How Can Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Help My Recovery?

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When seeking recovery from substance abuse, addiction, or other mental health disorders, it is essential to understand the role of stress management techniques for establishing and maintaining lasting healing and sobriety. As unmanaged stress can impair your ability to function normally in daily life, it is no surprise that it can also interfere with your ability to secure sobriety from alcohol and other drugs. While various treatment options are available for stress management, it is necessary to highlight the value of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) specifically for lasting recovery. 

At Pathways Recovery Center, MBSR is one of many therapeutic techniques we can incorporate into your individualized treatment plan. Whether you are seeking an outpatient or residential treatment program, we have what you need to achieve lasting symptom and stress management during treatment, setting you up for success throughout your long-term recovery. 

The Importance of Stress Management in Recovery

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), “Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter challenges in life.” When we experience stress, our body undergoes various changes that better allow us to respond to life-threatening situations quickly and effectively. While occasional stress can serve as motivation for positive life changes, long-term, chronic stress can be detrimental to your health. 

For instance, unmanaged stress can trigger the development of health problems like substance use disorder (SUD) and other mental health disorders. Furthermore, as you work to heal from these conditions, you must recognize the impact that unmanaged stress can have on your recovery efforts. For example, stress can impact your:

  • Sleep hygiene: Impairing your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night
  • Appetite: Causing you to neglect healthy dieting
  • Social interactions: Affecting your ability to navigate conflict effectively
  • Work performance: Making you more irritable and unable to concentrate on important tasks
  • Relationships: Informing self-isolationist tendencies

Additionally, it is essential to note that stress can also interfere with your ability to secure and sustain sobriety, both in early and long-term recovery. If stress management techniques are not implemented into daily life in early recovery, you also increase your risk of future relapse. To appropriately process and overcome stress when it occurs in your life, it is necessary to consider new techniques for stress management throughout treatment and recovery. 

What Is MBSR?

According to an article in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, MBSR is a type of meditation therapy originally developed for stress management. Despite this, it is currently showing promise in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Skin and immune disorders

Created by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, MBSR “employs mindfulness meditation to alleviate suffering associated with physical, psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders.” The article highlights that most MBSR programs consist of 2.5 hours of treatment programming a week for eight weeks and a one-day retreat. During a treatment session, you can receive training in formal and informal meditation techniques. 

According to an article by Emotion, a few examples of MBSR practices you may learn throughout treatment include:

  • Breath-focused attention
  • Body scan-based attention to sensory experience
  • Shifting attention across sensory modalities
  • Open monitoring of moment-to-moment experience
  • Walking meditation
  • Eating meditation

The Role of Mindfulness and MBSR in Stress Management

Although mindfulness is a practice that is commonly discussed, you may wonder how mindfulness plays a role in stress reduction. When stress becomes chronic, your brain and body become conditioned to the emotional and physical reactions that manifest from stress. In other words, such manifestations become habitual. The aforementioned article in Emotion explains, “MBSR has been shown to diminish the habitual tendency to emotionally react to and ruminate about transitory thoughts and physical sensations.” 

Further, the article highlights that the “package of mindfulness practices aims to enhance the ability to observe the immediate content of experience, specifically, the transient nature of thoughts, emotion, memories, mental images, and physical sensation.”

Additionally, research has confirmed the following additional benefits of MBSR:

  • Reduce stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms
  • Modify distorted patterns of self
  • Amplify immune functioning
  • Enhance behavioral self-regulation and emotional regulation
  • Improve attention

Incorporating MBSR Into Treatment at Pathways

At Pathways Recovery Center, we offer a wide range of treatment programs and therapeutic interventions to ensure that we have what you need to achieve lasting recovery from your mental health concerns. We will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and goals for recovery. MBSR is just one of the many treatment options we can include in your treatment plan. In addition, other therapeutic options we offer include:

  • Activity therapy
  • Anger management
  • Art therapy
  • Behavior modification
  • Biofeedback
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Holistic healing

By incorporating MBSR into your treatment plan, you will learn a plethora of techniques for stress management that will significantly aid you in your lifelong recovery journey. 

If you or a loved one is seeking recovery from addiction or another mental health disorder, you must recognize the importance of stress management during treatment and recovery. Unmanaged stress can hinder your recovery progress, interfering with your ability to secure and sustain sobriety. In addition, it can increase your risk of future relapse throughout long-term sobriety. Fortunately, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can provide you with various techniques for stress management, preparing you to persevere when faced with stress during your lifelong recovery journey. At Pathways Recovery Center, MBSR is one of the many treatment options we offer clients. To learn more about our individualized treatment programs, call us today at (888) 771-0966.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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