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Tips for Managing Anxiety in Addiction Recovery


Young woman, hand to mouth, close-upIf you are in addiction recovery but are dealing with a high amount of anxiety, it can suck most of the joy out of your recovery. It may have been because of this type of mental discomfort that you turned to alcohol or drugs in the first place; if you do not find a way to manage your anxiety, it may become a reason to relapse. It is therefore vital that you find a way to manage your anxiety in order to protect your sobriety.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a type of mental discomfort that involves worrying about the future. Some anxiety is based on real life events (for example, losing a job), but it can also occur due to fear that things might go wrong in the future – for example, a person may be incredibly anxious about losing their job even though there is no real reason to  expect this is going to happen. Some people are particularly prone to anxiety, which can mean that their brain is always looking for things to worry about; if they are not anxious about their finances, they are anxious about their health.

An anxiety disorder can involve a number of different symptoms, including:

  • panic attacks
  • excessive worry
  • insomnia
  • feeling of impending doom
  • racing thoughts
  • problems with breathing
  • feeling faint
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • feeling out of control
  • mood swings
  • obsessive thinking
  • feeling restless/antsy
  • problems with concentration.

Dangers of Anxiety for Those in Recovery

Everyone gets worried every now and again, but persistent or excessive anxiety can be a real danger for those trying to recover from an addiction. It may be that the person has some type of anxiety disorder, although they may not be aware of this, and have been self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse is an abysmal strategy for dealing with anxiety, but it may be the only way the person knows how to cope.

If you have been dealing with anxiety issues for more than six months then it may suggest that you have some type of generalised anxiety disorder. If this is the case, you need to speak to your doctor so the condition can be treated. There are drugs and therapies that are effective for dealing with anxiety, so it is vital that you get help for this problem.

If anxiety is stealing the joy from your sobriety but it is not due to an actual anxiety disorder, there are things that you can do to improve the situation. Here are just a few of the possible solutions you can try for dealing with your anxiety.

Reduce Your Intake of Caffeine

One of the most overlooked causes of excessive anxiety is drinking too much caffeine. Even if you are not usually prone to worry, drinking too much coffee/cola/tea could put your body into an anxious state. If you already have an anxiety disorder, too much caffeine can trigger a panic attack. Try reducing your caffeine intake to see if it helps – it is easy to replace these drinks with alternatives such as herbal teas.

Exercise Daily

If you are in bad shape physically, it will affect your mental functioning; one of the negative effects of this is a reduced ability to deal with stress and anxiety. It is important that you exercise for at least a few minutes every day – going for long walks is a great option. There are also exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi that are particularly good at helping people take control of their anxiety levels.

Learn Mindfulness Meditation

If you read many health and wellness articles, you are probably fed up at this stage of hearing about mindfulness. The reality is though that this type of meditation is so popular because it works, and it can be effective at helping you deal with your anxiety levels.  There are many free mindfulness meditation courses available, and it is a relatively easy technique to learn (although you do need to commit to practicing regularly in order to enjoy the benefits).

The reason mindfulness is so effective is that it allows you to develop a more objective perspective on what is happening with your thoughts. This means that when worry arises, you can develop the ability to question the negative thinking. By regularly observing the way your brain works, you become less of a prisoner of your thoughts and so worry becomes much easier to manage.

Make Healthy Changes to Your Diet

What you eat has a profound effect on your mood and thought processes, so if you have been eating a lot of junk or an unbalanced diet, this could be contributing to your anxiety.  It is worth doing a bit of research to learn about the keys to healthy eating. It is also important that you avoid maladaptive coping strategies such as comfort eating or binge eating. Eating too much will make you overweight, which can reduce your self-esteem and make you feel more anxious about the future.

Develop Healthy Sleeping Habits

If you are not getting enough sleep, it means that you are mentally less able to deal with the challenges in life, likely making you end up feeing anxious. The problem is that most people underestimate their need for sleep, failing to notice if they are suffering the negative effects of lack of sleep. In order to help ensure that you get enough sleep you can try the following:

  • develop a strict routine for when you go to bed and when you get up – you are more likely to get a good night sleep if you have a routine
  • don’t have a TV in your bedroom and don’t go to bed with your tablet device or smartphone – only go there to sleep
  • avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening
  • do some relaxation practices such as yoga before going to bed
  • avoid  eating too much in the evenings
  • avoid too much stimulation in the hour before going to bed.

Understand the Wisdom of the Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

You do not have to be religious in order to see the wisdom of the serenity prayer. Many things in life are beyond your control, so there is absolutely no benefit in worrying about them. It is best to just focus on the things you can change today, and let all the other stuff go.

Take Action Instead of Worrying

One of the best ways to deal with anxiety is to take action rather than just wasting your time worrying about things. Even if the action you take does not do much to improve the situation, the fact that you are busy means you are not so focused on negative thinking. It does not matter how desperate your situation appears, as there will always be things you can be doing; by taking action, it allows you to regain control over your thinking.

Tell People How You Are Feeling

If you isolate, it means that you will be at the mercy of your thoughts, which will only increase your anxiety levels. It is important that you spend time around others and tell them how you are feeling. Even if these individuals cannot provide any solution to the cause of your anxiety, but the fact that you are talking about it is going to make it feel more manageable.

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