When you’re new to recovery, your body and mind are both adjusting to a new way of life. You may have mood swings as you first get clean and sober. Some of these are temporary, while others are just reflecting the emotions you were medicating with your substance abuse. Many people in all stages of recovery experience anxiety regularly. Anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness in the United States, with at least 40 million people diagnosed with it over the age of 18.
Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, it’s normal to feel anxiety in everyday life every once in a while. You may feel anxious when you’re called on to share in a meeting, or when you have a big meeting coming up at work.
Learning to cope with anxiety healthily is vital to your recovery.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is when a person feels fear that almost feels like danger is imminent. Your heart might race, and you may feel your mouth go dry. A lot of people describe anxiety as “butterflies in the stomach.” It can be so intense for competitive athletes, actors, and others in the public eye that they experience nausea before their big event.
While some level of anxiety is normal, when it prevents you from dealing with your daily life, it’s a problem. For example, you might have panic attacks at just the thought of getting up on a stage or driving across a bridge. (A panic attack is when you think you can’t breathe or may be having a heart attack when you aren’t experiencing any actual symptoms.) This level of anxiety, triggered by the body’s fight or flight response, is considered disproportionate to the danger you’re in.
Coping With Anxiety
Some people can talk their way through anxiety using cognitive-behavioral therapy. A therapist can help you work with your anxiety triggers and help you learn to cope with them. He or she can also help diagnose you if you have an anxiety disorder.
You might feel more comfortable trying exercises to decrease anxiety at home. One activity that you may want to try is mindful breathing. Close your eyes and breathe slowly, letting your belly fill with air as you inhale. Exhale using your mouth. Feel yourself exhale and then say the number 10 inside your head. Continue this exercise until you have counted back to the number zero. Pay attention to the way your breath moves your body. You may also just feel comfortable saying the serenity prayer, out loud or inside your head, several times before an event that causes you anxiety.
Exercise is also a meaningful way to regulate your anxiety. It helps you control your blood pressure and floods the brain with feel-good chemicals. It’s important to get exercise regularly to take care of your mental and physical health. Try getting at least an hour of exercise a week, broken up into 15 minutes of exercise or more.
Last but never least, talk to your friends and sponsor when you feel anxious. A burden shared is a burden lessened.
Do You Need Help?
Do you or somebody you know need help with a substance use disorder? We can help. Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to reclaiming your life. We offer both detox and treatment programs to fit every individual’s needs. Give us a call at 1-888-959-3277.