Recovering from a substance use disorder isn’t easy. In addition to going through physical withdrawal, you will experience symptoms including anxiety, stress, and depression, stemming from sources including changing chemicals in your body, malnutrition, a demanding schedule, and the stress of resisting cravings and staying clean or sober. Unfortunately, stress is one of the most common causes of relapse so it is important for you to learn to manage your anxiety so that you can avoid the temptation of using your substance to combat it.
If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, you can use the following ideas to deal with it and get back to your life.
- Get Enough Exercise – Exercise is a natural way to de-stress. Just 30 minutes of exercise per day will boost your mood, improve your mental health, reduce mood swings, and reduce depression and anxiety. Exercise benefits the brain in two ways. First, exercise produces dopamine and serotonin, which give the brain a natural high. These chemicals are the same produced in the brain by most substances, which means that exercise can help to alleviate cravings. Because dopamine and serotonin also make you happier and more relaxed, they also naturally combat anxiety. Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, allowing neurotransmitters to connect more easily, and helping you to feel better and more awake. You also don’t have to hit the gym every day to benefit. Just 30 minutes of light exercise like walking or yoga is more than enough for most people. If you choose an exercise like yoga or tai chi, you will also benefit from the mindfulness aspects of those practices.
- Improve Your Diet – Nutrition plays a large part in mental health and even minor nutrient deficiencies can cause or exacerbate anxiety. Because nearly 70% of all recovering addicts suffer from some form of nutrient deficiency, eating right is crucial to maintaining your health and your abstinence. Eating right gives you the mental stability and energy to better handle stress and to deal with daily ups and downs of normal life. You also don’t have to have a large budget to eat healthy, just avoid processed foods, eat more vegetables, and eat at least 15 grams of lean protein with every meal. Affordable foods like frozen vegetables, frozen seafood and chicken breast, and dried beans and legumes are excellent choices.
- Make Time to Relax and Destress – Make time to sit down and relax and do something fun or to do nothing at all. Taking time to meditate, take a hot bath, reading a book, or going for a walk in the park all count. Taking time to do something you enjoy, away from stimulus like television or computer screens, can help you to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help you to reduce cravings and will help your body to recover faster.
- Make Lifestyle Changes – If you are feeling anxious, it may result from your life, your habits, and your job. While some stress is a natural result of normal life, you should not be feeling anxious all the time. If you do, sit down and try to write a list of everything that makes you feel anxious. In some cases, it may be your job, it may be your commute to work, it may be a family member, a lack of funds, debt, or even your future. Whatever it is, sit down, write it out, and create a plan to change it. While you can’t control everything, you can take small steps to reduce the sources of your anxiety so that you don’t have to worry about them anymore. For example, if you have a large amount of debt, you could consolidate it to reduce it, and then make smaller payments on a single bill. If your neighbors or family members use, you can plan to move so that you are away from their influence. Making small changes over time can lead to very big results.
- Keep a Journal – Journaling is a habit that can be difficult to build, but it is one that is proven to reduce stress and anxiety. By writing out your thoughts, feelings, and ideas, you allow your brain to stop thinking about them, which reduces your stress. You can start out simply writing out everything you are stressed about on paper, your computer, or even your phone. You can also keep a formal journal if you prefer, but it isn’t necessary to benefit.
- Don’t Overwhelm Yourself – Many recovering addicts attempt to push themselves into overdrive to make up for their time spent as an addict. While recovery necessitates learning multiple new skills including coping with cravings, constantly pushing yourself will leave you stressed, anxious, and tired, which sets you up for a relapse. Break your goals into small, manageable items, don’t overwhelm yourself, and set aside at least an hour every day for leisure. This may mean saying no to friends and family, slowing your recovery progress down, or prioritizing some things over others.
- Find Someone to Talk To – Whether you go to therapy, join a sobriety group, find a sober buddy, or just talk to your friends and family, talking about things is a great way to reduce your anxiety about them.
Anxiety is a common side effect of stress, withdrawal, poor nutrition, and cravings. However, it is also important to recognize that 22-53% of all addicts are eventually diagnosed with a comorbid mental disorder. If you have a pre-existing anxiety disorder, it may be important to get mental help so that you can get treatment.
If you or a loved one is suffering from any substance addiction, please call us at Lighthouse Treatment Center today. We are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Contact us today to discuss your situation in confidence – we are here to help.