Learn Key Skills

Minnesota Alternatives - Building the Foundation for Self-Regulation

This is a foundation for self-regulation on which the other key skills are built. Integrating the foundation into daily life is one f the signs you may be ready for program completion.

Engage in Basic Self-Care – care for our bodies so it is easier to use our minds

  • Get adequate sleep, hydration, nutrition, exercise, and time in nature
  • Manage stress - avoid over extending
  • Be intelligently self-attentive
  • Understand will power (limited amount each day and fuel tanks runs low after a lot of decision making and self-regulation which adds to your stress-vulnerability)

Practice Mindfulness – be present and learn to observe thoughts, feeling, and body sensations with both compassion and curiosity

  • Meditate to learn to take the seat of the observer
  • Be gentle with self vs. white knuckling and inner discord
  • Practice mindfulness activities (eating, walking, music, drawing, coloring, movement)
  • Use breathing to stay aware of the present

Activate Parasympathetic Nervous System – self-calm through conscious activity

  • Understand how neurons and neurotransmitters work – inhibit and excite
  • Understand roles of parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of nervous system
  • Demonstrate how you can choose to both self-activate and self-calm
  • Use breathing or somatic grounding to activate parasympathetic

Engage the Prefrontal Cortex – think before acting - freedom comes from thinking, not emotion

  • Understand brain structure – evolution and role of 3 different parts and why PFC functioning is so important
  • Realize engaging your PFC is not automatic. It needs to be activated, but then becomes the command center, but harder to engage if mid-brain is on “fire” – quiet the mid brain using basic self-care and skills to activate parasympathetic
  • Understand neuroplasticity – where we focus our attention defines us neurologically
  • Understand connection between emotion/impulse mind (mid brain) and PFC becomes very weak or severed after severe substance use
  • Recognize that a disease state occurs when neuro networks representing other parts of life (job, family, health, hobbies) are pruned away
  • Identify ways to build and strengthen the connection to PFC – find a reason that is meaningful enough to get off the “highway” and create new roads/pathways


Gaining Perspective

  • Practicing acceptance
  • Practicing attached detachment
  • Reframing
  • Cultivating positives

Navigating Relationships

  • Understanding attachment
  • Learning social skills
  • Demonstrating understanding
  • Focusing on effectiveness

Understanding Mental Health and SUD 

  • Understanding impact of substance abuse
  • Understanding MH conditions
  • Understanding the interplay of substance use on MH
  • Understanding trauma (ACE)

Reducing Risk  

  • Developing a recovery vision
  • Experiencing difficult emotions
  • Creating optimal environments
  • Understanding impermanence



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