My anxiety can get so bad that I sometimes feel like I have a brick on my chest. It’s a beast I’ve suffered from my entire life. Some of my earliest memories include a tight chest feeling, difficulty breathing, and a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. As a teenager, I got terrible panic attacks that frightened me so much that I cried with fear of what was happening to me. This level of anxiety was one of the many reasons I used substances. It was my excessive substance use that led to a substance use disorder. Getting sober revealed my continuous suffering with an anxiety disorder as well as the need to find a way to cope and remain in recovery.
What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are five major types of anxiety: generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder. There are millions of people in the U.S. — approximately 18 percent of adults — who have some form of anxiety, which can be progressive and worsen over time. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty thinking
- Chest pains
- Overwhelming self-consciousness
- Fear of leaving home
- Obsessive thoughts
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal stress
Why Do We Get Anxiety?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger. It’s a physiological process designed to keep us safe, known more commonly as the fight-or-flight response, which is the body’s response to a perceived attack or threat. The response floods the body with hormones and neurotransmitters — such as adrenaline and cortisol — which prepare your body to fight or run.
But anxiety alone isn’t the problem; the problem is with an anxiety disorder, which is triggered with no real danger present. There are several contributory factors to anxiety disorders, such as stress, genetics, and poor habits and coping skills. For me, it’s stress, social anxiety, and the inability to cope with my environment — as well as excessive caffeine. Taking away my coping mechanisms — booze and drugs — left me with an almost paralyzing level of anxiety. It affected my work, relationships and quality of life.
How Do You Cope With Anxiety in Recovery?
It’s important to note that feelings of anxiety are entirely normal in certain situations. These include before stressful events, such as an interview, a wedding, or going on vacation. Good mental health is key to keeping anxiety under control. Over time, with research and medical help, I have developed several strategies to help me cope with my anxiety so that I’m able to function in my everyday life. These strategies can help ease your anxiety, whether you have it in response to an event that might cause anxiety or an everyday instance:
- Exercise: This not only improves your overall mental state, but it also burns off the stress hormone adrenaline and relaxes your body.
- Meditation: This calms your nervous system and relaxes the body. I always feel relaxed, calm and centered after a meditation.
- Mindfulness: Try standing with your bare feet on the ground, breathing slowly and deeply. Imagine all the anxious energy going into the earth. This sense of connectedness will bring you into the present moment and help you to feel more grounded.
- Self-care: Getting at least eight hours sleep, drinking lots of water, stopping smoking, and limiting caffeine (or cutting it out altogether) help tremendously.
- Eating well: Consuming foods high in …
- B vitamins help the nervous system (avocados, almonds, oats)
- Vitamin C (kiwi, blueberries, citrus fruits) helps to protect and repair cells
- Omega-3 (salmon, walnuts, eggs) have been shown to keep stress hormones under control
- Magnesium (spinach, dark chocolate, leafy greens) also help regulate stress hormones and create a calming effect on the body
- Tryptophan (turkey, pumpkin, oats) produce serotonin, which promotes tiredness and calmness
- Therapy: Talking with a professional about anxiety can be helpful to uncover any psychological issues leading to anxiety, and help you develop effective coping strategies.
If you need help managing anxiety while recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, contact The Recovery Village today. Representatives are available to discuss your concerns and assist you in finding the help you need.