Self-Care in Recovery
There are many steps a person can take to ensure that they are practicing proper self-care in substance abuse recovery. One of these is exercising regularly.
Physical activity is beneficial, not just in the early stages of recovery, but also as a person continues to maintain their abstinence from alcohol and other drugs. That is why we recommend it to every guest who visits Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Recovering Through Exercise
Especially when combined with therapy, there are several aspects of recovery which are aided by exercise:
- Controlling cravings
- Handling triggers
- Managing mental health diagnoses
- Coping with worries, fears, and negative emotions
- Preventing weight gain
- Promoting more restful sleep
- Wanting to quit smoking
- Stabilizing fluctuations with energy and mood
Because all of these are concerns for people who are leaving drugs and alcohol behind, it is important to make exercise a part of treatment plans, not just during rehab, but continuing into the maintenance phase following discharge.
Benefits of Exercise
According to SMART Recovery, a science-based self-help recovery group for people trying to overcome addiction, there are numerous benefits of exercising for a person who is trying to overcome chemical dependency:
- It replaces the perceived benefits of substance use. Exercise is a Vitally Absorbing Creative Interest, meaning that it can be used to replace some aspects of what made addiction so alluring. For example, if the thing a person loved about drinking was socializing, they can get that with exercising. If they used opiates for a pleasurable sensation, they might get that from endorphins when working out.
- It doesn’t need to be complicated. Exercising can be as simple as taking a walk, going for a bike ride, or enjoying a swim. There need not be a lot of time spent on planning. Especially considering the mild year-round weather, guests at Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia rarely struggle to find ways to enjoy free, outdoor activities.
- It can be very affordable. People in recovery sometimes find that sober activities they would like to do can cost a substantial amount of money, but exercise doesn’t need to be one of them. Broke and Healthy offers 100 free and low cost ways a person can exercise. Their list is pretty creative. A few examples include:
- Play a game like Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Fit, or In the Groove
- Borrow an exercise video from a library
- Do yard work
- Find exercise equipment cheap at a yard sale
- Walk up and down some bleachers
- Skip the elevator or escalator and take the stairs
- Park further away anytime you need to enter a building from a vehicle
- Leave the car at home and walk or ride a bike instead
- Do community service projects like cleaning up trash along a roadway or helping in a garden that provides for a food pantry
- Exercise adds structure to the day. Structure is a very good thing for preventing relapse. Structure gives a person in recovery something to look forward to and a reason not to use.
- Exercise takes up time. Boredom is an enemy of recovery. When people who’ve struggled with addiction don’t have enough to do with their time, they are one step closer to a relapse.
- Exercising can offer opportunities to socialize and build sober connections. Walking a dog, hitting the gym, or going for a run are all opportunities to meet new people or to spend time with other people who are making healthy choices.
- It triggers the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are chemicals our brains naturally make, which cause us to feel good. When we exercise, eat good food, or are in love, our brains release more of them.
- Exercise relieves stress. Just like endorphins can help us to feel better, the act of exercising can help to reduce stress, a major cause of relapses.
- Exercise heals us. Drugs and alcohol can do a lot of harm to our bodies and brains. Exercising can speed up the healing process when someone has recently quit using substances.
- Some forms of exercise address impulsivity. A brain that has gotten used to alcohol or other substances is more prone to making sudden decisions without properly thinking through possible outcomes and alternative actions. As shared by our partners at Twin Lakes Recovery Center, it is possible to improve these tendencies by using yoga to curb impulsivity.
Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia takes a whole person approach to substance abuse treatment, including individual and group therapy, nutrition, exercise, and medical care.