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What Type of Exercise Is Best for My Recovery?

Many people have a love-hate relationship with exercise. A select few may actually enjoy and look forward to it. Some may even try their best to avoid it. Regardless of what category you fall into, adding a little physical activity into your day or week can be highly beneficial.

Yes, this might require a little less time spent lounging on the couch. While this can sound like a drag, you might find that you actually begin to enjoy exercise if you find the right activity. Finding what works for you is key.

When you think about exercise, do you think about trying to get back into an old routine? Maybe you used to visit the gym five days a week, and the thought of doing that again sounds a little daunting.

Consider Your Interests

Think about where you are now. Consider what activities or things you already enjoy. Could those involve exercise? Maybe you enjoy a coffee each morning before work. Don’t we all? Try taking a quick morning walk before having your coffee and consider it a little treat afterward.

Maybe you really like to watch TV or movies. Turn on your favorite show while you walk on the treadmill or lift some weights. You might be surprised how quickly time passes when you are multitasking!

Do you love listening to music? Getting back into the routine of regular exercise is a great reason to create a new playlist. Create one for different activities. You could build one specifically for cardio exercises, complete with upbeat songs with a motivating rhythm.

Incorporate Exercise Into Your Daily Schedule

Another thing to consider when you think about exercising regularly is your schedule. Not having the time to squeeze in a bit of exercise is one of the most common reasons people don’t do it. When you think about your day, think about where you might have even 20 minutes to spare.

Some choose to exercise in the evenings after work. This can help you unwind from a long day and relieve stress. Others prefer to exercise first thing in the morning to help give them an energy boost and offer some motivation for the day. Others may choose to work out on their lunch break to help break up that day a bit.

The great news is that exercise is beneficial no matter what time you choose to do it. So, pick a time that works for your schedule. If you build it into your routine at a time that works well, you will likely follow through.

Accommodate for Personal Injuries and Experience

For those who may not exercise regularly, going to a gym or learning to exercise can be a little intimidating. By starting off slow, you can build your strength, endurance, and knowledge. This can also help you avoid injuries.

If you have existing injuries, it is important to select exercises that will not irritate them or cause any further harm. Yoga, light walking, or even swimming can be excellent options for those with pre-existing conditions.

The Benefits of Exercise in Recovery

When it comes to addiction recovery, exercise can be beneficial in several ways. Incorporating some physical activity into your routine can improve mental and physical health. In turn, this helps you heal.

Exercise releases endorphins and helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. As a result, you are left feeling more energized, positive, and relaxed. Physical activity also helps increase your ability to focus and promotes better sleep.

As your body begins to heal from consuming drugs and alcohol, it can send your appetite and digestive system for a loop. Exercise can help boost your metabolism, which will help balance your appetite and will, in turn, improve digestive function.

At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a variety of activities that involve physical activity. We emphasize yoga practice, as we understand it to be very healing and beneficial. Yoga encourages a mind, body, and spirit connection, which is essential to success in recovery.

Our programs also incorporate activities such as paddle boarding, fishing, surfing, and other forms of outdoor exercise. These activities serve as a therapeutic experience, as they provide healing and skill-building opportunities.

Identifying forms of exercise that work well for you in treatment and recovery is key. Consider any barriers that may keep you from engaging in exercise. Then, consider your interests and daily schedule. Prioritize exercises that are enjoyable, schedule-suiting, and safe. You might become a creature of habit and choose to participate in the same form of exercise daily, or you might like to mix it up. Either way, you are benefitting your recovery!

Exercise has many benefits for your mental and physical health. It helps boost mood, improves focus, promotes better sleep, and helps with metabolism and digestion. In treatment and recovery, you can receive all of these advantages as a result of exercise. In order to ensure consistency and longevity, it is essential to select the best forms of exercise for you. To do this, you will need to consider your interests, schedule, and experience. You will also need to be mindful of any injuries or existing conditions. At Enlightened Solutions, we incorporate a variety of activities to promote healing through exercise. We hold frequent yoga classes and offer activities through our experiential therapy program that involve physical activity. We help clients identify activities they enjoy and can carry into recovery. If you have an addiction and need treatment, call Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-LIVE.

How to Prioritize Exercise During Treatment and Recovery

Exercise can often be a hate-it or love-it scenario. Usually, you either really enjoy and look forward to exercising or you make excuses or justify why you just cannot make the time. Do you look forward to going to the gym each day after work? Maybe you roll your eyes and sigh at the mere thought of stepping foot in a gym. Or, maybe you fall somewhere in between.

The truth is, exercise really is an essential thing for everyone. Whether you are someone who enjoys spending several hours in the gym each day or you have to drag yourself off of the couch to take a 20-minute walk outside, it is beneficial for all of us.

Exercise During Treatment

When it comes to addiction, your body has been through a lot. Substance use takes a huge toll on you mentally, physically, and spiritually. Exercise can help in all of these areas. Incorporating some form of exercise into your routine during treatment is important.

At Enlightened Solutions, we introduce you to a variety of ways in which you can get some exercise. Some may be more exercise-intentional than others. We have a considerable focus on yoga at our facility as we find that yoga, with its mind-body connecting component, can be very beneficial during treatment and recovery. We also offer a variety of experiential therapy activities that involve physical activity. These can include surfing, paddle boarding, fishing, and more.

Maybe you despise all of the previously mentioned activities but really have a green thumb. The great news is that even gardening can be considered a form of exercise if you allow it to be. If you have ever worked in a garden, you know it can be hard work. Digging, planting, and pulling weeds can be physically demanding. The point is that there are many activities that align with all different interests and personalities that can allow you to incorporate some physical activity into your life.

Benefits of Exercise

It is incredibly important for you to schedule in some physical activity throughout your week. As you go through treatment – and, later, recovery – you are working to heal your body and mind. Exercise helps with this process. Physical activity is known to improve both physical and mental health and functioning. It helps with things like stress levels, focus, sleep, and energy. Exercise can also aid in organ function, digestion, and bone and muscle strength. You can experience all of the benefits just described, and more, just by prioritizing physical activity.

Using substances such as opioids, benzos, and drinking alcohol in excess can really affect your overall health. It can also affect your brain functioning by interrupting typical thought patterns and processing ability. Because exercise promotes better focus and more energy, you are more likely to benefit from therapy and other activities during treatment if you are physically active.

Exercise can also boost confidence. Recovering from addiction can leave you with lots of different emotions. Having the confidence to go back to real life after treatment is critical. Feeling your best both mentally and physically can help you tackle challenges that may come during recovery.

Consider taking that yoga class, or joining the gym down the street. Play some tennis or go golfing with a friend. Or, maybe start with taking a walk a couple of times a week during your lunch break. You are bound to see and feel a difference both mentally and physically.

Find Activities You Enjoy

The great news is that you do not have to be a world-class athlete to incorporate and benefit from a little exercise. You can alter and adapt it to your lifestyle and your interests. Exercise should not feel like a chore. The key is finding activities that you actually enjoy. Maybe you hate going to the gym but really love being outside. Take a few laps around your neighborhood during your lunch break, or schedule in some time over the weekend to do some hiking. Maybe swimming is more your thing. Many gyms have swimming pools, and many communities offer public pools you can use to swim for exercise.

Try thinking about exercise in simple terms. How can you move my body today? Think about your schedule and what you have to accomplish, and consider where you might be able to squeeze in some extra steps or a quick bike ride. Even if it is just for a few minutes each day or a couple of times a week, you will feel much better physically and mentally as a result.

Exercise and physical activity are essential for everyone. Some may really enjoy exercise and consider it to be a consistent part of their everyday routine. Others may really dislike exercise and avoid places like the gym at all costs. Think about the things you enjoy, and consider tailoring your exercise routines to your interests. That is the key to long-term success when it comes to exercise. Physical activity improves the way you feel physically and mentally. It can promote better organ function, metabolic function, focus, sleep, and improve energy levels. Enlightened Solutions takes a holistic approach to help clients heal. We prioritize health and wellness and encourage activities such as yoga, paddleboarding, and more as part of our treatment program. If you or someone you care about could benefit from our holistic treatment approach, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Reach out to Enlightened Solutions today at (833) 801-LIVE.

Exercise Your Way to Mental Health

Participating in an exercise program has many health benefits, both physical and mental. Regular exercise helps with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, weight management, and many other health issues. Regular exercise is also highly beneficial for mental health. Ask a runner why he or she runs and you will often hear about the “runner’s high”–a feeling of euphoria combined with reduced anxiety and a lessened sensitivity to pain. Endorphins have long been connected with the “runner’s high” and researchers in Germany have found that the brain’s endocannabinoid system may be involved as well. An endocannabinoid called anandamide has been found in people’s blood after they run. This endocannabinoid can travel from the blood to the brain.

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

According to an article published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, aerobic exercise, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood. Exercise improves self-esteem and cognitive function and can also help with social withdrawal. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise three to five days a week is all you need, researchers say. The benefits include improved sleep, stress relief, increased mental alertness, and an overall improved mood. Regular exercise also leads to greater self-confidence, more social interaction, and is a healthy way to cope with stress. 

Mental health professionals usually recommend that people struggling with depression and anxiety exercise regularly, provided that the client doesn’t have a health problem that precludes physical exercise. A young psychiatrist once said that if he could put the mental health benefits of exercise in a bottle, he would become a wealthy man!

Exercise in Addiction Recovery

Because of the mental and physical benefits of exercise, many treatment facilities include fitness in their programs. As one fitness specialist said, he works with clients to help them start an exercise program or get exercise back into their lives. According to a blog on an addiction site, an exercise program provides structure to a person’s day and can be a vital part of recovery. Exercise takes up time and is a healthy way to spend the time that used to be spent drinking or using. A blog on the Harvard Health website said that exercise can be a powerful tool to distract a person in recovery from cravings and can help people to build positive social connections. According to the blog’s author, Claire Twark, M.D., organizations are cropping up to promote physical activity for people in recovery. One of these is The Phoenix, which has locations across the country and also offers classes online. The Phoenix offers CrossFit, yoga, rock climbing, boxing, running, and hiking, and is open to anyone who has been sober for 48 hours, as well as their support groups.

Starting an Exercise Program

While mental health professionals recommend exercise for their clients, for someone suffering from depression, the task may seem overwhelming at first. To start, figure out what type of exercise you want to do. You may like exercising alone or you may prefer the dynamic of a fitness class. You may like to pick a couple of different activities to mix things up a little. You could decide that you will jog three times per week and go to a yoga class on two days. Or you may start out by taking a friendly dog for a walk.

After you have identified an activity or activities that you think you will enjoy, enlist some social support. Maybe you have a work-out buddy or maybe you report on your exercise program to a therapist or life coach. Exercising with a friend may be a motivator on days when you just don’t feel like working out or you might want to have something to report the next time you talk to your therapist.

Whatever exercise you have selected, it’s important to start off slow to prevent physical injury and burn-out. Your ultimate goal may be to run a marathon, but you need to start off slow and gradually increase the distance you run. It’s also important to set reasonable goals. If you haven’t exercised in a number of years, deciding that you are going to go to an exercise class six days a week probably isn’t realistic. A more reasonable goal might be to go to class three days a week and after a few weeks add another class to your schedule.

Decide what time of day you will work out. Some people love to start the day with a brisk walk or a swim, while other people prefer to work out later in the day. Whatever you choose, put it on your calendar and make exercise a priority.

A positive mind-set will help you with your exercise regime as well. Try not to think of exercise as a chore or as one more thing to add to your daunting to-do list. Try to think of your exercise sessions as something that you get to do for yourself, something that you look forward to. If you aren’t logging the miles you anticipated or making it to class as often as you had planned, take a little time to figure out what’s holding you back. Also, be prepared for setbacks and obstacles and figure out how to solve them. If you are a runner, there might be days when you run indoors on a treadmill because of the weather, for example. You may have to switch from running to walking to give an injury a chance to heal.

Whether you are struggling with depression, an addiction, or just want to experience the mental and physical benefits of exercise, find a physical activity that you enjoy and move your body. As Nike says: “Just Do It.”

Exercise is a vital part of an addiction recovery program and a huge help to people struggling with depression. Many treatment facilities include fitness among their alternative therapies because of the many physical and mental benefits of regular exercise. An important part of the recovery journey is creating a healthy lifestyle to replace the lifestyle of addiction. Exercise is a healthy way to cope with stress and the painful feelings that have been numbed by drugs or alcohol. In addition to the mental health benefits provided by exercise, exercise offers many physical benefits as well, including weight management, improved cardiovascular health, a lower incidence of diabetes, stimulating the immune system, and lowering the risk of developing some types of cancers. Fitness is one of the holistic treatment modalities that Enlightened Solutions offers to clients. If you or someone close to you is struggling with depression or an addiction, call (833) 801-5483.


Choosing the Exercise That’s Right for You

Researchers keep discovering new benefits that come with exercising. Perhaps it’s obvious that regular exercise is good for your physical health, but it may surprise you how good it is for your mental health as well. Regular exercise improves your mood by boosting levels of endorphins and serotonin: the “feel-good neurotransmitter.” Exercise improves your sleep, which leads to many other positive outcomes.

Also, exercise changes the way your brain responds to stress, which helps reduce chronic stress and anxiety. It even boosts BDNF, a neurotransmitter that grows neurons in your hippocampus, which is the part of the brain involved in creating long-term memories.

For these reasons and others, exercise is now part of most addiction treatment programs and should be part of every long-term recovery plan. However, this can be a huge challenge for many people. If you’ve never been especially active, you might not even know where to start. The following are some important things to consider when choosing what kind of exercise to do as part of your addiction recovery plan.

Everyone Is Different

First, it’s crucial to keep in mind that everyone is different. There’s no single right answer when it comes to choosing the best exercise for you. Everyone has different capabilities, levels of fitness, levels of distress tolerance, and levels of energy. Additionally, everyone has different interests and goals. When making choices about how to be active, stay focused on your own goals and needs, and keep evaluating whether what you’re doing aligns with those.

The Default

If you really have no idea where to start, start with walking. You can start by walking two minutes a day if necessary, to establish a healthy habit. It doesn’t matter so much if your exercise isn’t especially challenging at first. The easier the exercise is, the easier it is to form a habit.

Many studies have shown that walking delivers a lot of benefits, including improved mood and cognition, lower stress, reduced inflammation, healthier body weight, and lower risk of cardiovascular disease. A good initial target is walking 20 minutes a day, but it’s fine if you can’t manage that immediately.

Most research on exercise and mental health has focused on aerobic exercises such as walking, running, biking, and swimming. Completing these types of exercises at moderate intensity for 20 minutes appears to be the minimum effective dose.


Another common default exercise is running. A lot of people feel like if they want to get in shape, they need to get out there and run. Typically, walking is fine or even preferable if you’re not especially active. If you do decide you would rather run, give it a shot but take it slow. Most people try to do too much too early.

There’s a lot of repetitive impact stress on your body and it takes a while for your body to adapt. You might feel like you have more than enough energy to run a mile or more, but your ankles, knees, or back might disagree, especially if you run several days in a row. It’s better to do too little than too much when you first start running. You can always increase your mileage later.

Your Goals

It’s important to know what you want from exercise. Most people just want to do something to keep themselves mentally and physically healthy. If that’s what you want, you should be able to accomplish that pretty easily in a number of different ways. Other people will have more ambitious goals. Perhaps you want to lose weight, build strength, or even compete.

Athletics can provide a sense of self-efficacy, self-esteem, and community. Whatever your goals are, it’s important to keep them in mind. Individuals in the fitness industry can attempt to tell you that you should be doing certain activities when in reality, those things have nothing to do with your own priorities. Know what you want from exercise and stick with it.


A lot of people are under the mistaken impression that exercise only counts if you end up dripping sweat and out of breath. While some people are really into that, it’s not for everyone. Attempting intense workouts can keep you from establishing a solid exercise habit. The good news is that most kinds of exercise are easily scalable to your desired level of intensity. You can walk, you can run, or you can run fast, for example.

However, it’s also important to know what you’re getting into. For example, if you’ve never done yoga before, you probably don’t want to jump into an hour-and-a-half-long ashtanga class. The same goes for kickboxing or Crossfit, or anything where you have to keep up. The “go hard or go home” approach to exercise will most likely lead to exhaustion and burnout.


Another thing to consider is the skill required for a certain activity. There are a number of considerations here. First, high-skill activities tend to require a coach or at least a competent exercise friend to show you the basics. We live in an age where a lot of this information is easily accessible on YouTube and other places but these can never fully replace the guidance of a good coach. Since that may or may not be something you have access to, it’s important to consider.

The upside of high skill activities is that they tend to be more engaging. For example, jogging for an hour and practicing tennis strokes for an hour may require roughly the same amount of energy, but jogging for an hour can be intensely boring, whereas getting your serve or backhand to land in the court requires a lot more attention and experimentation. Wanting to improve your skills draws you into the activity and makes it more fun.


It’s important to figure out whether you would prefer to exercise alone or with a group. One large research study found that team sports are the single best exercise to do for mental health, due largely to the combination of physical activity and socializing. However, as noted above, everyone is different and you need to figure out what works for you.

Some people prefer their workouts to be alone time so they can think and unwind, while others enjoy the interaction. Keep in mind that team sports aren’t the only social form of exercise. There are also biking and running groups as well as exercise classes. Again, since there’s no right answer, you have the opportunity to explore what works best for you.


Finally, convenience is important. You may think you don’t mind driving an hour for fencing lessons, but it may get old after a while. If your goal is to make exercise a regular part of your life in order to manage your mental health and reduce your disease risk, you may want to minimize the barriers to actually doing it.

You can go to the gym near your house or your work, instead of the nicer gym across town. You can walk or run in your neighborhood. At least in the beginning, choose some kind of exercise that you can do with little inconvenience. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your recovery from addiction but getting started is sometimes intimidating.

Keep in mind that everyone has to start somewhere. Choose something that interests you, but you don’t need to commit to the first thing you try. Also, keep in mind that the best exercise is always the exercise that you’ll actually do, whether that’s running marathons or walking around your neighborhood.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that addiction from recovery is really about living a healthier, more fulfilling life. That’s why our program is designed to improve all aspects of life, including being more active. To learn more about our holistic approach to addiction treatment, call us today at (833) 801-5483.

Can You Exercise Your Way Out of Addiction?

Exercise is now an integral part of many addiction recovery programs. This may include mind-body exercise like yoga or tai chi, more intense physical activity like weightlifting—or outdoor sports, which is somewhere in the middle. In a similar vein, many therapists are now incorporating exercise into their treatment for substance use issues and other mental health issues. It seems like we are always seeing new studies about how exercise can improve your mental health and help you stay sober, so a lot of people get the idea that maybe exercise is all they need. Can you really exercise your way out of addiction?

Exercise supports recovery.

First of all, it’s clear that exercise does support recovery and that addiction treatment programs know what they’re doing when they make physical activity an integral part of treatment. Several animal studies and a few small studies in humans have found that exercise can help reduce the risk of relapse. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20529968] In this case, the animal studies may be more compelling, since rats rarely respond to therapy. There are three primary ways exercise supports recovery.

Improves Physical Health

Addiction can take a terrible toll on your health, leading to a range of problems including malnutrition, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and infections. Exercise can help offset many of these risks, especially cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Improves Mental Health

While the physical health benefits are certainly nice, the mental health benefits of exercise likely contribute more to a prolonged recovery. Exercise increases levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, as well as dopamine, endorphins, and BDNF, a hormone that actually grows neurons in certain areas of the brain. Exercise can improve your mood within minutes and regular exercise can actually create structural changes in your brain, such as thickening the prefrontal cortex, which helps improve your self-control and emotional regulation. Exercise also improves your sleep, which has both mental and physical benefits.

Reduces Your Reactivity to Stress

Perhaps the biggest benefit of exercise—and the one responsible for many of the other benefits—is that it makes you less reactive to stress. Chronic stress obviously increases anxiety, but it also disrupts your sleep, increases your levels of hormones such as cortisol that can damage your cardiovascular health, and increases inflammation, which has been linked with depression. Researchers believe that among the benefits noted above, regular exercise affects the brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis, making you less vulnerable to stress and also less vulnerable to depression and anxiety—two challenges that commonly go along with substance use disorders. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/]

However, exercise alone is not enough.

The benefits outlined above certainly tip the odds in your favor. Since most people cite stress as their biggest trigger of craving, anything that makes you feel less anxious or overwhelmed is certainly going to help you stay sober. The same is true for depression and other mental health challenges. However, there’s much more to recovery than turning down the volume on challenging emotions.

Doesn’t Teach Recovery Skills

While exercise is one lifestyle change that broadly supports sobriety, it’s certainly not a silver bullet. You won’t magically stay sober just by running 30 minutes a day. There are many skills specific to recovery. You have to know your triggers, learn to tolerate discomfort, devise behavioral strategies to avoid temptation and deal with peer pressure, learn to regulate your emotions, learn healthy strategies for managing and coping with stress, and other things that exercise alone won’t teach you.

One way to think of it is if you’re training for a sport—say, boxing. Obviously, a boxer has to be in good physical shape, which means running, push ups, weights, jumping rope, and so on, but no matter how fit they are, they won’t necessarily get better at boxing unless they actually train for boxing. It’s a high-skill activity that requires technique, timing, and knowing how to handle getting punched in the face. Similarly, in addiction recovery, you need both specific skills and lifestyle changes.

Doesn’t Address Mental Health Issues

Most people recovering from addiction will have co-occurring mental health issues, such as an anxiety disorder, major depression, PTSD, ADHD, a personality disorder, or others. As discussed above, exercise can help with these issues, but exercise alone is typically not enough. Some mental health issues require medication and most require some kind of specific therapeutic intervention. No matter how much you run, for example, you’re not likely to process your trauma or overcome your intense fear of social situations. That typically requires therapy. Exercise can improve your mood, but it often doesn’t change your thinking or behavior.

Doesn’t Provide Social Support

Finally, it’s important to remember that social support is one of the keys to a strong recovery. Exercise can certainly be social. In fact, studies have shown that team sports and other forms of group exercise are the best overall for improving mental health, both because they improve consistency through accountability and because they add a socializing aspect to exercise. While this is certainly good, the people you play basketball with every Saturday probably have no idea what it’s like to struggle with addiction. Any social connection with positive, supportive people is a good thing, but for the purposes of recovery, it’s especially important to have a group of friends who know what you’re going through.

Exercise is one lifestyle change that should be part of every recovery program. There are mountains of evidence that it improves mental and physical health and improves recovery outcomes. However, exercise in itself is typically not enough to keep you sober. Addiction is caused by many factors and a comprehensive treatment plan needs to recognize the specific factors relevant to you. At Enlightened Solutions, we know there is no one-size-fits-all in addiction recovery. We incorporate exercise and other activities into our individualized and holistic treatment programs. For more information, call us today at 833-801-LIVE or explore our website.

7 Tips for Managing Anxiety in Addiction Recovery

Anxiety disorders are the most common class of mental health issues. About 30 percent of Americans will have issues with anxiety at some point in their lives. What’s more, anxiety significantly increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder. The National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions interviewed more than 43,000 people and found that among people who had struggled with anxiety in the past year, 15 percent met the criteria for having a substance use disorder—about twice the prevalence in the general population. Part of a strong recovery from addiction entails making healthy lifestyle changes to manage anxiety overall and learning to cope with individual episodes. Here are some suggestions for managing anxiety in addiction recovery.


See a Therapist

First, if you have issues with anxiety and you haven’t seen a therapist, see one as soon as possible. An anxiety disorder is a serious mental health issue, sometimes with a biological basis, and you should take it seriously. It’s not just a matter of telling yourself to calm down; there are other issues driving your anxiety. A therapist can help you work through it, perhaps with the help of medication.


Breathe deeply.

Deep breathing is one of the most effective tools there is for calming anxiety. When you’re anxious, your body’s sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight system, is in control. You feel threatened—perhaps by something that’s not really threatening or perhaps by nothing at all—and your body prepares to deal with that threat. But since anxiety can feed on itself, the sympathetic nervous system never backs off. To do that, you have to intentionally activate your parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as your rest-and-digest system. 


You can activate your parasympathetic nervous system by taking a few slow, deep breaths. The exhale is especially important, since this is what stimulates the vagus nerve and helps you calm down. When you feel stressed, panicked, or overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths. A common pattern is to inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, exhale for a count of eight, and repeat. Five or 10 breaths should help you calm down and think more clearly.


Examine Your Thinking

Most anxiety comes not from any particular situation but from your thinking about the situation. Sometimes the brain can conjure up anxiety from nothing at all. When you’re anxious, it helps to notice what thoughts are causing the anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has identified a number of common cognitive distortions that cause mental distress. These include black-and-white thinking, catastrophizing, discounting the positive, and others. You typically learn about these distortions and how to combat them as part of addiction treatment or individual therapy. Learning to spot these distortions takes a bit of practice and guidance but will significantly cut down on your anxiety once you get the hang of it.


Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a number of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. When you are sleep deprived, or when you run a chronic sleep deficit, you significantly impair several important cognitive functions, including attention, working memory, foresight, and prioritization. Perhaps the biggest problem for anxiety is that lack of sleep also impairs emotional regulation. There is an area of the prefrontal cortex that essentially acts as a brake on anxiety and when you don’t get enough sleep, that brake doesn’t work very well. Getting enough sleep makes everything in life easier.



After getting enough sleep, regular exercise is the second biggest lifestyle change you can make to manage anxiety. Many scientific studies now support exercise’s many mental health benefits, including reducing anxiety. Exercise does a number of things, including increasing the brain’s levels of endorphins, serotonin, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which helps grow neurons in certain areas of the brain. It is also thought that exercise affects the brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis, which reduces your reactivity to stress.  


Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to learn to manage your anxiety. Most people reflexively try to push anxiety away, ignore it, or stifle it, but these only make it worse. Mindfulness teaches you to accept anxiety and not compound it by being anxious about it. Instead, you observe your anxiety without judgment, noticing where it comes from, what thoughts arise with it, where you feel it in your body and so on. You gradually learn that anxiety is nothing to be afraid of. 


Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

For most people recovering from addiction, moderate caffeine intake is not a big deal. If that caffeine is in the form of tea or coffee rather than sugary energy drinks, it may even have some moderate benefits. However, if you are prone to anxiety, caffeine may raise your baseline of stress. Caffeine’s effects are similar to those of anxiety—faster heart rate, increased energy and focus, and so on. It can make you more sensitive to stress or even trigger an anxiety feedback loop. Perhaps more importantly, caffeine can interfere with sleep. Even a cup of coffee at noon may leave quite a bit of caffeine in your system at bedtime. It can either keep you up or prevent you from sleeping deeply. This is especially problematic since many people already experience insomnia early in recovery. And as noted above, a chronic sleep deficit can significantly increase your anxiety.


Anxiety isn’t just a matter of being on edge or tightly wound. You can’t “just relax.” It’s a real mental health issue that typically requires professional help. You normally get treatment for co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety, when you enter an addiction treatment program, but not if you only attend mutual-aid meetings like AA. However, an untreated anxiety disorder can make recovery far more difficult, since it’s often the anxiety that caused the substance use issue in the first place. 


At Enlightened Solutions, we know that recovering from addiction requires healing the whole person. Our holistic treatment program incorporates modern treatment methods, wellness practices, and modalities such as yoga and meditation to help our clients overcome addiction. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.

4 Tips for Staying Sober Under Quarantine

In hopes of containing the spread of covid-19, or the coronavirus, state and federal governments are asking people to stay home and avoid public gatherings. Some state and local governments have even closed restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and other public-serving businesses to help stop the spread of the virus. This can be a trying time for anyone in recovery for a number of reasons. First, it suggests that attending 12-Step meetings is probably not a good idea, especially for people over 65 and people who have frequent contact with anyone over 65. 


The virus has also closed many church services, which are an important part of many people’s recovery plans, as are other spiritual gatherings like group meditation and yoga classes. It’s also a good idea to stay away from the gym. Staff and other members frequently wipe down seats and benches but rarely disinfect bars. It can also be hard to keep appropriate distance from people who are breathing hard and grunting. In other words, some major components of most recovery plans such as fellowship and exercise will have to be modified in the coming weeks or months. Here are some tips for staying on track with your recovery during quarantine.


Connect Virtually

The good news is that we have more ways of communicating over long distances than we have at any other time in history. In fact, until a few weeks ago, one of the problems we seemed to hear the most about was that we’re all so socially alienated and we rely too much on social media and texting to stay in touch with friends and family. We’ve lost the ability to connect in person and hold a real conversation. Under the current circumstances, that would seem to be a feature rather than a bug. 


However, the fact remains that real-life connection is important for emotional health, and that’s doubly true for anyone recovering from addiction. So what are you to do if you can’t go to meetings? Ideally, your group will have already discussed the possibility of quarantine and have formed a backup plan, such as an online forum. One thing to consider is that it’s very hard to remain anonymous on online platforms like Facebook or Google Hangouts. However, AA does offer virtual meetings via Zoom and other mutual aid programs such as SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and LifeRing also have a large online presence, so you might take this opportunity to give those a try if you’re not already familiar with them. 


There are also a number of online communities you might stay in touch with. If you’re part of a sober Facebook group, that might be a good resource–although, again, probably not anonymous. There are several good addiction subreddits that offer both more anonymity and a larger community. These generally have a positive atmosphere and people respond quickly. 


Exercise at Home

Staying active is an important part of every recovery plan. Being quarantined at home is like some strange combination of a holiday and a sick day and you might feel tempted to just sit on the couch watching TV all-day. If anything, exercise is even more important now, since it keeps your immune system strong and helps you cope with the stress of uncertainty. 


At the moment, it’s generally considered safe to bike, walk, or run outdoors, assuming there aren’t many people around. There is less risk of contagion in open areas. Just don’t stop and chat with the neighbors, or stay at least 10 feet away if you do.


There are also plenty of ways to get a good workout without even leaving the house. There are bodyweight alternatives to lifting weights. There are even bodyweight HIIT routines that can get your heart pumping without taking up much space. These can be found online or on YouTube. If yoga is more your style, there are also tons of yoga videos on YouTube. Yoga with Adrienne is probably the most popular, but there are plenty of options to suit your taste. It may not be as good as your sweaty Bikram class, but it will keep you active and flexible. 


Use This Experience to Work With Challenging Emotions

One of the biggest challenges for many people won’t be the inconvenience, per se, but the emotions the pandemic may give rise to. It’s likely that we will all know someone who will be affected by the virus; perhaps we will even get it. The uncertainty is stressful in itself. If you have struggled with anxiety or depression in the past, this is certainly a situation that will get your mind churning. 


One way to cope is to use these challenging emotions as a sort of exercise. For example, it’s a good opportunity to practice mindfulness. It’s tempting to try to push away your anxiety about the future, to distract yourself, or tell yourself it will probably be fine but it’s also a serious situation and it’s normal to be apprehensive. Instead of pushing those feelings away, try accepting them and examining them nonjudgmentally. For example, notice where in your body you feel that anxiety–your stomach, perhaps? What thoughts are coming up? Try to notice them without getting caught up. Finally, take some time to consider that a lot of people are probably feeling the same things you are. Concern for others is often a good way to cope with our own anxieties. 


While this can be an opportunity to practice coping with challenging emotions, it’s not a good time to be skipping therapy. If you’re seeing a therapist, call and discuss ways of conducting your sessions remotely. Many people have been having their sessions over the phone, on FaceTime, or on Skype. If you’re not currently seeing a therapist but feel like you need one, you can probably find one who will work with you remotely.


Stick to Your Recovery Plan as Much as Possible

Finally, remember that you can still do a lot on your own. As noted above, you can exercise at home. You can also read about addiction and recovery, you can write, you can meditate, you can eat healthy, you can spend quality time with your family, and you can relax in whatever way works for you. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do right now, focus on what you can do. This might even be an opportunity to work on some parts of your recovery that might not otherwise get enough attention. 


With any luck, this post will have an incredibly short shelf life but at the moment, no one has any idea when life will get back to normal. In the meantime, we have to do what we can with what we have. With a little ingenuity, that can still be quite a lot. Stay safe, stay connected, and stay on track. At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that long-term recovery requires healing the mind, body, and spirit. Our programs are built on the 12-Step approach and incorporate a diversity of healing practices. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-LIVE.

3 Important Things You Need To Understand About Body Image

Body image issues are not gender specific. Both men and women can struggle with the way they perceive themselves and what they believe that means. You are worth more than how you look, no matter how you look. Your body is the only one you get. Learning to make peace with your physical form is an important part of spiritual healing.

  1. The Media Is Lying To You: That includes social media, as well. Pictures can be digitally altered from a smartphone now, to create what others will see as “perfect”. Currently, there are no regulations for American media when it comes to model BMI, digital alterations, or anything having to do with beauty. Largely that is because beauty companies, cosmetic companies, and fashion companies have a lot of money to spend on lobbying. Ex-executives and lawyers make up federal boards which continue to allow the media to sell the ideals of “perfect” “beautiful” and attractive. For men and women, what you see in print and on screen is often fake. Bodies which seem to be perfectly sculpted have a very particular life. They are paid to spend hours in the gym, training, exercising, and using sponsored nutritional supplements to support them. Most people don’t have that kind of time and certainly aren’t paid to have it.
  2. You’ll Never Be Perfect: Perfect doesn’t exist. If you’re trying to live up to fake images and ideals, you’ll never reach them. Most problematically, if you develop an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder along the way you won’t be able to see (or accept) your body for what it is. Thin will never be thin enough, sculpted will never be sculpted enough, and so forth.
  3. Diet And Exercise Are Parts Of A Whole, Not The Whole Part: You are not defined by what you eat, how you eat it, or how you exercise or how often. You are defined by the unique things about you which come from within: your character, your personality, your integrity, your spirit. Diet and exercise are not really lifestyle trends. They can be part of your lifestyle. An unhealthy obsession with either one is not a sign of a healthy lifestyle but an unhealthy one. There should always be room for indulgence, laziness, relaxation, and enjoying your life without rigid routine and restriction.

Enlightened Solutions is an integrative treatment program, providing partial care programs to men and women who are seeking recovery. Combining clinical therapy with holistic healing and 12 step philosophy, we provide a well balanced program for mind, body, and spirit. For more information, call us today at 833-801-5483.

Nature: It Does a Body (Image) Good

“The soul expands in response to what it sees”  – Anonymous

We see thousands of media advertisements every day. Digitally altered, these images are selling us on an unrealistic idea of perfection. Perfection according to mainstream media comes in different forms: perfect body, perfect partner, perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect relationship, perfect smile, perfect home, perfect car, perfect kitchen, even perfect laundry. In regards to man made items, there is no such thing as perfect. Some philosophers romanticize the beauty of nature as being the only perfect creations in the world. Roses are remarked as being such a perfect creation, they are protected by thorns. Alice Walker once wrote, “in nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” Nature reminds us of our perfect imperfections. When we gaze at a landscape, it is doubtful we spend our time criticizing each imperfect detail of what we see. Instead, we marvel at the magnificence of nature’s whole- a respect we rarely pay to ourselves.

Spending time in nature is good for the mind, body, and spirit. We find ourselves relaxed when we disconnect from those relentless and rigorous demands of daily life and inundating media. Our blood pressure drops and our brain actually expands. New findings from Body Image journal suggest that spending time in nature helps us see ourselves in that very same broad acceptance. Nature enhances our perception of our own bodies.

Adults who spent more time in nature had higher scores in an evaluation of body appreciation. The evaluation included the level of respect one has for their body as well as their level of willingness to reject cultural norms and unreachable ideals perpetuated by the media. High self-esteem, connectedness, and feelings of “oneness” were also common in the adults with high exposure to nature. Positive body image directly correlated with the higher senses of self-esteem and connection.

Being in nature allows us to focus on what our body is capable of versus what is wrong with it- as dictated by daily media messages. As a result, we develop a greater sense of respect for our bodies, feeling physically empowered.

Enlightened Solutions sees the divine transformation of the spirit, mind, and body, that can take place through recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Our treatment programs for men and women offer a foundation in holistic practices, encouraging complete healing. There is hope. We have a solution. If you or a loved one are suffering, please call 833-801-5483 for more information.

Peace, Balance, Body Positivity

Recovery from drugs addiction and alcoholism is often accompanied by secondary issues like body image. Both men and women suffer from poor senses of self-esteem and self-worth stemming from how they relate to and honor their physical selves. Learning to live without drugs and alcohol requires new ways of thinking, being, and doing. Food, physical activity, and self regard are parts of that formula. So many turn to drug and alcohol as a way of feeling better, or worse, about themselves.

Learn from Your Body

Every day we are burdened with other people’s opinions of how we should look, what we should eat, and how ‘healthy’ is defined. Attempting to abide by these vast generalizations is more harmful than helpful. We live in a world where customization is luxury. Why settle for what everyone else says you need? Learn what your body needs, wants, and likes the most. Explore the foods that are good for your particular body type, blood type, or suit your hormonal needs. Accept the limitations of your physical capacities and work within them. You can spend your life working against your body to satisfy someone else or work with your body to satisfy: you.

Work with Your Body

Running is a great exercise. It burns a ton of calories, is the perfect cardio, and builds endurance. Running is not for everyone. Hard, consistent, repeated impact can damage a person’s ankles, knees, and back. Focusing on physical activity that is damaging instead of fun does not help body image or body positivity. Instead, it exhausts any attempts to be in balance. Pushing your body to its most extremes results in extreme compensation on your body’s behalf. You might find you simply can’t do the things other people can do, which causes you to struggle with maintaining inner peace. Staying in such a state of internal and external conflict is hardly peaceful. This body is the home for your soul. It is unique in it’s needs just like you are.

Recovery through treatment is the time to return to love and heal the wounds of addiction. Enlightened Solutions offers an answer to the unending question of “how did I get here?” There is hope and way out of the struggle which is addiction. Our program offers holistic healing supplemented by 12 step philosophy, treating mind, body, and spirit. Begin your new life here.

Call 833-801-5483 for more information.

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