we do those things mindlessly, we’re not getting the full benefits of either. To add mindfulness to your movement, focus on the breath. When we coordinate movement and breath, we do the following:
- Ensure that we won’t overdo it. If you’re moving in a way that makes it hard to get a deep breath, that’s a signal to ease up until long, deep breaths come easily.
- Increase mobility. When the breath is relaxed and coordinated with movement, we move more efficiently. The muscles have less tension and thus more range of motion.
- Improve posture. Notice how taking a deep breath expands your chest and lengthens your spine?
A yoga practice is a wonderful way to bring movement and breath into your conscious attention in ways that expand and strengthen. But you can bring this attention into any form of exercise you enjoy. Breathe, move, release.
You’ll know, by paying attention to the breath, when it’s time to stop moving and rest. When you rest, rest with your full attention. Turn off the television, set aside your phone, and practice good sleep hygiene.
Releasing Mental Tension
Our minds release tension through rest and sleep, but they also enjoy concentration and focus. They enjoy doing one thing at a time instead of multi-tasking. Here are three ways to release mental tension:
- Practice mindfulness. You can do this in small ways. Instead of cleaning the bathroom in a rush so you can finish it and move on, clean it for the experience of cleaning it. Focus 100% on the task, taking your time, letting go of any thoughts about what comes next.
- Practice meditation. For 10 minutes a day, sit comfortably and focus on the breath. Just notice the breath as it comes in, and notice it as it releases. Thoughts and emotions will try to get your attention. Just observe them and continue to focus on the breath.
- Play. Instead of zoning out with your phone, do something creative that sparks your imagination and sense of fun. Play time relieves stress and improves emotional well-being.
As you practice releasing tension, you’ll discover that mental and physical tension feed each other. By moving the body, you relieve mental stress. By freeing the mind, you relax muscle tension and boost the immune system. All of these things together support your sobriety and overall wellness.
If you are struggling in your sobriety or ready to tackle your addiction for the first time, Safe Harbor Recovery Center is ready to help. Our residential and outpatient/partial hospitalization programs give you a full range of choices when it comes to determining what level of treatment you need. Contact our Portsmouth, VA, facility today to learn more.