You’ve come to terms with your past, acknowledged you had a problem, and completed addiction treatment - congratulations! Although you’ve achieved sobriety and are now paving a new life for yourself, you may sometimes get a little niggling feeling.
From worrying to overthinking, feeling anxious is completely normal from time to time. We all have days like this. But as someone who’s battled with a substance use disorder (SUD), you might find it more challenging to deal with than some. You’ll also need to pay close attention to your mental health and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Anxiety arises for several reasons. It can be triggered by a stressful event or memory and cravings or urges to use again. You might even find that you have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This is usually characterized by excessive and regular anxiety about everyday events.
While you may feel alone, it’s not uncommon for those in recovery to struggle with poor mental health. In fact, up to 20% of people recovering from a SUD suffer from anxiety. Although many factors contribute to the development of an addiction, underlying mental health disorders are often cited as leading causes.
Though anxiety can be overwhelming, what’s important is how you react to any feelings you experience. As someone who has battled addiction, you need to be extra careful. That anxious feeling might be pulling you towards old habits, but you’ve got to stand strong.
You might think that your journey is over once you’ve left a treatment center, but it’s only just beginning. Learn how to deal with anxiety in recovery with these four-pointers.
In the past, you probably had one central hobby; your addiction. Now that you’ve committed to sobriety, you’re going to have to form new hobbies and find other things that bring you joy.
Not only will committing to a new hobby help enhance your mental health, but it will keep your mind distracted. Whenever you feel anxious, breathe, acknowledge your emotions, and then do something you love. This could be anything from horse-riding and sport to playing chess or cooking.
Letting go of anxiety is important, but it’s also vital that you lean into it and understand what has caused it to arise. It’s also essential to talk about your feelings rather than bottling them up.
Therapy and support groups are ideal places to speak about your worries and anxieties without fear of judgment. You’ll be surrounded by others on a similar journey to you, so as well as learning from them, you’ll have the chance to develop a strong support network.
In addition, you could talk to your friends or family. This is particularly important in times of worry and stress, as turning to someone you trust can help relieve feelings and encourage you to see a different perspective.
Meditation and mindfulness are favorable practices to develop and integrate into your daily life. They encourage you to focus on the present and let go of any worries or negative thoughts you may have.
In recovery, these practices are beneficial when your anxiety is tied to something in the future or something that you can’t control. All it takes is finding a quiet, relaxing place where you can unwind and focus on your breathing.
Count your breaths and try to push out any negative thoughts with each exhalation. You could even meditate on your journey so far. Think about all the hurdles you’ve overcome and goals you’ve achieved, and remind yourself of what you’re grateful for.
This practice of letting go and focusing on the present effectively relieves feelings of stress and anxiety, particularly among those who have battled addiction. A 2018 study highlights the benefits of mediation and mindfulness to mental health, indicating that regular practice reduces substance dependence and cravings.
Sometimes when anxiety takes control, the best thing to do is let off some steam by working out. Exercising is a great way of letting go of stress and distracting your mind from anxious and negative thoughts.
You don’t have to participate in a high-intensity workout class, such as spinning. Pick something you love or something entirely new and make it an exciting challenge.
Doing so will give you something to work towards or achieve and keep your mind focused. In fact, a 2019 Harvard study highlights the benefits of exercise on anxiety, indicating that a workout session, such as a brisk walk, can decrease muscle tension enough to relieve associated symptoms.
As soon as you complete addiction treatment, you’re essentially in early recovery. Though you’ve made a lot of progress, your journey is far from over. Sobriety is a lifelong journey, and there’ll be times when you’ll be up against anxiety or feelings of stress. Knowing how to develop healthy coping mechanisms will stop you from relapsing and returning to drugs or alcohol.
If your anxiety persists, it’s a good idea to see a doctor, as you might require treatment. By talking to a medical professional, you’ll understand what options are available to help you manage in the long term.
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