5 Techniques to Manage Anxiety as a Recovering Addict
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” -William James
Anxiety is extremely common, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it can be increasingly difficult to manage. According to the ADAA, 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders. Out of those 40 million individuals, only 36.9% receive treatment. When someone suffers from unmanaged anxiety, they may find it hard to complete tasks that are seemingly effortless to others. Going to the store, having conversations with people, or even doing the dishes may become too stressful while dealing with the effects of untreated anxiety.
If you are a recovering addict, chances are you struggle from some form of anxiety. Personally, I can recall countless times during my early recovery where I would begin to feel my chest tighten, my heart rate increase, and then all of a sudden everyone around me would seem to be moving faster than I could comprehend. I hadn’t developed any healthy coping mechanisms to naturally manage my anxiety. I would have panic attacks in almost every social situation, leading me to begin to avoid socializing.
In recovery, isolation is extremely dangerous. The leading causes of relapse are isolation, unresolved trauma, and anxiety. Therefore, once I noticed how much worse I felt while isolating, I realized I needed to work through my anxiety rather than avoid it. In order to begin managing my anxiety, I started to implement healthy coping mechanisms and techniques to self-soothe.
When you start to feel overwhelmed due to overstimulation or uncontrollable thoughts, one simple way to manage anxiety is to put your feelings on paper. For some reason, when you write down your thoughts and feelings – you take away their power over you. If you are having irrational, negative thoughts about yourself and you promptly journal them, you will often realize they are arbitrary.
Journaling your thoughts and feelings when you are anxious can also help you brainstorm problem-solving strategies. If you are anxious about going to meet up with a group of people in recovery, you can write down what you are fearful about. Once you have written that down, you can begin to formulate coping mechanisms that would work for you in the moment. For example, if you begin to feel nervous while in a conversation you could plan to begin focusing on your breathing while reminding yourself that the people you are surrounded by are non-judgmental, caring friends.
If you are in recovery, you probably already utilize meditation in your daily routine. Meditation is heavily suggested to people recovering from substance abuse because of the vast natural healing properties. Meditation allows you to recognize a problem, accept it, and then move on. This is helpful in soothing anxiety because when you are anxious, it typically stems from outer influences and issues in your personal life.
When meditating, practitioners typically focus on breath control. Evening out your breathing is another simple, yet effective tool to lessen anxiety. When you’re anxious, your heart rate increases – leading to shaky, shallow, and sharp breathing. After you have regained breath control, you may notice that you are in the present moment, rather than obsessing over past or imagined future issues.
3. Talk to a friend or loved one
When you’re feeling stressed, talking through your problems with a trusted friend or family member can be extremely beneficial. Sometimes, our peers can view our issues from an objective standpoint and provide neutral advice on how to resolve conflict in our lives. Having someone to openly talk about your fears with can allow you to see where you may be irrational.
Another way to manage stress is to distract yourself by doing something fun with your friends. Blowing off steam is vital to your mental health. When you have a busy schedule consisting of work, school, taking care of children, or other important responsibilities, it is vital to take time for yourself. Going to the movies or having a spa day with a group of friends can quickly take yor mind off of any daunting thoughts.
4. Go to a meeting
Going to a meeting while your anxious may seem like a terrible idea initially. Nonetheless, once you arrive at the meeting you may find that the warm welcomes from your fellowship will comfort you. Also, while in a meeting anxiety is often discussed among members. This will allow you to hear other people talk about their own struggles with anxiety in recovery, showing you that you are not alone. Often, people who suffer from anxiety feel as if no one understands them. Being able to compare anxiety, strategizing collectively on ways to manage anxiety, and receiving unconditional support will positively affect your overall mood and hopefully relieve your stress.
When my anxiety became unbearable, I knew it was time to take more action. Therapy seemed like the most effective coping mechanism out there, so I made a leap of faith. My therapist helped me uncover the root of my anxiety, gave me some of the coping mechanisms listed previously, and helped me to get to know myself. After I gained the knowledge I needed in order to manage my anxiety, my therapist showed me how to take the proper actions.
One of the most common forms of anxiety therapy is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy teaches patients how to think differently, training their negative thoughts to turn into positive ones over time. This is done through exposure. Therapists will slowly ease patients into situations that give them anxiety in order to prove that most of their anxiety is stemming from outside incidents. For example, if a patient is anxious about being in large groups the therapist will instruct them to start hanging out with larger groups of people for short periods of time. After a while, patients should be able to let go of their fear of groups by seeing that their fears don’t actually materialize.
Guest Writer Bio
Maya Kelley is a writer in the recovery community. Her life’s passion is to help others who struggle with similar mental health-related issues. She also is attempting to aid in the fight to break stigmas related to substance abuse and mental illness.